This season’s Dublin City Cup final attracted more interest than usual, Shamrock Rovers (Paddy Coad having assembled a brand new squad over the previous seasons from the local schoolboy and junior leagues) defeating Drumcondra 1-0 to prevent the northside club from winning the trophy for a fourth year in a row. Transport finished as shield runners-up for the third time in four seasons, Waterford putting their name on the trophy for a third time after a 2-1 play-off replay victory at Kilcohan Park. In 1953, for the first time since 1929, the league’s top four positions would be occupied by clubs from the capital. Shelbourne captured a sixth league title ahead of Drumcondra, Shamrock Rovers and St. Pat’s, to join their local rivals Rovers at the top of the League of Ireland roll of honour.
In what was perhaps the most intriguing F.A.I. Cup campaign ever, Cork Athletic and Evergreen United proved that football outside of Dublin was alive and well by contesting a Cork derby in the “Blue Riband” decider. Athletic had lured former Sunderland and England star Raich Carter to the club as player-manager especially for an assault on the cup, and paid the forward a whopping £50 a week (the maximum wage in Britain was fixed at £20 a week) for his services. Carter began paying his way almost immediately, scoring for the Leesiders in their first round win over Drumcondra, and netting twice in a 3-2 quarter-final win over Waterford at Kilcohan Park. The latter game was notable as it was the first ever all-ticket F.A.I. Cup match, and somewhat ironically, an over-zealous Waterford fan managed to get close enough to Cork’s John Moloney to assault him and knock out some of his front teeth.
A semi-final win over Limerick meant Athletic would compete in the final for the fourth consecutive year, and after another Raich Carter goal in the decider against Evergreen, a 2-2 draw meant yet another F.A.I. Cup final replay for the Mardyke outfit (it would be their fifth over the course of the previous four seasons). Despite requests by both clubs to have the fixture moved to Cork, the second match was also scheduled for Dalymount, with only 6,000 people making the midweek journey. Both finals saw brothers John and Billy Moloney competing on opposing sides, and a further twist saw Florrie Burke lining out for Evergreen (the legendary Seanie McCarthy was also in the Evergreen side), having been loaned out from Athletic earlier in the season. Goals from Jackie Lennox and Raich Carter gave the 1951 double-winners a 2-1 victory, and the 39-year old Englishman became the first man to win F.A. and F.A.I. Cup medals. It was the sixth time that a Cork club had triumphed in the cup competition.
Shield champions Waterford (with Shelbourne’s Rory Dwyer as a guest player) would undertake a four-match tour of Iceland in the early summer, but it was the arrival of one Ed McIlvenny to the club in July of 1953 that was perhaps more significant. The Scottish-born wing-half had, by a very strange twist of fate, appeared for the U.S.A. at the 1950 World Cup, and even wore the captain’s armband for the Americans’ seismic 1-0 win over England at the same tournament. A subsequent move to Manchester United had come to very little, but United captain Jackie Carey helped to engineer McIlvenny’s move to League of Ireland football, with the 28-year old set to spend the next four seasons at Kilcohan Park.
League of Ireland 1952-53
|St. Patrick’s Athletic||22||8||8||6||49||34||24|
League top scorers : Shay Gibbons St. Patrick’s Athletic, 22 James Rowe Drumcondra, 16 Liam Coll Sligo Rovers, 13 Rory Dwyer Shelbourne, 13 Dessie Glynn Drumcondra, 13 Mick Lipper Transport, 13
Representative matches : Scottish League 5-1 League of Ireland, League of Ireland 0-2 English League, League of Ireland 0-3 Irish League