Hello there, and welcome to the maiden blog by me, Dermot McDermott, owner and head dog of McDermott’s Sports Centre, based here in the sprawling metropolis of Monaghan town and home to some of the best sports gear on the planet!
This business of ours has had quite a journey since it’s foundation in Market Street in 1978 and it’s fair to say that things have changed quite a bit since. Back then, Monaghan Gaelic footballers hadn’t won an Ulster title in almost half a century, Ireland had yet to qualify for a major soccer tournament, we still only had one Olympic gold medallist(Ronnie Delaney, 1956) and the pursuit of running as means of keeping fit was confined to elite athletes(or the downright crazy!). So God only knows what was going through my parent’s heads when they decided to open up a sports shop! They both played badminton, indeed that’s how they met, but sport back then didn’t quite occupy the minds of people as it does now.
The doors of ‘The Sports Centre’ opened in Dec 1978 but it was in the summer of the following year that the business got its first boost with the Monaghan team finally ending that famine by beating Donegal in the Ulster final. Hats, flags, scarfs, headbands, car stickers and basically anything with white and blue on it sold out; indeed, my mother, who was(and still is) gifted in the art of sewing, stitched white and blue thread into, onto and around just about anything! However, that was only a prelude to what was about to happen in September of that year when Pope John Paul II visited Ireland; 3 million people turned out to welcome him and Papal flags and anything with amber and white sold out!...how times have changed.
In 1981, the business moved to a bigger premises in Church Square and, despite the doom and gloom nationally, it was a brilliant trading decade; Monaghan town was being well served by vibrant local factories/industries whom employed hundreds and whose employees spent their weekly earnings in the town. 1985 was the highlight and Monaghan felt like the center of the universe. First up in April of that year Monaghan footballers claimed their first, and still only, National League Division 1 title by beating Armagh in Croke Park. A team photo in celebration of the win was released which my father bought, got signed by all the players and then framed; he put it in the shop window to show it off but within a week all of the signatures were faded by the late spring sunshine....a school boy error from a then 37 year old man! On June 8 of that year, in Loftus Road, London, Barry McGuigan put our county on the global stage by winning the World Feather weight championship title and what a boost for the county that was! Anything with a picture of Barry on it sold; t-shirts, posters, badges, hats and keyrings but the best seller was a white sweatshirt with his image on it, of which I had one myself and it was worn with pride that summer. The following month, the party continued when Monaghan followed up their league win by re-claiming the Ulster championship and once again anything with white and blue on it sold; the events of the summer were starting to go to my father’s head which may explain why he painted the front of the shop white and blue! (See Photo) Good times indeed.
1988 was another golden year for ‘The Sports Centre’ in Church Square as Monaghan added another Ulster title but it was Irelands qualification for ‘Euro 88’ and subsequently for Italia 90’ which had the country buzzing and restored our national pride. By this stage replica jerseys were the ‘must have’ item on any supporters list and Adidas made a small fortune during this period with the Italia 90’ jerseys in particular selling like ‘hot-cakes’. Black market trade was also thriving with cartoon printed Ireland t-shirts being the big seller, especially the one depicting Jack Charlton fishing Eamon Dunphy out of a lake!
The following year in 1991, our business was on the move again, this time to Dawson Street which was about to go through some major development; Dunnes Stores and a brand new shopping centre both opened up in the mid-nineties and the face of retail in the town was changing. But all in the name of progress and all good as local retailers had to up the ante to compete with these big names. We decided to change our business name to ‘McDermott’s Sports Centre’ to personalise it more in the wake of the multinationals arriving. It was in 1998 that yours truly got involved in the business and it was also in this year that I made my Ulster senior championship debut for Monaghan against Derry in Celtic Park….the less said about that the better!
In 2004, to further develop the business we moved to Dawson Lane and traded there for 5 years which seen Irelands economic fortunes go from boom to bust. Our rugby team were the saviours during this period winning multiple triple crowns and culminating in claiming the Grand Slam in 2009, helped in no small way by Monaghan’s Tommy Bowe who regularly bought his boots from us as a kid! It was also during this period, in 2005, that Kevin McBride from Clones beat former world heavyweight champ Iron Mike Tyson in a one-off bout in the US; Kevin used to deal with us when he was an amateur boxer as we were the only shop who could source running shoes that were big enough to fit him, size 15’s I think!
It was in 2009 that we got itchy feet again and moved to a larger premise on the North Road where we traded until 2013. The highlight of this period being Monaghan ending 25 years of hurt and winning the Ulster championship again; the town went crazy and so was business! Every kid wanted a Monaghan jersey to emulate their new heroes and hopefully the success will inspire these kids to be the stars of future.
It was in November 13’ we closed up after 35 years and I went off to travel the world and dream up some new ideas…
So here I am, its 2016, its Dawson Lane in Monaghan town; and McDermott’s Sports Centre, after a two and a half year break, is open again.