THE death has taken place in New York of Peter (Clem) Collins, formerly of Altamount Street, Westport and one of the great pioneers in the development of football in the United States of America.
Born Peter Clementine Collins back in 1931, he is survived by his wife Annie (nee McHale), formerly of McHale Road, Castlebar, and his family.
In his younger days, Peter was an outstanding sportsman and played football and rugby with much success and was a mechanic at the old CIE Bus Garage at The Quay.
Although Peter was a talented footballer for Westport United for a number of years prior to emigration, his biggest footballing honour actually came with Westport United's old rivals as he was a member of the Castlebar Celtic team which won the club’s second Connaught Junior Cup title in 1954, beating Galway Bohs 3-2 in a game played in Terryland Park, Galway.
Peter left Westport in September 1957 to move to America but he took his passion and love of Westport's number one sport with him and sowed the seeds for the sport to blossom by being one of the founding members of Hicksville Americans Soccer Club and from there, he nurtured the development of the beautiful game, including a spell as coach of a local side called the Minutemen. In New York, better known for American Football, Baseball and Basketball, Peter worked hard in the promotion and development of football where it was considered a minority sport and held several major appointments in the Long Island Junior Soccer League, including president for a period of 28 years from 1977, in the Long Island Soccer League. During his tenure, the Long Island Junior Soccer League quadrupled in size, going from 300 teams to over 1,200 teams, making it the World's largest youths football league and as of 2011, there was 3,000 volunteers and 65,000 registered players, competitive and recreational and it was through Peter's 'gift of the gab' with his Covey charm and wit that was instrumental in the player and volunteer recruitment process. He also was an officer on numerous football committees.Peter instilled a mindset to everything he did in football. It was summed up in his motto 'Building Character Through Soccer'. He brought a number of teams to Mayo back in the early 1990s to compete in the Liberty Cup, a competition that was also played for in the Soviet Union and Italy. In 1996, a puropse built facility for football was opened on Long Island and Peter Collins was the driving force behind it. Ten years later, the park was formally inaugurated as the Peter C Collins Soccer Park with a huge gathering of players, parents, coaches, sponsors, politicians and officials all attending to pay homage to this humble and unassuming Covey in what was a fitting tribute. Perhaps his ultimate recognition to the game of football came in 1998 when the USSF inducted Peter into the prestigious USA National Soccer Hall of Fame Award, making him the only former Westport United footballer to be honoured by a national federation outside of the FAI. At that same event, former West Germany World Cup winning captain and manager, Franz Beckenbauer was also honoured.
Peter was a dedicated family man who over the years kept in touch with his many friends in Westport and Castlebar.
His wife Annie, a member of an old and respected Castlebar family, worked inThe Connaught Telegraph where she was popular with management and staff.
Peter Collins was predeceased by his brothers, Pat and Michael, sisters Marie and Beth. He was uncle of Peter Collins, RTE sports commentator.
Sympathy is tendered to his bereaved relatives on their sad loss.
Requiem Mass for the repose of his soul takes place at St. Ignatius Church, Hicksville, New York, on Wednesday at 9:45 a.m. with burial after at Pinelawn Cemetery.
Everyone at Westport United FC would like to extend a Vote of Sympathy to the family of Peter Collins and may his gentle soul Rest in Peace.