I woke this morning to the sad news that Noel Curtis had passed away.
There are many who will have known Noel a lot better than myself but I wanted to pay a small tribute to a man who was a fantastic supporter of Dundalk FC and a genuinely good guy.
It’s a conversation we were fortunate enough to have a bit of a chuckle about in recent years but Noel inadvertently played a part in my initial love of going to Oriel Park. More on that later.
I first properly got to know him through his friendship with former Argus editors Jim Smyth and Kevin Mulligan. Together with former Dundalk FC chairman Tony O’Kane, this quartet were regular attendees of the annual Soccer Writers’ banquet and our regular January get-togethers were always something looked forward to.
The numbers of the so-called ‘Dundalk Mafia’ attending the awards has dwindled in recent years but back when I first started going to them it would not have been uncommon for a table to be made up of the likes of myself, Noel, Jim, Kevin, Tony, former Dundalk Democrat sports editor Gerry Prendergast, former club chairman Des Denning (RIP) and Lilywhites legends such as Steve Williams, Dermot Keely and Tommy McConville (RIP). When you factored in a regular attendance from the various representatives of the Dundalk FC side pat and present and event stalwarts such as Gerry McDermott and Des Casey, it was always a great occasion.
One of my abiding memories of the quartet of friends of which Noel was part of was arranging for them to get a picture with Robbie Keane when he was honoured by the SWAI on his retirement from the national team in January 2017. All of them may have been in or around the 70 mark at the time but they were like school kids lining up for the snap such was their excitement.
Two of Noel’s great passions aside from his family – especially wife Noeleen, daughters Elaine, Ashling and Niamh and grandson Harry – were Dundalk FC and the Republic of Ireland national team and he travelled far and wide to support both, including to the last major tournaments the country participated in – the Euros in Poland in 2012 and in France 2016.
I hadn’t spoken to Noel since Stephen Kenny’s ascension to the senior team throne but I’ve no doubt it was something he was relishing.
Sadly, he won’t get to be there when ‘the King’ leads his side out at the Aviva for the first time but his contribution will not be forgotten. A former treasurer of the Dundalk City ladies side, he also coached their underage sides for a time. Another of his proudest moments would have been 15 years ago this December when, just 10 days shy of his birthday, Dundalk City Ladies won the Women’s FAI Cup with a 1-0 win over Peamount Utd at the old Lansdowne Road.
The Curtis family have all played a big role in lending their support to Dundalk FC over the years. Regular attendees of games are likely to be greeted by his brother Gerry scanning tickets at the entrance to the stand for each game while another brother Tony and his wife Margaret are perhaps best known for running buses to games the length and breadth of Ireland – and even into Europe in recent years.
My first and abiding of Noel was from running the now long gone Noel’s Food Bar beside Oriel Park. Back when I first started attending games on the Carrick Road, I used to get a few pound to buy a sausage and chip to buy before the game. Most of my early memories of attending matches is standing with friends and tucking into the food he provided. In those days that was more exciting for a youngster than the fare on the field. The love for that soon grew but in those early days it was undoubtedly the sausage and chip I went back for more than the action.
Sympathy to Noel’s family and friends, particularly the members of that aforementioned quartet of which he was such a big part of. He might be gone but his memory will live on for some time to come.