1951-52 League of Ireland season

In 1952, St. Patrick’s Athletic became the first club since inaugural champions St. James’s Gate and subsequent winners Shamrock Rovers to win the League of Ireland in their very first season. Sligo Rovers (who had added a talented Scottish winger called Johnny Armstrong to their squad) had led the league table for the majority of the campaign, but four defeats in their last seven games allowed the Inchicore club in to take the title, three points ahead of their new Dublin rivals Shelbourne (whose 19-year old centre-forward Rory Dwyer would score 40 goals across all competitions). Pats had just replaced Shels as tenants at Milltown, and after losing their first home league match, proceeded to win each of the next ten on their way to championship glory (Shels were now tenants of Bohemians at Dalymount Park, and remained unbeaten there throughout their first season). Third-placed Shamrock Rovers had earlier held off Shelbourne by a point to take their ninth League of Ireland Shield.

Although Drumcondra collected a third consecutive Dublin City Cup with a 4-0 win over Sligo Rovers (the competition had now reverted to a knockout format), F.A.I. Cup success belonged to Dundalk. Their defeat of Cork Athletic in a replay meant a second cup victory in four years for the Lilywhites (a very young side featured just one player, Johnny Fearon, from the 1949 success), and a second cup final defeat in three years for the Mardyke-based side. Athletic’s preparations for the replay were far from ideal, however, with some of the players drinking heavily in Dublin in the aftermath of the first game, and some squad members being required to testify in an attempted murder trial (a Cork Athletic director was the accused) in the days leading up to the replay.

Dundalk’s 6-4 extra-time semi-final replay victory over Waterford has been described as the greatest match in the history of the F.A.I. Cup. The Milltown fixture had finished 3-3 at the end of normal time, and with car headlights being used instead of floodlights as the evening darkened, the English referee was criticised for playing 30 extra minutes instead of the F.A.I. Cup’s customary 20. Meanwhile, Athletic’s path to the final featured their third consecutive three-game saga with Transport (who had moved to the Harold’s Cross stadium at the beginning of this season), and the final was significant as it was the first time that the decider had been contested by two teams who had finished in the bottom half of the league (second-from-bottom Dundalk were the first winners of the cup who had to apply for league re-election). One notable member of the Cork Athletic squad over the previous couple of seasons was 20-year old Noel Cantwell, who would be transferred to West Ham United in September of 1952. In less than five years’ time, Cantwell would become captain of the Irish national side, before skippering Manchester United to F.A. Cup victory in 1963, and the English league championship in 1967.

League of Ireland 1951-52

PWDLFAPts
St. Patrick’s Athletic221624593434
Shelbourne221354594431
Shamrock Rovers221255431829
Sligo Rovers221336494629
Evergreen United221129444224
Drumcondra22958473323
Bohemians228311374119
Waterford228311475419
Transport227312435017
Cork Athletic226313364415
Dundalk224711375015
Limerick22251520659

League top scorers : Shay Gibbons St. Patrick’s Athletic, 26 Rory Dwyer Shelbourne, 22 Dessie Glynn Drumcondra, 20

Representative matches : English League 9-1 League of Ireland, League of Ireland 0-2 Scottish League, League of Ireland 4-0 U.S.A.

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