‘Instead of turning like the other clubs, we all gathered after the funeral and said let’s do this for Martin’

It’s an old saying, “You can’t fight City Hall,” but sometimes you shouldn’t. In fact, when you are providing low-budget football every week to 150 kids in Dublin’s South Inner City, you should expect to be supported and properly funded.

Instead, Oliver Bond Celtic FC have their clubhouse demolished, funding offers flatly ignored, and forced to pay extortionate rent for pitches by Dublin City Council.

Oliver Bond will take on billionaire-backed Derry City in the first round of the FAI Cup today in the latest chapter of his remarkable story. From 11 players struggling on the field five years ago, losing their lives to two teammates, and receiving unfulfilled promises from the Taoiseach, Eddie Keogh is determined to provide the local community with a positive outlet.

“I do it for the love of it,” said manager Oliver Bond, before training at Brickfield Park last week.

“If I can stop a guy from going down a dangerous path, I’m done. We’re trying to stop boys from going down the wrong path, that’s a fine line. In five years’ time, the city council will do something.” Might be moaning about boys being antisocial, so support us. We need support.”

Keogh’s father signed the papers for a clubhouse in the flats 20 years ago. Dublin City Council demolished it in 2020 and has not changed since, despite protests from the tight-knit community. Keogh brought a detailed funding proposal for the club to have its offices in Wood Quay, but again this was ignored.

“From where we were five years ago to where we are now, we haven’t had any support at all,” Keogh said, as he pointed to the training of the club’s under-13 and under-15 sides.

“We get €500 a year from Dublin City Council. We have to rent our own training and match pitches. We have only two garden sheds. This is exactly where they should put the money.

“The Taoiseach also came and promised us everything. This is very disappointing. They come down only when something negative happens. It’s sad because we now have over 150 girls and boys with the club, plus three senior teams and an academy.”

Keogh revealed that he had to play his home games at seven different venues last season, with a weekly lotto being the club’s only source of income that paid expensive pitch hire and referee fees.

The club has however overcame adversity and achieved great success in its short existence, including two AUL Trebles and two Leinster Senior League titles. The Dublin 8 team would play intermediate football for the first time this season, but it was the tragic death of Keogh’s best friend and former player, Martin Luby, that proved to be a catalyst for the team.

The Liberties native admitted, “It affected me and all of us.”

“Instead of turning like other clubs, we all came together after the funeral and said let’s do this for Martin. Since then the club has gone from strength to strength. We have lost only four times in five years in the league and won two unbeaten triples.”

Oliver Bond Boss is planning a five-year fundraising and intends to return to Dublin City Council with a view to applying for a grant to develop much needed facilities in Dublin 8.

“We reached the FAI Junior Cup semi-finals in May,” Keogh said.

“More than 2,500 supporters came to Richmond Park, it was incredible. The city council was congratulating us, but you are also telling them with a little support, that’s what we’ve been able to do.

“It’s hard to see if other teams get €150,000 or €200,000 to upgrade their facilities. We are asking them to build an Astro around their area. Everyone is renting out the facilities and It costs a lot to maintain.”

Keogh was eager to thank the many local businesses surrounding Oliver Bond, who have sponsored one player for each FAI Cup clash. The community around the area is particularly close, with many buses organized to travel to Brandywell today.

“The fundraising has been incredible,” Keogh smiled.

“You can sponsor a player for €100 and we’ve got an amazing response. It always comes down to our own local people. When we’re asked to do something, we do it. We Every year we do fundraisers for different reasons, like for Pieta House after Martin’s death. We did the 100km challenge last year for Stephen Burke, one of our players who died of cancer. The people here are the salt of the earth.”

There is no doubt that Derry City will be a tough test for a non-league side, but Keogh insisted that there will be no fear factor involved, and hopes that his club will do more than the League of Ireland side in the coming years. Will meet regularly.

“We have no pressure, nothing to lose and everything to gain,” Keogh declared.

“It’s 11 v 11, and it’s just another game of football, that’s how we’re looking at it. They’re all resonating. It’s been a real ode to the Rovers story, from being in Division Three Saturday to Derry’s.” Walking side by side, that’s what dreams are made of. On Saturday we will test ourselves against one of the best teams in Ireland and hopefully we will soon establish the club as a powerhouse in Dublin.