NLSA Molson Challenge Cup

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Flashback – Reg Farrell by Gord Dunphy

Flashback – Reg Farrell

July 20, 2010

Reg Farrell was born in St. Lawrence and in 1957, at the tender age of 14, he got his first taste of Senior Soccer. He played with and starred with the St. Lawrence Laurentians until 1968. Reg moved to St. John’s in 1969 and joined with the Feildians organization.

Championships & Accolades

Reg won many awards in his career including scoring titles in both the Burin Peninsula Junior and Senior League in 1959 and 1960. In 1960, Reg was a member of the Burin Peninsula and the Provincial Junior Champions. He also won the BPSA scoring championship in1961, 1964, 1965, and 1966. He won Most Valuable Player Awards in Burin Peninsula Senior Soccer in 1960 and in 1967. He played on Newfoundland Provincial Championship teams in 1966, 1967, and 1968. Reg played on Atlantic Championship teams in 1967 and 1968. In 1969, while playing with the Feildians, his team won the St John’s, Provincial and Atlantic Championships. In the early 70’s, Reg was Director of Coaching for the Newfoundland Soccer Association and was named Coach of the Year in the St. John's League in 1977.

Hall of Famer

Reg Farrell was inducted into the St. Lawrence Soccer Hall of Fame in 1982, the Burin Peninsula Soccer Association Hall of Fame in 1995 and the Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Association Hall of Fame in 1997. Despite the fact that Reg Farrell may have left his hometown of St. Lawrence over forty years ago, he has never forgotten his roots. Reg is regularly seen at many soccer fields, be it in St. Lawrence, St. John’s or on the mainland when the Laurentians are competing. He is one of Newfoundland’s most knowledgeable and well respected personalities that have ever played the game. I have asked Reg several questions which will allow him to share with us his memories of the game.

1. What is the biggest change in soccer you have seen in the last 50 years?

Many positive changes have occurred in Newfoundland soccer in the past 50 years. There are more and much better fields, the participation level for all age groups has increased dramatically, ladies soccer has become well established, and the technical (refereeing &coaching) aspects of the game have improved significantly.

However, for me, the greatest change is a negative one ….. the demise of highly competitive community-based teams on the Burin Peninsula. Who in the 50’S, 60’S or 70’S could ever predict such demise? Newfoundland has been represented at the National Challenge Cup by teams from St. Lawrence, Grand Bank, Burin, Lawn and Marystown. Only 3 teams, Feildians, Mount Pearl and Holy Cross, from outside the Burin Peninsula have represented Newfoundland. For the past number of years St. Lawrence has had the only Challenge Cup team on the peninsula. This is simply incredible for an area that for so many decades was considered the hotbed of Newfoundland soccer.

2. You must have some great old memories about soccer. Would you mind sharing a few of those stories with us?

Every young boy growing up in St. Lawrence dreamt of the day when he would be playing for the Laurentians. My dream was realized in 1957 when Coach Bill Slaney invited me to play in Burin on the day of the game. As a 14 year old I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to play on the same team as 3 of my childhood soccer heroes, Bob Kelly, Herb Slaney, and Gus Tarrant. Other members of that team were Albert Kettle, Adrian Slaney, Gord Turpin, Norm Kelly, Peter Quirke, Joe Haskell, Bob Kearney and Gus Clarke.

The greatest memory of my soccer career was our first run at the Challenge Cup in 1967. We scored the winning goal for the provincial championship against the London Lions in St. John’s with only a few minutes left in regulation time. Then we demolished Nova Scotia 9-1 in St. Lawrence before what, up to that time, was probably the largest crowd to watch a soccer game in Newfoundland.

At the Eastern Canadian Championships in Toronto we lost 3-2 to Toronto, Bellymena. We played for the first time on a large regulation size pitch and for the first time under the lights. Before we knew where we were, we were behind 2-0. After they scored their second goal Norm Kelly and I decided that that we had to make some adjustments. We had been playing the old 2-3-5 formation which Newfoundland teams had been using for years. Norm, who had been playing centre half, went back between the 2 fullbacks, Frank Tobin and Cyril Quirke, and I moved from my centre forward position to take Norm’s place between Bren Slaney and Hughie Tarrant. Now with the 3-3-4 formation we could better cover the larger pitch. From that point onwards we more than held our own. In the dying minutes of that game we came within a whisker of tying the game as we hit both the crossbar and the goal post. Even though we lost that game we felt like we had won because we had left everything on the field. Bellymena advanced to win the Challenge Cup over the western representatives by a score of 1-0.

Other members of that 1967 team not mentioned above were Bob Slaney, Keith Walsh, Gerald Fitzpatrick, Carl Ferrie, my brothers Carl and Keith, my cousin Ray, Ray Slaney, and Jerome Slaney

3. Would you mind sharing some of your memories of what some of the games were actually like between St. Lawrence and Grand Bank, Lawn, Burin, and Marystown back in the 60s and 70s?

Most games were very competitive. The games involving St. Lawrence and Grand Bank as well as St. Lawrence and Lawn were bitterly fought. Although we never lost a game to Lawn they usually made us earn our two points. As a matter of fact, while I played with St. Lawrence the only team to defeat us was Grand Bank and they did it all too often. Grand Bank had some pretty good teams in the 50’s and 60’s. Those teams were comprised of such talented players as Bruce and Al Buffett, Stan, Eric and Gord Grandy, Max and Harold Hollett, Sam Piercey, Malcolm Osmond, Alf White, Tom Rose, Clar Brooks, Eli Lee, Clar Patten, Fig May, John Russell, Bob Ralph, Archie Wells, Bill Matthews, Red Fizzard and Harry English.

During half time of my first game against Lawn I was given an ultimatum by Coach Jack Lundrigan. After telling me that the Lawn players were beating me around like a punching bag Jack stated that I had 5 minutes. Five minutes for what, Jack? “Five minutes to have one of them on his butt or you’re coming off.” A couple of minutes into the second half, a Lawn player and I went to head a high ball. While paying secondary attention to the ball, I gave him my best elbow shot in the mid-section. He fell to the ground winded, in pain and in shock. My marker, Dave Drake, who was one of the cleanest players ever on the peninsula, could not believe what I had done. Meanwhile as I looked towards our bench Jack gave me the thumbs-up sign of approval. Jack was teaching me that if you’re to survive in this league you have to dish it out as well as take it.

In the early 60’s we scored a game-clinching goal in Fortune much like the disallowed goal that England scored against Germany in this year’s World Cup. In our situation, the referee awarded us the goal. Fortune protested the call to the BPAAA who, after hearing testimony from spectators near the goal, ruled in Fortune’s favour. We then appealed to the NSLA whose referee-in-chief simply stated that in such situations the referee’s call is final. This example demonstrates the competition at the league’s organizational level was as keen as it was on the field.

4. You have always been a great supporter of the St. Lawrence Laurentians. Realistically, how much longer can St. Lawrence continue to survive as a dominant force at both provincial and national soccer?

I was asked this question by Jonathon Crowe on a CBC program over 20 years. At that time I was very optimistic that St. Lawrence would continue as a dominant force in Challenge Cup Soccer. Today, I’m not so certain. About 80% of the current Laurentians live outside St. Lawrence and primarily in St. John’s. This makes it very difficult to train properly and to build and maintain strong team cohesiveness. Hats off to the current players who for years have made many sacrifices to wear the blue and white. During my playing days, the residency rule dictated that players had to reside in a particular town in order to play for that town.

Nevertheless, we must remain optimistic about the future. How can St. Lawrence be St. Lawrence without a strong contender? We must remember that past downturns have resulted in stronger rebounds.

5. Name three of the greatest players that you ever played with?

Norm Kelly, Frank Tobin - Cyril Quirke and Wils Molloy. I know that there are 4 people here, but I cannot say Frank without Cyril or vice versa. They were such a talented and powerful combination.

6. Name three of the greatest players that you ever played against?

Larry (Bucky) Warren, Max Hollett, and George (Bow) Collier. Bucky was exceptionally strong in the air, a skilled, determined and aggressive player who gave nothing but his best. Max had 2 great feet, could play any position exceptionally well, and never knew when to quit. Bow had great ball control, was an excellent play maker, and could shoot with the best of them.
7. What’s does the future hold for Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer? The “Beautiful Game” is well established in this province and will continue to grow. More and more people will play and enjoy this game than ever before. Our ability to compete nationally at all age levels has been hampered somewhat by our short season and by our lack of exposure to better competition. The artificial surfaces which have been introduced in several areas in recent years should extend the season. Skills can be improved by better utilization of the gymnasiums which are now in practically all communities. Exposure to better competition can be attained by having players with superior skills play in a higher or older age levels, as is being done now with the St. John’s Under -18 team in Challenge Cup competition. In order to get better both as individuals and as teams we have to play against better competition.

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