AFL amateur football

Inside Spartak Dynamo FC, Part I: Neil McGowan

9:10 PMAleks Vee

by Aleks V | @aleksvee

Spartak Dynamo FC is not your typical football club. The South Dublin side, which plays its home games in Marlay Park, was inspired by two clubs that make up the oldest rivalry in Russian football. 

SDFC currently fields teams in Ireland's Amateur Football League and Leinster Senior League. The club was founded in 1970 by Paul McGowan, who is also the manager, treasurer, a former Spartak Dynamo player, and the father of the Sunday team's captain, Neil McGowan. The father-son duo hold various records at the club. Neil is one of the club's top scorers, netting in 20 goals in the 2001/02 season, and has been named Player of the Year on four occasions. As of last season, he has made 450 appearances, scoring a total of 152 goals. 

When he's not playing football, Neil spends time with his wife and 2-year-old daughter, plays golf, and works as a scientist for a breakfast cereal company. 

A one-club man, the midfielder sees himself as something of a club legend and a role model for the younger lads. He also leaves an impression as one who never misses an opportunity to engage in witty banter. Aleks V spoke with Neil about his long career at Spartak Dynamo, his influences, and what makes the club unique.


Spartak Dynamo's Sunday team in Feb. 2011. Photo: spartakdynamofc.com
Are you originally from Dublin? How did you get your start in football? 
Yes, I'm from Dublin. I went to University here, work and live here with my wife and daughter. I've played football all my life; ever since I can remember I've never been far from a football.

As a footballer, what influenced your decision to join Spartak Dynamo FC, as opposed to many of the other Irish clubs?
I played school boy football at a good level and had several options when I reached 18. However, my dad, who is both the founder and manager of Spartak, gave me little choice!

How many years have you been playing for SDFC? Do you remember your first match for the Sky Blues?
I joined Spartak in 1996 and have played for them ever since. That makes it more than 18 years! Yes, I remember my first game. I came on as sub in a home match and played really well. I just wanted to get on the pitch and show what I could do. I really enjoyed it.

You play for the Sunday LSL team, right? What's it like wearing the captain's armband? How did you get to that point in your career?
Yes, we've had our ups and downs over the years and at the moment we are rebuilding a team. The standard in our league is pretty poor right now, but we're doing well and have some good players so hopefully we will get promoted and start playing at a better level again.

The captain's armband is fun! It gives me license to be the cranky old guy on the team.

Do you mostly play in one position, or switch around depending on the game?
I'm a midfielder and prefer to play there.

What's a typical training session at SDFC like?
We've a good group of guys and I love training. A few drills, some sprinting and a couple of five-a-sides is usually it.

Does SDFC have a historic rival or a team that's an Achilles' heel?
Not really!

Are there any amusing stories either from training or a particular game?
Too many to mention. There have been some great weekends away.

Aside from its name, what sets Spartak Dynamo FC apart from the other sides in the AFL and LSL?
Are you suggesting our name is unusual?! My dad was a fan of Spartak and Dynamo in the early 1970's when he founded the club. I think all the lads work really hard on making Spartak a welcoming and friendly club. It's why so many people have an association with it that makes my 18 years look short.

Do you follow the club's namesakes, Spartak or Dynamo Moscow? What teams and leagues do you follow?
I do watch out for Spartak results, but I support Manchester United.

Is there a former or current Spartak Dynamo player you look up to for inspiration or base your style of play on? What players from bigger clubs do you look up to?
Barry Crowe. He's a true club legend and was a left footed central midfielder who was a great player. Paul Scholes, Manchester United.

What coach has influenced you the most and helped shape who you are as a player today?
It's got to be my dad! He's been my manager for the last 18 years...

Has there been a memorable game or moment in your career thus far?
There've been a few. I scored four goals in a game once, which was enjoyable, but my most memorable game was a Irish Junior Cup game against a team from Donegal. We travelled up as a team for the weekend, had a great couple of days, and I scored a fantastic goal which got us to penalties, which we won.

What has been the biggest challenge for you as a player?
I've had a lot of injuries, starting off with a cruciate ligament reconstruction when I was 23 and about four or five follow up operations. It has been tough to recover properly each time.

You've got quite a few club awards. What have been the main factors that contributed to your success, and what else do you hope to achieve or improve on?
My dad counts the Player of the Year votes! I'm nearing the end of my career, so at this stage, it's just about having fun and keeping fit.


In part two, Aleks chats with Spartak Dynamo FC founder and manager Paul McGowan.

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