The United Churches Football League was founded in 1949, but its origins can be traced back over two decades earlier to the early 1920s when an organisation was formed by past members of the Boys Brigade which was known as the Old Boys Union (O.B.U.). One of the Union's strongest branches was its football section which was affiliated to the F.A.I. and the Leinster F.A.

It was regarded by football legislators of those days as being of a high standard – 8th O.B.U. (St. Pauls) reached the semi-finals of the Leinster Junior Cup on two occasions, and in 1933 the 7th O.B.U. (North Strand) won the Leinster Junior Shield.

To be a member of a team in the O.B.U. League one had to be a past member of the Boys Brigade and as the years went on this created many difficulties. In 1938 there were only eight teams in the O.B.U. league and the following year with the start of World War II, numbers went further down. A change was made in the rules to enable teams from parishes which had no Boys Brigade to take part. Unfortunately, the change came about too late and despite great efforts by the committee in control it ceased to exist in 1943.

Founding of the United Churches League:

Following the end of the War in 1945, a number of clubs who had competed in the O.B.U. League thought about playing football again. 2nd O.B.U. were revived and they entered the A.U.L. in 1945 under the title of St. Marks Athletic. 7th O.B.U. under the new title of Strand United also entered the A.U.L.

There was little Saturday football in those days. The A.U.L. had one Saturday division and the Intermediate League, under the jurisdication of the Leinster Junior League, operated a section in the Phoenix Park. It was early in 1948 that two clubs which had played leading parts in the old O.B.U. League, St. Marks and 8th. O.B.U., discussed the idea of reviving the old league. A meeting was arranged for St. Mark’s Hall, Westland Row, chaired by the Rev. George Hobson - the then Vicar of St. Mark’s Parish. It was agreed from the start that the new league would be a complete break from former days with a new set of rules.

Over the summer of 1948, much work was carried out preparing for the new league, with approaches being made to parish teams. St. George’s Parish played a leading part providing a room in Eccles Street for meetings.

What would be the name of the League? There were many ideas but it was the Rev. Hobson who came up with the present title, as United Churches Sunday approached in October 1948. This was a day on which the various churches invited priests and clergy from neighbouring parishes to join in the services. All agreed with the Rev. Hobson that if the league was to make any progress it must be broadminded in its approach and the title, United Churches League was adopted.

Eventually the opening General Meeting took place just before Christmas 1948. Eight clubs were present – Stratford Ath., 8th O.B.U, St. Marks Ath., St. Georges, Clontarf Vikings, Strand United, Y.M.C.A. and Y.M.C.A. Boys Dept.

According to a report in the following day's Evening Mail the first officers of the league were President: Rev. George Hobson. Vice-Presidents: J.C. Bannister, G.D. Briggs. Chairman: Robert Watts. Secretary: Douglas Brophy. Asst. Secretary: G.D. Briggs. Treasurer: E.R. Taylor. Executive foregoing were Fred Faiers, J. Maxwell. Also in attendance were J. Little, David Faiers, Cecil Rue, Harry Cahill Snr., C. Dixon and C. Allen.

Early years:

The league generally was a success from the start. In 1948 there were just one hundred and nineteen players registered and ten years later this had risen to nine hundred and fifty five registered including schoolboys.

There were teething troubles in relation to allocation of referees to the league and the use of grounds in the Phoenix Park where most of the early matches were played. Eventually, the league got representation on the Leinster Junior League Committee and they helped no end in resolving problems.

Later on a long battle was won for representation on the F.A.I. Junior Council where George Briggs represented the league for 11 years. He was honoured with the Chairmanship of that body in 1966 and while there introduced the Oscar Traynor competition in conjunction with Tom Rowan of the A.U.L.

In 1954 the League set up a Colleges and Schools section. The work of Robin Armstrong, himself an amateur international player while with Bohemians, was instrumental in this respect. Attached to St. Patrick’s Grammar School at the time he did the spade work to get the schools section operating, with vital contributions also being made by George Fitch of Kildare Place School and Jim Carroll of Hibernian Marine. Hibernian Marine, Christ Church Grammar, St. Patrick’s Grammar, Kildare Place, Smylys School, Zion, Greenlanes, Mariners, St. Andrews (Rialto), Booterstown and St. Pauls were among the schools that took part. Unfortunately, for various reasons, in particular the difficulties involved in organising mid-week matches, the Schools and Colleges section was eventually discontinued towards the end of the 1960s.

It was also in 1954 that a monthly Bulletin was produced to keep all clubs informed of the happenings in the league, the first of its kind in amateur football. This publication lasted for many years before escalating costs resulted in its eventual demise.

Subsequent developments:

Up until 1974, as the name of the league implies, it was confined to clubs with church affiliations. However, in that year, a decision was taken to widen the scope of the league and from then on, any club in the Dublin area, whether new or existing, was entitled to apply for membership with acceptance based on capacity to fulfill a season long programme of fixtures in line with the UCFL’s requirements.

The decades since 1974 have seen the league grow and thrive. The UCFL is now recognized as one of the main amateur leagues running football on Saturday afternoons in the Dublin area. Total membership in recent years has typically comprised in the region of 90 teams and up to 2000 registered players.

27/03/2019 17:43