Trophy wins for Shelbourne (with two Paddy Bradshaw goals helping them to a 3-1 win over Shamrock Rovers in the Dublin City Cup final) and Shamrock Rovers (shield) in the opening months of the season hinted at the league title’s possible return to Dublin this year, but Cork United did enough to retain the league championship in 1942, finishing two points ahead of Shamrock Rovers. A late December meeting between the two title rivals at Milltown came to be regarded as a League of Ireland classic, with a crowd of 25,000 being treated to an epic 4-4 draw. With a side that included I.F.A. international captain Davy Cochrane (the club’s top scorer this year; F.A.I. and future Manchester United skipper Jackie Carey also featured for Rovers in one match), the Hoops handed Cork their only league defeat of the season, 3-2 at the Mardyke, and themselves remained unbeaten at Milltown through all four national competitions.
Dundalk (who had adopted their now famous white and black kit the previous season, after a temporary flirtation with maroon and light blue) prevented Cork from claiming a second consecutive double, by winning the F.A.I. Cup decider 3-1. In doing so they got their own hands on the trophy for the first time, after three previous final defeats, and nine previous progressions to the semi-final stages. Club legend and 10-time Irish international Joey Donnelly (considered the best player that the club has ever produced), a survivor of all three of those beaten Dundalk sides, had the honour of lifting the elusive trophy for the Oriel Park outfit.
Dundalk were also the inaugural winners of the new Dublin and Belfast Intercity Cup, a cross-border competition (contested at the very end of the season) introduced to increase the amount of football for both northern and southern teams during the war years, and having the added bonus of generating much needed revenue for the competing clubs. Six teams from each league (there were now just six teams competing in the unofficial “Northern Regional League”) took part, with the victors and two strongest losers from a two-legged first round moving on to two-legged quarter and semi-final stages. The first final, where an Artie Kelly goal (Kelly had scored twice in the F.A.I. Cup final just a few weeks earlier) gave Dundalk a 1-0 win over Shamrock Rovers, took place over 90 minutes, but the next five Intercity Cup finals were two-legged affairs. All six southern clubs played their “home” games at Dalymount Park, and attendances were considerable.
Despite the relatively successful year at Glenmalure Park, controversy would reign at Shamrock Rovers towards the end of the season, with Jimmy Dunne’s omission from the team line-up for an F.A.I. Cup semi-final match with Dundalk prompting a protest march by Hoops fans to the home of the Rovers’ owners, the Cunningham family. Joe Cunningham (with occasional input from his wife Mary-Jane) had enjoyed control of Rovers team selection for years, and the incident would be one of several selection scandals that the family would become embroiled in over the coming decades. With matters not resolved to his satisfaction, Dunne would leave to take the post of player-coach of Bohemians in time for the beginning of the new league campaign.
Despite the war impacting heavily upon Ireland’s economy, attendances at League of Ireland matches showed no sign of waning, and all 10 clubs made themselves available for the beginning of the 1942-43 season. The league’s fortunes were aided by an influx of players from the other “home” leagues in the early 1940s, due to the suspension / downgrading of their own domestic competitions because of the war (it was also an opportunity to avoid national service). As well as players like Cochrane, Carey, and Derry City star Jimmy Kelly, many Englishmen, Scotsmen and Welshmen were happy to ply their trade (or at least have brief stints) in the League of Ireland during this time. Although a number of the league’s better players were also lured north of the border by favourable contract offers, there would be a noticeable increase in the amount of full-time footballers in the League of Ireland as the 1940s progressed.
League of Ireland 1941-42
|St. James’s Gate||18||6||5||7||41||35||19||*|
* St. James’s Gate awarded two points from Limerick
League top scorers : Tommy Byrne Limerick, 20 (includes 3 goals from a 3-1 win over St. James’s Gate, where the points were awarded to the Dublin club after Limerick fielded an ineligible player; the four goals scored in the match were removed from the league table) Artie Kelly Dundalk, 15 Owen Madden Cork United, 14
Representative matches : League of Ireland 2-2 Northern Regional League, Northern Regional League 5-2 League of Ireland