‘Fifty years of appreciation’

Township alumni stick together through soccer

Special to The Sun: Township alumni Paul Harrison (left to right), Brian O’Connor and Joe Dwyer hold the over-62 division trophy after an undefeated season in the New England Over-the-Hill Soccer League.

Township alumni Brian O’Connor, Joe Dwyer and Paul Harrison are more than soccer players, but lifelong friends with a 50-year history.

“This is the season of Thanksgiving and gratitude, and the fact that our friendship and our connection and our bond on and off the field has survived is miraculous that we can still play at a high level,” O’Connor said.

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“We see each other on the field differently than we might see other players,” Dwyer noted. “I think when we make a pass to each other, or something special happens on the field, there’s an immense amount of pride in the long relationship that we’ve had together.”

The three men, members of the F.C. Wanderers, helped secure a win for the New England Over-the-Hill Soccer League in the over-62 championship final in Massachusetts on Nov. 20, topping off a successful 12-0 fall season.

“We were undefeated, and we outscored our opponents by an enormous margin,” O’Connor said. “We did have several close games, and Joe Dwyer and Paul Harrison played key roles in those narrow wins. But we did win.”

The men’s journey started in the mid-’70s, when O’Connor and Dwyer played for Moorestown United, a soccer team formed by Harrison with players from Moorestown Friends School and the township high school. At the time, Dwyer was younger than O’Connor and Harrison, but was still part of the team.

“The ability to play with them at a young age was really special for me, because I then springboarded off that into playing at James Madison University, which is a Division I team in Virginia,” Dwyer recalled.

Harrison and O’Connor later played and practiced together in Massachusetts and eventually reconnected with Dwyer, who had been playing for competing teams in an open first-division league before joining O’Connor and Harrison at F.C. Wanderers.

“The three of us really care about the game,” Dwyer offered. “We have played consistently (this) whole time, so when I got to come back and play with them again, it’s really quite special.”

Dwyer initially had concerns about joining the over-62 division but is thankful he did.

“At some level, I didn’t want to play on it this year because I had been playing 50-and-over until now, so I thought, ‘The 62-and-over league is not going to be very competitive, so it’s not going to be fun,’” he remembered. 

“When I ended up getting there, it was really great fun.”

A word of advice O’Connor would give other athletes is to play as much as they can.

“There’s nothing better to preserve your health, your youth, your vitality than movement and exercise,” he maintained. “Filling your lungs with air, moving your legs, feeling your muscles, feeling the pain … Just get at it.”

Dwyer is thankful for the strong ties between the three soccer stars.

“I have 50 years of appreciation for Brian and Paul letting me join Moorestown United,” he said.

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