AFL amateur football

Inside Spartak Dynamo FC, Part II: Paul McGowan

7:18 PMGoalChatter

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, perhaps the most notable of which is Paul McGowan's 45-year managerial career. Few clubs have the same manager for two decades, let alone over 40 years. Fred Everiss spent 46 seasons as secretary-manager at West Bromwich Albion. Jim Davies spent half a century training Waterloo Dock. Paul McGowan has been with Spartak Dynamo from day one; four and a half decades later, he tells how it all began.

There's a lot of speculation as to how the club came about. Was it originally inspired by Spartak Moscow and Dynamo Moscow?

Yes, good guess! The club began as a schoolboy outfit in 1970 but has fielded only adult teams since 1980. Originally based on a scout troop in Dublin's Donore Avenue area. The name has caused plenty of comment over the years!

How did you first find out about Spartak and Dynamo Moscow? What did you like about those teams?
Back in 1970 those far off teams with exotic names sounded so much better than the local teams, which were generally called after a Saint, which seemed so boring.
Spartak Dynamo FC in 1979. Photo courtesy Paul McGowan.

The club's colors are hues of blue and red, like the main colors of Dynamo and Spartak. Was that an intentional choice, or merely coincidental?

Just coincidental. The colours are claret, sky blue and white. Inspired mostly by a need not to have a colour clash!

Does anyone in the club follow Spartak and/or Dynamo?

I don't think so, although definitely a passing interest when Irish international Aiden McGeady was playing for Spartak.

How many years have you been at the club, and in what capacities?
I was one of the founder members in 1970 and have served in many capacities. Currently I manage the first and second teams. The over 35s are managed by Shea McClafferty, Brian Burgess and Gavin Johnson.

It is a feature of the club that many people remain for many years. Current assistant manager Barry Crowe was on the first Spartak schoolboy side. In general, recruiting is done by introduction of a pal. This ensures a degree of longevity, it seems. Mick Greene, Tom Maher, Ken Buckley, Fintan Grace are current players who have been with the club a long time. One such player, Dave Mohan, was with the club for 27 years and sadly died at the young age of 44, just last year.

People like Frank McNamee, Ian Leslie, Derek Keane, Anto Doyle, Andy Dunne, Brian Mahon and Jason Doyle have ensured that the club has survived and thrived over the years.

It's rather rare to see a founder-manager. Is it something that's more common in amateur football? What's it like having both roles?
Our club is so small that there is a big overlap of roles. It's common in amateur football here in Ireland. Fewer volunteers per club, particularly as work patterns have changed.

Have you looked to any manager(s) for inspiration?

Any number! Each well known manager has some good qualities, and it's always good to see a new angle.

What current or past manager would you say you're most like?
It's difficult to say which professional manager I am most like; it's like two different sports, the amateur game is so different. I have learned some positive things from managers like Alex Ferguson and Jimmy Murphy (he was Matt Busby's assistant), and how not to behave from the likes of Jose Mourinho! 

Was there a defining moment in your career at the club?
Probably at the peak of success in the early 2000's, we had our best ever team in our highest ever league reached (LSL Major, just below intermediate level). As that team gradually broke up it would have been easy to quit, but I am glad I stayed.

Is there a supporters' club? Are there a lot of fans who travel to away games?
Definitely not! One man and his dog would be a crowd. A big game such as a cup final, maybe a hundred. Usual games, just a handful.
Spartak Dynamo in 1982. Photo courtesy Paul McGowan.
Has Spartak Dynamo always had teams in the AFL and LSL, or in other leagues as well?
Over the years Spartak has had teams in the DDSL (Schoolboy), SDFL (Schoolboy), UCFL, AFL and LSL.

What are the similarities and differences between the AFL and LSL?
The AFL never permitted professional players, whereas at the top level of LSL there are many players who have dropped down from the League of Ireland, who would have been professional. The top level of LSL (Intermediate Divisions) would be close to national league level, and these clubs compete in national competitions, often knocking out League of Ireland teams.

Is there promotion/relegation within the AFL or LSL? If so, have any Spartak Dynamo FC sides ever been promoted/relegated?
Yes, there is. Spartak have been up and down the pyramid and currently reside in the lower reaches. 

Spartak Dynamo is a South Dublin club. Are Spartak Dynamo's rivals essentially any North Dublin side?
The Northside - Southside rivalry is common in all walks of Dublin life, and the subject of many jokes and teases. The river Liffey divides Dublin North and South and the rivalry is age old.

Does Spartak Dynamo FC play in any Cup competitions that feature sides from other tiers of Irish football?
Not currently, but one of our biggest achievements was reaching the Leinster Senior Cup quarter final; we also reached quarter final stages of national competitions.

Has Spartak Dynamo ever played international friendlies? 

We have travelled regularly to the UK to play friendly games, arranged by some of our ex-pats. Mostly end of season bonding trips.
Spartak Dynamo, 1983. Photo courtesy Paul McGowan.
Were there any notable ones?
In the UK we have played Kensington Dragons (London) and Wroughton (Swindon) amongst others.

What are some of the club's biggest achievements?
The usual: winning trophies, reaching cup finals. But the biggest achievement is the camaraderie between club members. We have a saying: you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave (apologies to the Eagles)!

Spartak Dynamo have an Over 35 team. Do they play in the AFL? Were there ever any notable players from bigger sides who have joined in?
Yes, some pals have dropped down from Intermediate level as they reached a certain age! The Seniors (Over 35s) are in Div. 3 which is the lowest tier of the AFL Seniors, which is the biggest Over 35 league. 

On the opposite end, have any Spartak Dynamo FC players been scouted and went on to play for professional teams?
Not in recent years, but we have had players go across channel and others who played in League of Ireland. But none in recent years. In general, such recruitment is done at a young age.

What players left a lasting impression on you as a manager?
There are many! Barry Crowe, Tony Little, Martin Morrison, Gintaras Cibirka, Leo Gartlan, Dave Keegan, Sean Lynam, Ger Byrne, Kevin O'Connell...

Spartak Dynamo in 1991. Photo courtesy Paul McGowan.
I'd also like to give a shout out to our current crop of prominent younger players who have featured strongly in the current season such as Niall Lennon, Conor Keegan , Jeff Gamble, David Kernan, Steve Walsh, Paul Kinsella and Conor Canavan.

If you could add one world class player to your team, past or present, who would it be and why?
It would have to be Messi - the players would be enthralled! 

How does being outside of the transfer market and “big money football” affect the players' approach to the game?

It's really all about pals enjoying playing the game and any social occasions.

Do you see any of Spartak Dynamo's teams moving ahead in the Irish football pyramid sometime in the future?
We have hopes of promotion this season, but given the size and resources it is difficult to see the club [getting promoted].
Spartak Dynamo's Saturday team in February 2011. Photo:

Read about Paul McGowan's son Neil, the Sunday team's captain, in Part I.

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