When Shamrock Rovers encountered Stevie Wonder in Boston

Ex-Ireland defender Paddy Mulligan tells the story of the clubs summer of US football in 1967

BY Raf Diallo 15:27 Monday 30 January 2017, 15:27 30 Jan 2017

In this Sept. 24, 2016 file photo, singer Stevie Wonder performs at the dedication ceremony for the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington. Wonder is one of the featured performers who will pay tribute to Prince at a Minnesota concert Thursday night Oct. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

Fifty years ago, a squad full of Shamrock Rovers players headed to Massachusetts on the US East Coast under the guise of Boston Rovers.

That Rovers side were participating in the 1967 United Soccer Association league, which saw clubs including Stoke City, Glentoran, Sunderland and Cagliari represent US and Canadian cities.

Former Ireland and Chelsea defender Paddy Mulligan was playing for Shamrock Rovers at the time and joined the rest of the team and some guest players Stateside in the summer of '67.

As always on a Monday, Paddy popped into Newstalk.com for a chat on the week's soccer, but this time we started off on that USA League experience - including an unexpected encounter with an iconic musician.

"What a trip. Seven weeks. It was a magnificent trip," Paddy recalled.

"We had a wonderful time and we were based in Boston and we were representing Boston because they were trying to get the American Soccer League back up to speed again. So were playing all over the place and also up in Vancouver and Toronto."

You can listen to our full chat on the audio player below:

For players coming from Ireland, arriving in Boston was a sight to behold. 

"It was a wonderful, wonderful experience. When I got off the plane in Boston, going in on the motorways as they were... there was no such thing as a motorway in this country in those days and to see the size of the cars and the city and the country was just magnificent. But the football, we enjoyed it very, very much."

Paddy reminisced about the good camaraderie among that Rovers crew during their seven weeks away together, including with ex-team-mates like Liam Tuohy (his room-mate and player-manager in the US), Frank O'Neill and Mick Leech.

"Teams from Brazil were there, Sunderland were there, Glentoran from the North of Ireland and Stoke City," he said.

Ex-Chelsea full back Paddy Mulligan

"You had teams representing cities. Glentoran were representing Detroit and Sunderland were representing Vancouver. And Vancouver, what a beautiful, magnificent city."

Paddy even randomly encountered a musician who was big back then and remains so to this day.

"Billy Dixon, one of my colleagues in the Rovers, and I had just come back from training and I saw this big stretch limo," he said, quipping that at the time he just thought "it was a really big car".

"I was looking at the person getting out of the car and I said to Dicko, 'Billy, I think that's Stevie Wonder'. He said 'No, it's not'. He was staying in the same hotel and it was Stevie Wonder! It was great and he had a little impromptu sing song down in one of the meeting rooms in the hotel. We were all there. It was marvelous and he had had one of his hits at that stage. But what an experience."


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