Sunday 17 December 2017

Decades of service to soccer rewarded

The life and times of an Avonmore FC giant

Michael Farrell and Jim Scott pictured at the Avonmore FC grounds.
Michael Farrell and Jim Scott pictured at the Avonmore FC grounds.


"I NEVER WON A SINGLE THING," is how Avonmore's Jim Scott describes the list of honours he gathered from over 20 years of playing soccer with the Rathdrum club.

And while onfield success might have eluded the former midfielder he can look back on his years in the game with great pride and satisfaction and be content in the knowledge that because of his exploits, hard work and that of his fellow club members, the Avonmore club now has superb new facilities and the promise of a wonderfully bright future.

When he was 14 Jim lined out in a county Junior football final in the jersey of Balinacor when they took on Ballinastoe. Born and bred just down the road from the Meetings pub outside of Avoca this year's winner of the 'Service to Soccer' award from the Wicklow and District League recalls that there was little or no soccer around his area in that time and with the ban still in place there was little chance of playing eitherways.

So how does a man who hails from tough GAA territory make it to a situation where he picks up a significant award from the world of Wicklow soccer, plays a key role in the development of the Avonmore soccer club and is forever connected to the game due to a major cup competition named after his late son Thomas?

"When I was 16 I moved to London for work. You couldn't play soccer at home with the ban so in London I played GAA with the Geraldines club and I played soccer with the local factory team where I was working. I played for a couple of years but then I moved up the country for work and got a job in a rubber factory and the money was so good and the hours so long that I gave it up," said Jim.

When he reached the age of 32 Jim brought his family back home to Avoca to live permanently in Ireland in a move that he says was always going to happen. It was then that the love affair with soccer began anew.

"Played a bit of seven-a-side in at Arklow Town with my brother and then one day I met Mick Kelly from Rathdrum and he asked me was I playing and I said I wasn't and he said 'Jesus I'm playing with our second team, I'll call you.' And I was there the next Sunday and every Sunday after that," he explained.

Initially Jim played with Rathdrum Celtic but then switched to Parnell Rangers for eight or nine seasons he says. There was a big divide he recalls between both sides and this gave the games an extra edge and led to some great banter in the pubs after the games. Then both clubs merged and Avondale FC was formed.

Of the wealth of tales and yarns Jim has collected from his years spent playing the game of soccer in Wicklow that rivalry between Avonmore and Avoca and a friendly clash that pitted him and his son Thomas against his brother Tom is one that he still gets a broad smile when it comes to mind.

"There was an extra needle between us and Avoca with Tom playing for them. But we played in a friendly one day and Tom took Thomas out of it with a tackle and then I took him out of it. To this day he blames me for his bad back," he recalls. "But we're the best of buddies," he adds quickly.

Following his playing career that saw him marshal the midfield, roam around at right back and glare menacingly from the goal line as the years progressed he made the natural step to coaching.

Alongside the late Pat O'Toole he managed the club's first team and was with them as they climbed up several divisions and claimed several cups for the sideboard. He then left the management and shortly afterwards Pat guided the club to the Premiership title.

Life has thrown many difficulties into Jim's path. A competition exists within Wicklow soccer today known as the Thomas Scott Cup. Thomas was Jim's son who passed away some years ago and it has become a competition that holds a special place in his heart and it is because of that competition that Jim was present at the awards ceremony with no knowledge whatsoever of the fact that his name was in the envelope.

"It was totally unexpected," he said. "We go every year because of Thomas and I was there listening as the award came up and I was thinking to myself that I knew someone in our club who we should nominate for next year. I was thinking of a man called Mick Farrell and in my opinion he should have got it but then I was called. I couldn't believe it, still can't believe it," he added.

Presently Jim is the club's U-15 coach. He had packed it in for a time but when the club came calling for a manager Jim Scott wasn't going to be the man to let them down.

"They were looking for someone to do it and you don't want to see young lads stuck," said Jim. "I get a great kick out of seeing the young lads playing. I've three grandkids playing for Avonmore now," he added.

At 68 he shows no signs of losing his love for soccer or indeed for sport in general. Every Sunday evening him and a small team of club people hit the roads around Rathdrum selling tickets for a long standing fundraising draw that has provided the club with a means to progress hugely over the last few years.

"We used to rent a field off a local farmer called Con Cashman since the early 90s but then we bought a patch of ground off the council. There was a 16-foot drop on one end so we built that up and we have it playable, we've no dressing rooms but we are putting lights on it now. The people of Rathdrum are fantastic in their support for us and I want to thank them for their support over the years. We sell tickets every Sunday night around Rathdrum and we have a draw in a different pub every week. My wife thinks I'm out enjoying myself but it can be quite anti-social," he says with a broad smile.

Regarding Wicklow soccer Jim says that he believes that the standard of skill and player has dropped over the last few years and he has a theory on why that might be.

"I don't think the standard is as good as it used to be. A lot of young players when they go to secondary schools don't have a soccer team to play on. For some it's mostly Gaelic. You see lots of good young lads when they are young but then their gone," he said.

Soccer has given Jim Scott a huge amount over the years. It has given him a social life, it has given him hope, afforded him solace and strength in times of hurt and loss and has provided him with entertainment and friendship for decades. But it hasn't all been one-way traffic. Jim Scott has given an immense amount to soccer in the county. From his time to his passion to his drive and commitment and hard work he is one of those invaluable cogs that make the wheel go round. Without the likes of him soccer and sport in general would be much the poorer for his absence.

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