1939-40 League of Ireland season

The new campaign would again see no change to the constituents of the league, although Cork City, due to financial difficulties, would be forced to re-arrange themselves as Cork United (who took on the playing record and fixtures of the defunct club) midway through the season. Aided by the presence of Irish internationals Joe O’Reilly, Paddy Bradshaw and Mattie Geoghegan, St. James’s Gate were the dominant league force for this year, claiming a second league title six points ahead of Shamrock Rovers, to deny the Milltown club a three-in-a-row. A record crowd of 38,509, meanwhile, watched the latter side defeat Sligo Rovers 3-0 to hand the Connacht club their second F.A.I. Cup final defeat in a row.

Drumcondra and Shelbourne had met to decide this season’s first piece of silverware, with each club seeking to put their name on the Dublin City Cup for the first time. The previous December (1938) had seen a mid-table league game between the sides almost have to be abandoned after a melee broke out involving opposing players and supporters, but this Dalymount Park meeting passed off without further incident, goals from O’Doherty (2) and O’Brien giving Drums a comfortable 3-0 win. An extremely competitive League of Ireland Shield finished with just two points separating the top seven, but holders Bohemians, along with Sligo Rovers, finished clear of the rest on 14 points each. It would mean yet another shield play-off for the Gypsies, and it was fixed for Shelbourne Park on a Wednesday in early January, with the two clubs also due to play a league match at the Showgrounds three days in advance. Sligo won the league game 3-2 after almost allowing a three-goal lead to completely slip, but having taken a 2-0 half-time lead in the play-off they looked very well-placed to put a blot on Bohs’ impressive record in shield “test matches”. The Dubliners fashioned another second-half revival, however, and goals from Frankie Fullen, Billy Jordan and Dermot Skelly secured the club’s sixth (and last) League of Ireland Shield.

The outbreak of World War II had led to an immediate suspension of the English and Scottish leagues, and a knock-on effect was that the possibility of league representative matches against any overseas team had now all but been removed. There was time for one more twist, however, as a Scottish XI (comprised only of players from Glasgow area clubs) made a trip to Dalymount Park at the end of the 1939-40 season. Their opponents would be an Irish XI made up of 10 League of Ireland players, and Jackie Carey of Manchester United (the team contained two of Carey’s former St. James’s Gate team-mates) filling the one remaining place. Billed as a Scottish attempt to gain revenge for the previous season’s inter-league defeat, a large crowd were present to see the visitors edge a very exciting match by three goals to two. By now, however, the economic effects of the war were beginning to make life very difficult for League of Ireland clubs (fuel shortages and a lack of rail services were two of the biggest problems), and this prompted Sligo Rovers to resign their league position before the beginning of the 1940-41 season. Although the league advertised for a replacement club, none was found in time for the beginning of the new campaign.

League of Ireland 1939-40

St. James’s Gate221723632736
Shamrock Rovers221345513930
Sligo Rovers221246604428
Cork United221138403425
Bray Unknowns228113495217

League top scorers : Paddy Bradshaw St. James’s Gate, 29 Paddy Leeney Bray Unknowns, 16 Jimmy Dunne Shamrock Rovers, 15 Joe McAleer Sligo Rovers, 15 Tim O’Keeffe Waterford, 15

Representative match : League of Ireland 2-0 Irish League

An ‘Ireland XI’ with 10 home-based players meets a Scotland XI at Dalymount Park in April 1940

One thought on “1939-40 League of Ireland season

  1. I am Dermot Skelly’s daughter, and his scoring the winning goal for Bohemians is part of family legend. He was 19 years old at the time and the match was watched my mother, long before they were married. He contracted TB shortly afterwards and that put an end to his playing career.

    Liked by 1 person

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