In the Beginning

The birth of Bohemians FC was an unusual affair because most clubs are “born” before the opening of a new season, Bohs came into existence with the 1940/41 season already two thirds way through, on Monday 24th March 1941 to be exact. To explain such an unusual situation we must go back a little before that date.

On Monday Oct 14th 1940, at a league meeting in the league rooms at Adelphi Terrace, Denny O’Brien, the team manager of the Johnny Hearnes minor and junior teams suggested “that the management committee should set up a ways and means committee  to devise ways and means of raising funds and so enable the league to continue.

At that time Johnny Hearnes Builders on the Waterside were members of what was then the Waterford and North Munster League, and Denny O’Brien as well as being a foreman carpenter was also the clubs chairman. At Denny O’Brien’s suggestion the league unanimously adopted a levy of one shilling per player to be paid on or before the 1st March 1941, and on Monday night February 24th the league chairman, Jimmy Hartery, reminded all clubs that the levy had to be paid by the following Monday night!

At the next league meeting, 18/3/41 the committee decided to suspend the Johnny Hearnes Club pending payment of the outstanding debts to the league. The reason behind the non payment of the levy by the players, was that all of that Johnny Hearnes senior players , Denny included, had emigrated to England because of the collapse of the building trade, because of the Second World War 1939-45.

Following this decision by the management committee , Paddy Kennedy on behalf of the minor (youth) players attended a delegate meeting on Monday 24th March and stated that “the minor players were anxious to continue in the league and were prepared to meet all their obligations to the league”.

After consideration of their case the committee decided to reinstate the minors and allow them to continue in the league. The new Hon. Secretary, Mr. P. Kennedy, 33 Johnstown, stated that the club had changed it’s name to Bohemians FC. Four more people were with Paddy Kennedy when the decision was made to attend the league meeting and change from Johnny Hearnes to Bohemians – Leo Dunne, Christy O’Regan, Willie O’Mahony, and Tommy Casey – all great Waterford football names and families.

In the background to some degree was a younger group of players and supporters who in later years were to provide Bohs with a solid foundation – both on and off the field – one such youngster was the late Ben Wadding.  The people involved in the running, playing and supporting the new Bohs club for the remainder of that season were : Sambo Ryan, Bill Shanahan, Eddie Mooney, Mickey Walsh, Jimmy McGrath, Christy O’Regan, Leo Dunne, Paddy Kennedy, Willie O’Mahony, Gerry Breen, Ben Wadding, Jim McNamara, John Keoghan, (Monsignor) John Shine, Bill Sergeant, Martin Breen and Tommy Casey.

The early meeting of the club were held in the Fitzgerald house in Arundel Square and when the Fitzgerald family moved to live in St. John’s Villas they named their house “Arundel”.


Sunday March 30th 1941 – The First Match

From the above list of people, the club’s first team was selected to play Shelbourne in Ozier Park on Sunday 30th March at 11am and a young Bohs minor team were hammered 6 – 0 by Shelbourne. When the club played their first game they borrowed ten jerseys from the Waterpark Rugby Club – red and black – same colours as the Dalymount Park club – was the new club to be named Arsenal or Bohemians?  The red and black Waterpark shirts decided – Bohemians.

Sunday 14th April 1941 was the clubs next game against the great St. Joseph’s team of that era and another heavy defeat was the outcome – J. Roche was the referee.  Right up to the end of the season every game had the same result – heavy defeats but by the end of the season the new Bohs had completed the remaining fixtures of the now defunct Johnny Hearne’s. 

Club’s First Full Season

When the management committee held its first delegate meeting on Monday 25th August 1941 for season 1941/42 Bohs entered teams in the Juvenile, Minor and Junior Leagues and new signings were made to bring the playing squads up to full strength.  Additions to the club in the early seasons were Kevin O’Connor, Mikey Power, Tommy Leahy, Willie Coad, George O’Sullivan, Sean Donovan, Joe Murphy, Mattie Power, John McKeown, Jimmy Kennedy, Leo Harte, Bill Wall, Liam O’Shea, George Williams, Tommy Fitzgerald, Eddie Burns, Matt Williams, Frankie Barry, Leo Higgins, Pat Fitzgerald, Billy Cositgan, Tommy McGrath, Johnny O’Mahony, Mickey Farrell, Johnny Rogers, Martin Breen and one Jimmy Cooke who like Ben Wadding was to emerge as one of the great servants of the club.

Paddy Kennedy departed to join the merchant navy and Leo Dunne took over as Hon. Secretary but in October 1943 Leo jointed the R.A.F. and didn’t rejoin the club until August 1947.  Tommy McGrath (R.I.P), brother of Jimmy took over as Hon. Secretary.

In the 1940’s and early 1950’s the club used to hold its annual general meeting in Clonea making it a day out as well by inviting along wives and girlfriends of the club members.  This was the brainchild of Jimmy Kennedy.  

In the early 1940’s The Royal Ballroom in Thomas Street was the venue for the clubs first dance with an Admission price of – four old pence.

In 1944, Bohs were able to field the following senior league team against the Rockies with the game being played on New Year’s Eve, Paddy McGrath, Frankie Barry, John Geary, Jimmy Cooke, Leo Harte, Jimmy Kennedy, Christy O’Regan, Paddy Sullivan, Tommy Fitzgerald, Ben Wadding and Liam O’Shea.  With four of the club’s founder members Paddy Kennedy, Leo Dunne, Tommy Casey and Willie O’Mahony now having left Waterford and with the remaining founder Christy O’Regan moving to the new C.Y.M.S. club in 1945 Bohs were now being managed and run by Pat Fitzgibbon, Joe O’Mahony, Paddy Byrne, Ben Wadding, Jimmy Kennedy, Jackie Coughlan, Mickey Power, Jimmy  Cooke and Bob Lodge.

In 1945 when the Shelbourne team folded Johnny Rellis joined Bohs and went on to give the club long and devoted service as player, chairman, coach, team manager and president as well as putting in many hours working on the poleberry park pitch and dressing rooms down through the years. 

In1946/47 season, just five years old, the Bohs club made its mark on football not only in Waterford but throughout the country.  That season Bohs won the Munster Junior Cup and F.A.I. Youth Cup and that same year another Waterford team went on to win the F.A.I Junior Cup when Hibernians won the trophy.  From that year on Bohs went from strength to strength winning almost everything that had to be won as well as supplying players to the Waterford League of Ireland teams and have had players capped at all levels of international football from schoolboy level right up to the Senior International side.

In the 1950’s the club played in two F.A.I. Junior Cup Finals and two Munster Junior Cup Finals as well as winning almost everything in sight from U/16 football right through to the senior ranks with the junior side winning eleven leagues on the trot.

In 1953 Bohs reached the F.A.I. Junior Cup Final but unfortunately lost 2-1 to Rathfarnham from Dublin.

In 1955 Bohs were defeated by a goal to nil by Blackrock from Cork in the Munster Junior Cup Final and this game was played on Sunday 29th May in Kilcohan Park.

In 1956  Bohs swept the boards by winning all the local leagues in minor, junior and senior and also reached the Munster Junior and F.A.I Junior Cup Finals.  In the Munster Junior Cup Final against Wimbly (Cork) Bohs were leading 2-0 midway through the second half with goals from Gerry Carew and Paddy O’Regan but ended up loosing the game by three goals to two.

Two weeks later in Kilcohan Park, Bohs played Grange United (Dublin) in the F.A.I Junior Cup Final and drew 1 – 1, with Tommy Kirby scoring the goal.  The following Sunday in Tolka Park, the sides met again and after two periods of extra time the sides again finished level – Paddy O’Regan scoring the goal, in the last kick of extra time Ben Wadding shot wide from a penalty.  In the third game the following Wednesday again in Tolka Park, Bohs with the same team as in the replay were unlucky and eventually lost 2-0.

In 1961, Bohs U/15 team reached the semi-final of the Evans Cup and were leading 2-1 away in Cork and in the last kick of the game the Cork side equalised and went on to win 3-2 in extra time. The panel of players involved in this game were Liam O’Shea, Michael Kirby, John McLoughlin, Billy Power, Jimmy Barnes, Dando Kelly, Frank Kelly, Danny Croke, Christy Wallace, Dixie Daniels, John Dooley, Eddie Butler, Robbie Walker, Micahel Casey and Michael Wadding.

In 1963 Bohs minor team reached the semi final of the F.A.I. Minor Cup in Turners Cross and were 2-0 down at half time against Tower Rovers. In the second half a free kick from inside his own half by Christy Nolan and a late equaliser by Eddie Butler brought the game into extra-time.  Unfortunately for us in extra time Tower Rovers went on to win 4-3. Team : Christy Nolan, John McLoughlin, Dando Kelly, Des Phelan, John Sheehan, Jimmy Barnes, Teddy Robinson, Robbie Walker, Eddie Butler, Michael Casey and Christy Wallace.

On Easter Sunday in 1964 the Bohs minor team travelled to the Market Field in Limerick to take on Limerick C in the quarter finals of the F.A.I. Minor Cup and came away after winning by 5 goals to nil. 

In the semi final we drew 1-1 with Glasheen from Cork with the game taking place in Kilcohan Park and in the replay in Turners Cross we were defeated.

As well as reaching the F.A.I. Minor Cup Semi-Final in season 63/64 Bohs also reached the final of the Munster Minor Cup. They travelled to Church Road, Cork in June 1964 to meet Tower Rovers (Cork) in the final.  When the club’s committee saw the condition of the ground they refused to allow their team to play. Tower Rovers were deemed Munster Minor Cup winners and despite appeals to the Munster Football Association and the F.A.I. the result stood.  It was ten years before Bohs re-entered Munster competitions.

In the F.A.I Junior Cup in 1964 Bohs were 3-1 down with 15 mins to go against but came back to force a replay again St. Patrick’s in Marian Park in the F.A.I. Junior Cup Area Final. Bohs won the replay 4-0. In Ozier the following Sunday Bohs beat Cahir in the next round but were then beaten in the quarter finals in Cork.

July 1965, Bohs reached the final of the Evans Cup (U/15).  We were up against St. Josephs with the game being played in Sallynoggin, Dublin.  We were defeated 4-1 even though we went ahead through Anthony Higgins. Team : Robert Chestnutt, Anthony Higgins, Martin Barrett, Shamie Jackman, Nicky Hartery, Michael Wadding, Oxo O’Connor, Peter Coughlan, Len Hanlon, Jack Brophy and Davy Chestnutt.

1967 saw Bohs reach the Evans Cup Final and we went a goal up through Martin Cullen but it this the opposing teams left footed player took control and his team ran out comfortable winners, the player in question was Liam Brady.  Bohs team on the day was : John O’Donoghue, Seanie Robinson, Joe Horgan, Pat O’Reilly, Gerry Byrne, Jimmy Duggan, Fergus Kennedy, Martin Cullen, Tommy Sommers, Phoey Butler, Luke Myers. Reserve : Michael Quinlan

The Search for a Ground

Once Bohemians became established as a club they turned their attention towards a ground of their own. Like a great many other clubs in the city who were also looking for a ground, they had no luck,despite many efforts. Jimmy Cooke was one of the driving forces behind this move to secure a ground and in 1959 they were able to rent the field adjoining the ACEC Factory (now the Roanmore GAA Club Centre), on the Keanes Road side and the club named the pitch “Marian Park”. In 1970 due to expansions at ACEC, Bohs had to vacate their ground. At this point Bohs approached the Junior League with a request to sub-let Poleberry Park. This ground was in poor condition to say the least, but Bohs with the help of Bolton , who were “tenenants” of Bohs in Poleberry, set about the task of giving this ground a face lift which they did and the ground was re-opened in 1972. Three seasons later Bolton acquired a ground of their own in Priory Park, Ballybeg and today Bohs “control” Poleberry Park and are continuing to pour money into this venue in order to make it the best ground in these parts. The ground is now fully enclosed and floodlit, it has an astro turf training area and plans are in place to build a modern state of the art clubhouse in 2013