Image: Richmond SC
The FFA Cup Round 4 draw threw up plenty of intriguing fixtures with many of the state’s most historic and distinguished clubs being pitted up against plucky outsiders with their very own rich histories.
One match-up which bucks that trend sees 2015 NPL2 Champions Richmond face the St Kilda Celts, a club established as recently as 2011 by Melbourne’s Irish expatriate community.
The hosts have spent nine of the last 12 seasons in the top-flight; the visitors have earned four consecutive State League promotions and will this year be playing in Victoria’s third tier.
That remarkable achievement may not have been possible without the work and service of Richmond captain Alan Mulcahy – one of the Celts founders and an ex-club committee member.
St Kilda defeated Monash University 3-0 and are preparing for the upcoming State League One campaign under head coach Derek Donnelly, one of Mulcahy’s closest friends.
Celts player Sammy Sweeney is another close friend who has been integral alongside Donnelly in St Kilda’s success, with Richmond’s Irish captain discussing his friendship with the duo.
“Del [Derek] has been one of my best friends since moving down to Australia, while Sammy was one of my groomsmen at my wedding. I actually stepped in Del’s place and managed the side a few weeks back in their friendly against the Preston Lions as he wasn’t available.”
While acknowledging his ties to St Kilda, the 33-year-old is in no doubt about where his loyalties will lie when the two teams take to the field tonight at Kevin Bartlett Reserve.
“I’ll be Richmond through and through. Even though I’m playing against a club which I love and hold dear to me, my job is to get Richmond into the next round and I’ll be working towards achieving that.
“I warned the boys on Wednesday night at training that this will be a very difficult assignment and how this game can be a massive confidence booster for us to lift our form,” noted the Irishman.
Paul Donnelly’s men are currently bottom of the NPL2 East standings having drawn two and lost four of their opening six league games, with Mulcahy missing the first three through a shoulder injury.
“We need a win to boost confidence within the dressing room and hopefully that will lead a charge up the league table. I feel that our poor start is the result of a lack of confidence and a win here will lift morale within the squad,” said the former Dandenong Thunder captain.
“As soon as we pick up one win, more will come and I feel that many of the players are coming to grips with playing senior football as they initially didn’t realise how much of a step-up it was. They are learning with each passing week and will get results on board once they break the shackles”.
The Dublin-born midfielder cites compatriot Roy Keane as his football idol and made his mark on senior football in the Irish second tier with a number of clubs, as well as featuring in the top flight with Shelbourne in 2008 before migrating to Melbourne in 2008.
Originally captaining the Springvale White Eagles in 2009 under Stan Webster, he also featured for Bentleigh before spending three successful years with the Southern Stars under Dean Hennessey.
The hard-working midfielder played his part in successful promotion campaigns which ultimately saw the Stars promoted to the VPL in 2012, before moving to Hume City in 2013.
18 months at Dandenong Thunder followed, which saw Mulcahy reunited with Hennessey before making a mid-season switch to the Port Melbourne Sharks, spending a year at JL Murphy Reserve.
Another mid-year move to Richmond eventuated last season – weeks after scoring his first career hat-trick against Alemannia for the Sharks, but he was unable to save them from beating the drop.
Now he finds himself skippering a young side against the very team he helped establish just over six years ago and one which has enjoyed a meteoric rise over the past five years.
No doubt tonight’s occasion will be a special moment for one of the state’s most respected footballers whose loyalties will ultimately be tested but not torn on St. Patrick’s Day no less.
“When he started the club all those years ago, we had no idea it would have the success they have enjoyed so far but credit to the boys, they’ve done really well and I hope for a good game tonight.”