uncroft captain Ray Coleman receives the Lumsden Cup from Claire Maher, Tony's daughter
It has been a great three or four seasons but the last two years have just been exceptional.
The words of Suncroft AFC captain, Ray Coleman, after his side retained the Lumsden Cup (League Cup) for the second year in a row; Suncroft AFC winning the Senior Cup and were runners-up in the Senior League, and not unsurpris-
ingly, the club winning the Club of the Year award at this season's lavish KDFL 25th Annual Awards Night, just a few weeks ago.
Native of Curragh Camp, Ray was born in the army hospital. “We lived in army headquarters; da was in the army and we moved to Newbridge in 1986, it was around that time I joined Sarsfields so I was playing Gaelic football from 7 or 8, right through up the underage structure.”
It was not until he went to the Patricians (Newbridge) that Ray began to play soccer.
“I would have played with some good teams and some very good players at the PBS, players such as Roli (Sweeney); Dave Barry, Leslie Hogan to name just a few. We won five or six Midland Leagues, a Leinster Schools.”
At that time while Ray was playing soccer with the PBS, he was not playing with any club while he was playing Gaelic with Sarsfields but not with the school.
“I really only began playing club soccer when I was 17, played Youths with Newbridge Town and at that stage I was playing both codes up to my mid-20s when really you had to decide either one or the other.”
Ray won a Kildare Minor Football Championship title with Sarsfields in 1996, while also winning the League Cup double in the KDFL.
It was certainly a busy time.
“Back then we would play a senior league match (Gaelic) on a Sunday morning at 11 and then with New-
bridge Town in the after-
noon, that went on for a couple of seasons.”
Ray moved on to the senior side with Sarsfields and again success followed.
“I played senior with Sarsfields and played in the Leinster Club final in 1996 against Na Fianna of Dublin; think they beat us by four points; Ryan Cunningham picked up an injury that day very early in that game and I came on but they were littered with county stars but having said we had a fair few good players ourselves, lads such as Nuxer (Niall Buckley), Dermot Earley, Kevin Horgan, Spike (Brian Nolan) and John Whelan, so a lot of very good players but I would have kept playing away with the seniors without really making a regular position for myself.
“Around '98 or '99 I got a good run of games, but I never really fully committed to it and that is a regret I have to this day.”
Ray left Newbridge Town when he was 24 and he says himself “dropped into the Kildare League, playing with Suncroft before going back to Newbridge Town in 2008 when Andy Cousins took over and was with them right up to 2014 and that is when I went back to Suncroft, having finished playing Gaelic around 2012.”
Back to Suncroft I would have been 34 at that stage; the Leinster Senior League was a different level, a lot of League of Ireland standard players, and of course the legs were not what they used to be but it made sense as I was, and still am, living in Martinstown, just five minutes from Suncroft, so it made sense I join them, as I had played with them for years before so it was the perfect fit at the time.
“The first year I went back we won the Premier Division, which brought us back to the Senior Division and once we got into the Senior Division, I think in our first year, we got beaten in the senior Cup final by Liffey Celtic and came second in the League.”
Coming back into the league four or five year ago I didn't think I would get to win the Lumsden Cup again, having won it originally with Suncroft FC in 2001 and that was the first time for Suncroft won it since it became the Lumsden Cup the same year.
Three Lumsden Cup winning medals; but to win it after a 15 year gap was very special and then to retain it this year was absolutely brilliant; only the second time that Cup had been retained, Coill Dubh did it previously.”
And then being awarded Player of the Year this year?
“I was certainly not expecting that, playing at centre half I felt I was not in the mix for it as it is usually the guys who are scoring the goals or maybe a midfield but I suppose I had a solid enough year, I am fairly self critical; huge achievement; surprised but delighted; there are a lot of good players in the league and to get that award is very nice to say the least.”
So with you now working in Dublin and training Tuesdays and Thursdays, married to Teresa and with three children, Tim, Tessa and Sam, it must be very hectic at home.
“The trek down from Dublin in the evening times now leaves it practically straight in the door, get the gear and back out again; yes very hectic and takes a bit of managing.”
And next season?
“Well I am coming under pressure to give it a go for another season; whether Teresa will be happy with that we'll have to wait and see but I'm feeling well and hopefully.”
I have been lucky, I don't carry too much weight, when I am training I train as hard as I possibly can and I do my own little bit outside of that; I have my own spinning bike at home; just keep myself ticking over and of course I don't have the pace I used to have.”
You many not but you certainly have the experience?
Ray laughs, “yes I have that and playing at centre half is ideal for me now.”
Was that always your preferred place?
“No, I played a lot at left full or left hand side of midfield but it was Andy Cousins (Newbridge Town) who pushed me into the centre; I remember having a bit of a ding-dong battle with him because I was not agreeing with him at the time but in hindsight he could see it and now I have Tommy Doyle beside me, he is only 20 year-of-age and has the legs.
“The guys around me know I don't have the pace but I will talk them through a game as best I can and I think from that end I can control certain things in the back; I contribute as best I can.”
So do you keep a look out for Sarsfields and Suncroft?
“Yes, I do, always keep an eye on the results, was delighted for Milltown this year; great people in the club, small village and then Sarsfields I would also go to see when I can; did not have a great run this year but there is a lot of talent in the club; a lot of talent in Newbridge; of course Moorefield are flying high.
“It's brilliant having two such clubs in the town of Newbridge and the friction between the clubs is not there like it used to be; everyone gets on nowadays but it's a great healthy rivalry and brilliant for the town.”
So the future?
“We'll have to wait and see but I am keeping myself in good shape, will take a couple of weeks off over Christmas and then (hopefully) get back into training early in the New Year.”
Somehow when the KDFL season of 2019 gets up and running in February or so I think we'll be seeing Ray Coleman back in the heart of that Suncroft AFC for another season, at least, as they bid to make it three Lumsden Cups in a row.
Now that would be some icing on the cake!