Mick Byrne - the man who made mem­o­ries

Drogheda Independent - - NEWS - By HU­BERT MUR­PHY

MICHAEL ‘Mick’ Byrne, who passed away last week, was one of the key char­ac­ters around United Park in the mid 80s when his love of Drogheda United helped in­spire some mem­o­rable mo­ments for the club.

He was larger than life at times, his char­ac­ter one of get­ting things done and in that re­gard, he left his mark on Drogheda soc­cer.

He was elected chair­man of the club in April 1982 and so be­gan a pe­riod of great ac­claim - cul­mi­nat­ing in United qual­i­fy­ing for Europe for the first time, play­ing the mighty Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur.

Within days of tak­ing over at the club, he said he in­tended to trans­form United Park and the team to win back sup­port­ers bring­ing long awaited suc­cess to Drogheda in the process. “If we have a suc­cess­ful team, and a ground wor­thy of stag­ing League foot­ball, then we will get the sup­port that I know is there for Drogheda” Mr. Byrne com­mented in the Drogheda In­de­pen­dent .

With debts ap­proach­ing £47,000 and the cred­i­tors clos­ing in, Mr. Byrne’s crit­ics felt that he was mad in the first place tak­ing the job and then talk­ing in terms of ex­pan­sion.

But ex­pand he did. A new stand was con­structed, and badly needed ter­rac­ing in­stalled on both sides of the ground, both schemes un­der­taken on a vol­un­tary ba­sis with some sup­port­ers help­ing out.

The then Man­ager, Ray Treacy was told that money would be avail­abe to buy new play­ers. Many doubted that. But Tony Macken, a tar­get for many Ir­ish clubs was signed on his re­turn from Eng­land, with Frank Devlin (ex Athlone), Mick Neville (ex Home Farm), Richie Bayly (ex Sham­rock Rovers) and Jerome Clarke (ex Dun­dalk) be­ing signed.

The rest was his­tory. United had their best sea­son in foot­ball, qual­i­fy­ing for Europe and miss­ing a place in the Cup fi­nal by only the width of a post on a few oc­ca­sions. In­deed their run­ners-up spot in the League could have been bet­tered with the aid of a goal scorer that sea­son.

Didn’t all that make Mick Byrne feel like rub­bing the noses of his op­po­nents in his suc­cess. “Not re­ally” he said, “I’m just de­lighted for the club and the town, and glad that I suc­ceeded where oth­ers had failed be­fore me. I know that I had my crit­ics, but I felt that I had to do things my way to achieve the re­sults that I knew were pos­si­ble.”

Drogheda fin­ished the sea­son with a work­ing profit, thanks mainly to £11,000 from their semi-fi­nal matches with Bo­hemi­ans. The club debt was cut in half, and the club’s bank man­ager was talk­ing to them again af­ter threat­en­ing to cut off their credit!

For Mick Byrne his re­ward for a year of hard work and worry came at the Tholsel when they qual­i­fied for Europe when thou­sands turned out to greet United on their re­turn to the town. “That made the ef­fort all worth while, for it was a night for Drogheda to re­mem­ber.”

Mick left the role in June 1984, “The best sign­ing the club ever made, was new chair­man, Shane McHugh’s, trib­ute to the for­mer chair­man.

But a year later, he was back, as Gen­eral Man­ager.

In ap­point­ing a gen­eral man­ager to ad­min­is­ter all the club’s af­fairs, team mat­ters apart, United were, ac­cord­ing to then P.R.O. Tony Smyth, tak­ing a “pro­gres­sive new ap­proach.”

“We are the first club in the coun­try to do so and in so do­ing we have recog­nised that run­ning a foot­ball club nowa­days with such a big turnover is a busi­ness in it­self that must be ap­proached In a busi­nesslike man­ner.”

Mick kept on his tyre busi­ness, fa­mously set across the road from Bar­low House.

By 1986, United’s dream was flick­er­ing, fa­mously, Gerry Martin and Paddy Dil­lon sold to help the club sur­vive.

“We had to sell to sur­vive,” he said, “it is as sim­ple as that. Our fi­nan­cial po­si­tion was very dif­fi­cult, with the bank re­fus­ing to meet our cheques, and in or­der to con­tinue in foot­ball we had to ac­cept the of­fers for the play­ers.”

The strains placed on the club’s re­sources by the new First Di­vi­sion, in­volv­ing ex­tra travel and lower re­turns at the ‘gate’, had been the real prob­lem.

The fu­neral of Mick Byrne, a truly charis­matic fig­ure, took place to Our Lady of Lour­des Church on Satur­day.

Drogheda United chair­man Mick Byrne ad­dresses the United faith­ful. Also in­cluded are stars like Gerry Martin and Paddy Dil­lon.

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