1948-49 League of Ireland season

This season saw Sligo Rovers return to the league fold, along with a new side, Transport F.C., who had been formed in 1935 by members of the national bus company, C.I.E. The club had enjoyed success in the Leinster Senior League, reached the final of the 1948 Leinster Senior Cup (where they were defeated by fellow League of Ireland applicants St. Patrick’s Athletic), and would play their first three League of Ireland seasons at the Carlisle Grounds in Bray. Transport had been managed since 1945 by Matt Giles, a brother of the current Drumcondra coach Dickie Giles.

Driven again by the goals of John ‘Kit’ Lawlor (who would win his first international cap at the end of the season), Drumcondra clinched the league championship for the second year in a row, but this time in far less dramatic fashion. An unbeaten away record helped them to claim the title with six points to spare, with the strongest challenges again coming from Shelbourne (who would sell both Arthur Fitzsimons and Peter Desmond to Middlesbrough for a combined fee of £10,000 at the end of the season) and Dundalk. Shels had earlier secured their seventh League of Ireland Shield, while the Lilywhites had gone unbeaten on their way to a third Dublin City Cup (they won their last six games to pip Jimmy Dunne’s Shamrock Rovers by a point), and the latter clubs also contested this year’s F.A.I Cup final, with the Louth club emerging victorious by three goals to nil. Dundalk this year lost the last ever Intercity final (each round of the competition was over one leg this year) to Shamrock Rovers by the same scoreline, giving the Hoops their fourth Intercity victory in seven seasons. One slight setback for Rovers this year was a loss to non-league Dublin side St. Patrick’s Athletic in the first round of the F.A.I. Cup, with the Inchicore club progressing with the help of several of the players who had departed Milltown in the aftermath of the previous season’s “Intercity” pay dispute.

Two other notable events this season were Sligo Rovers’ recruitment of a mysterious Hungarian player called Siegfried Dobrowitch (claiming to be a former Hungarian international, Dobrovitch scored on his debut against Limerick in March), and Shelbourne’s decision to leave Shelbourne Park, which had been the club’s home ground since 1913. Frequent disputes with the National Greyhound Racing Company (who now owned the stadium), especially over the possibility of playing matches on Sundays, saw Shels make plans for the construction of a new stadium in Irishtown. The Reds were to spend the next number of seasons, however, as tenants of rival League of Ireland clubs.

League of Ireland 1948-49

Shamrock Rovers18684332520
Sligo Rovers18459313713
Cork Athletic186111334113

League top scorers : Bernie Lester Transport, 12 Eugene Noonan Waterford, 12 Paddy O’Leary Cork Athletic, 12

Representative matches : Scottish League 5-1 League of Ireland, League of Ireland 0-0 Irish League, Irish League 4-1 League of Ireland, League of Ireland 0-5 English League

1947-48 League of Ireland season

This was to be the last league season contested by just eight clubs, and Drumcondra (with a team of mostly local players who were becoming known for their frequent and successful use of the “offside trap”), for one, would be grateful that there had been such a short league programme. Having established a strong championship position by taking 13 points from their first 14 (remarkably, they had finished bottom of the shield without a win in seven games), they proceeded to lose three games in a row, allowing their league rivals to make considerable inroads into their advantage. They won their next match at home to Waterford, but three consecutive draws in their final three outings (including a 1-1 last-day draw at the Market’s Field in which Limerick had an apparently good goal disallowed with 10 minutes remaining) meant that they only just secured the first League of Ireland title of their history, a solitary point ahead of Dundalk and Shelbourne (who had taken 13 and 15 points respectively from their last eight league matches).

“Drums” were actually denied the double by fellow Dubliners Shamrock Rovers, who had welcomed Jimmy Dunne back to the club as full-time coach at the beginning of the season. With non-league teams now back in the frame, the competition reverted to its traditional format this season, and goals from Paddy Coad and Eugene Kirby helped Rovers to reverse the scoreline of the 1946 F.A.I. Cup decider (Benny ‘Rosie’ Henderson missed a penalty for Drumcondra with two minutes left). These matches would later prove to have been two of the earliest instalments in a burgeoning rivalry between the clubs that would reach fever pitch in the mid-1950s.

The Hoops also took the Dublin City Cup ahead of Dundalk, and might well have added the Intercity Cup, but for a payment dispute between the Cunningham family and several Shamrock Rovers players. The family’s refusal to pay the team the match fees associated with an Intercity quarter-final against Distillery saw them lose the services of several key squad members, including 1945 F.A.I. Cup final hero Podge Gregg.

Meanwhile, Cork United’s victory in this year’s League of Ireland Shield (they defeated Shelbourne on the last day to edge out both them and Shamrock Rovers) would prove to be the last of nine major honours snared during an incredibly successful decade, and indeed during an incredibly successful lifespan. The club would unfortunately resign its position in the League of Ireland during the 1948-49 shield campaign, immediately reforming as Cork Athletic.

League of Ireland 1947-48

Shamrock Rovers14464262414
Cork United14365293012

League top scorers : Seanie McCarthy Cork United, 13 John ‘Kit’ Lawlor Drumcondra, 10 Brendan Carroll Shelbourne, 9 Paddy Coad Shamrock Rovers, 9

Representative matches : League of Ireland 2-1 Irish League, Irish League 4-0 League of Ireland, English League 4-0 League of Ireland, League of Ireland 0-2 Scottish League

1946-47 League of Ireland season

Controversy reigned at the beginning of the 1946-47 season, when Shamrock Rovers attempted to avail of the services of Scottish international forward Jock Dodds, who had gained huge acclaim by scoring 255 league goals for Blackpool over the previous five seasons. Within a context of the other “home” associations still not recognising League of Ireland player registration lists, Blackpool demanded compensation, as Dodds was apparently still on the books of the Lancashire club, and valued at somewhere in the region of £8,000. Keen to make sure that their clubs did not miss out on big transfer fees in the future, all of the British and Irish associations finally agreed to recognise each other’s player registrations, bringing an end to the “open door” situation (where players who were out of contract could be signed by a club from another jurisdiction without the need of a transfer fee) that League of Ireland clubs had been able to avail of (and sometimes, been negatively impacted by) for the last two decades. As it happened, Dodds only remained with Rovers for about six weeks, scoring four goals across a number of appearances in the Dublin City Cup and the League of Ireland Shield, though his presence in the games attracted huge crowds, and Rovers would also garner a small fee after the player completed his transfer from Blackpool to Everton.

Another club to bring in a big cross-channel name in the build-up to this season was Shelbourne (now managed by former Irish international captain Charlie Turner), with former Liverpool and Chelsea outside left Alf Hanson proving a very telling acquisition. His goals helped the Reds take their second Dublin City Cup with a point to spare over Drumcondra (who scored 30 goals and conceded 24 in their seven Dublin City Cup games), and this proved to be the situation in the league race as well, with Shamrock Rovers finishing in third to ensure the first all-Dublin top three since 1930. In fact, a Rovers victory over Shelbourne on the last day of the season would have seen the title go to Milltown (a draw would have forced a three-way play-off), but Shels won the Glenmalure Park fixture 2-1 to make sure of the championship. Drumcondra (managed by a former Bohs and Shels player called Dickie Giles, who was the father of future Leeds United and Ireland great Johnny) did have something to celebrate in retaining the League of Ireland Shield (they finished one point ahead of Dundalk), but ended the season with another set of runners-up medals, after a 4-1 aggregate defeat by Shamrock Rovers in the final of the Intercity Cup.

With a largely full-time team, made up of 11 Cork-born players, fourth-placed Cork United won a cup final replay (in front of a record low crowd of just 5,519) against Bohemians in an effort to atone for the fact that, this year, the league trophy would not be making its way to the Mardyke. 10 of the side had previously won international or inter-league honours, and Seanie McCarthy and Tommy Moroney (who himself would win the first of 12 international caps as a West Ham player in 1948) scored the goals in United’s 2-0 victory. Meanwhile, the League of Ireland’s admission into the International Inter-League Board in the aftermath of the Jock Dodds affair paved the way for a first ever meeting of the League of Ireland and English League representative sides in April of 1947. A Dalymount Park crowd of 25,000 watched the visitors inflict a 3-1 defeat on the home team.

League of Ireland 1946-47

Shamrock Rovers14734342117
Cork United14725402716

League top scorers : Paddy Coad Shamrock Rovers, 11 Alf Hanson Shelbourne, 11 Seanie McCarthy Cork United, 10 Mick O’Flanagan Bohemians, 10

Representative matches : League of Ireland 2-2 Northern Regional League, Northern Regional League 0-1 League of Ireland, League of Ireland 1-3 English League

1945-46 League of Ireland season

In the space of just six years, Cork United had joined Bohemian F.C. on a total of five League of Ireland titles, after winning yet another league trophy in 1946, to go with the Dublin City Cup that they had won at the beginning of the season. Drumcondra led the league’s chasing pack on this occasion, two points behind the Leesiders, and also won their third F.A.I. Cup, defeating Shamrock Rovers 2-1 in the final (like Rovers the year before, Drums had lost two games on their way to the decider). It was the first real breakthrough season for the club from the north side of Dublin, who would play such a huge part in the League of Ireland story over the next quarter of a century or so. 1945-46 saw them capture their first League of Ireland Shield, thanks to a 4-1 “away” win over second-placed Shelbourne (Shels had switched the eagerly-anticipated match to Dalymount Park and the attendance ended up being around 23,000) on the last day of the competition, and Drums also took part in what proved to be the best attended fixture in League of Ireland history this season, with some 31,000 people present at Dalymount Park to watch their 1-1 draw with Cork United. Drums therefore failed to gain revenge for their 9-1 drubbing at the Mardyke earlier in the season, in which Cork’s Paddy O’Leary had scored an incredible six goals (the Drumcondra goal was scored by future Leeds, Aston Villa and Ireland star Con Martin).

Shamrock Rovers, with Davy Cochrane back in their side (he had spent the last three seasons with Linfield), replicated Bohemians’ 3-2 aggregate win over Belfast Celtic in the previous season’s final to capture their second Intercity Cup. Having first come up against a Glentoran side that featured future Northern Ireland and Tottenham Hotspur great Danny Blanchflower (the young wing-half scored twice in his side’s 4-3 aggregate defeat), Rovers were then the only League of Ireland team in the semi-finals, as Linfield, Belfast Celtic and Distillery all accounted for their southern opponents. Former Belfast Celtic player Jimmy McAlinden had been with Rovers for the main season, but had left for Portsmouth by the time they came up against his old teammates in the final in early June. A 3-1 win at Windsor Park meant a 1-0 loss in the second leg at Dalymount Park was not enough to deprive the Hoops of the trophy.

Davy Cochrane left Shamrock Rovers soon afterwards, and the club would also sell Peter Farrell and Tommy Eglington (the Hoops’ top scorer this season) to Everton for a combined fee of £9,000, with the twosome becoming key players for the Merseysiders and for Ireland over the coming decade. Shelbourne defender Eddie Gannon joined Notts County, and a number of League of Ireland players would be lured north of the border. Despite the war having ended and many of the Emergency’s worst restrictions having been relaxed, only the same eight teams made themselves available for the beginning of the 1946-47 season (it was unusual to see Shelbourne and Bohemians occupying this year’s re-election positions). The effects of the post-war economy were continuing to make life difficult for League of Ireland clubs.

League of Ireland 1945-46

Cork United14932462021
Shamrock Rovers14626403114

League top scorers : Paddy O’Leary Cork United, 15 Tommy Eglington Shamrock Rovers, 11 Tommy McCormack Drumcondra, 11 Mick O’Flanagan Bohemians, 11

Representative matches : League of Ireland 1-2 Northern Regional League, Northern Regional League 3-0 League of Ireland

1944-45 League of Ireland season

The 1944-45 season opened with Shamrock Rovers winning all seven of their matches (and scoring 28 goals) on their way to a first Dublin City Cup success, and Shelbourne recording their sixth victory in the League of Ireland Shield. By going unbeaten through the first six games of the league, Rovers looked a good bet as possible title contenders, but a 6-0 victory for Cork United over the Hoops at the Mardyke saw the Leesiders assume control of the championship race. With seven wins from their seven home games, and scoring an incredible 59 goals in just 14 games (a new, and existing, league record), they eventually enjoyed a five-point advantage over both Limerick (who, like Cork, now had a largely full-time set-up) and Shamrock Rovers. It was the Cork club’s fourth league title in five years, but an improved away record for either of their title rivals would doubtless have made the race much closer, with neither Limerick (the Shannonsiders also had a 100% home record, with the Market’s Field quickly gaining a reputation as a notoriously bad playing surface) or the Hoops managing a single league win on their travels.

Rovers had the consolation of capturing their tenth F.A.I. Cup, in what was just their twelfth cup final appearance, following a 1-0 win over Jimmy Dunne’s Bohemians. The attendance for the Dalymount fixture was a new record for an F.A.I. Cup final, with some 41,238 (although whether it was advisable or safe to admit such a crowd was extremely debatable) witnessing Podge Gregg’s late winning goal. The Hoops had actually lost two F.A.I. Cup matches on their way to glory, with Limerick and Dundalk winning first round and semi-final legs, but bowing out to Rovers on aggregate.

Bohemians did manage to capture this season’s Intercity Cup some weeks later, following a 3-2 aggregate win over Belfast Celtic. That particular Ulster club would soon add the talents of Cork United’s Seanie McCarthy to their squad, the centre-forward having just completed a season that saw him score an incredible 26 goals in his side’s 14 league outings (United would replace McCarthy with Paddy O’Leary, a Corkman who had been a key part of the Limerick squad for a number of years, having been based in the city as a member of the army). Having had a total of four separate spells in the League of Ireland, 1944-45 was alas to be the final league season for Brideville F.C., the Dublin club’s place being taken by Waterford, themselves returning for a third spell, following a four-year period of League of Ireland non-involvement.

League of Ireland 1944-45

Cork United141103592422
Shamrock Rovers14653202017

League top scorers : Seanie McCarthy Cork United, 26 Noel Dunne Limerick, 15 Seamus Darcy Limerick, 10 Jackie O’Driscoll Cork United, 10

Representative matches : League of Ireland 2-1 Northern Regional League, Northern Regional League 3-5 League of Ireland

1943-44 League of Ireland season

Given that there were now just eight sides in the League of Ireland, the Dublin City Cup reverted to a round robin format at the start of the 1943-44 season. The race for that competition boiled down to a match between Cork United and Drumcondra (who were tied on nine points after six games), with a 4-1 Mardyke victory ensuring that the cup came to Leeside for the very first time. The win appeared to augur well for United’s chances of a fourth successive league title, but having capitalised on a last day slip-up by Shamrock Rovers (who had scored twice as many goals as Shels had) to win their first League of Ireland Shield since 1930, Shelbourne went on to capture their first league championship in 13 years (their fourth in all) in 1944.

Reaching only their second cup final in 20 years, Shels were denied a domestic treble in a thrilling game by local rivals Shamrock Rovers, who eventually triumphed on a scoreline of 3-2. Shels were controversially awarded a penalty late on when a Rovers defender handled a ball that already appeared to have crossed the line, but with the subsequent spot-kick being missed, Rovers held out to record an incredible ninth cup success. The competition was notable this year for the absence of any non-league teams due to the suspension of the F.A.I. Intermediate Cup, resulting in the first round, and subsequent semi-final ties, all being contested over two legs.

A change of club colours from red-and-white to blue-and-white seemed to be advantageous, as having failed to finish above fifth in any of their six previous league seasons, Limerick (both they and Shels had remained unbeaten at home, albeit through just seven league games) claimed the runners-up position in 1944, with the title only being clinched after Shelbourne’s 5-3 victory in their delayed last fixture against Shamrock Rovers. St. James’s Gate finished bottom of the table this year, and with the league refusing to grant their application for re-election, Brideville returned to the league fray after their one-year absence. The club who had won the inaugural League of Ireland would not compete in the league again for another 46 years.

League of Ireland 1943-44

Shamrock Rovers14554382715
Cork United14626362814
St. James’s Gate14111212473

League top scorers : Seanie McCarthy Cork United, 16 Paddy Coad Shamrock Rovers, 15 Paddy O’Leary Limerick, 15

Representative matches : League of Ireland 3-4 Northern Regional League, Northern Regional League 2-2 League of Ireland

1942-43 League of Ireland season

A Paddy Barlow hat-trick in Dundalk’s 4-2 Dublin City Cup final victory over Drumcondra began the distribution of trophies for the 1942-43 season, but Cork United decided to set their stall out relatively early this year, with five wins from five at the Mardyke (they would remain unbeaten at home through all four competitions) helping them to a first League of Ireland Shield, despite strong challenges from Shelbourne, Bohemians and Dundalk. United would go on to become the first club to win three consecutive League of Ireland championships, this time claiming the title with a point to spare over Dundalk, a last-minute goal for St. James’s Gate against the Louth club preventing the league from going to a play-off. Although beaten by underdogs Drumcondra in the F.A.I. Cup final (this year, the six F.A.I. Cup first round matches were contested over two legs, with two teams then receiving a bye into the semi-finals), the fact that it was Cork United’s third consecutive appearance in the decider only served to cement their position as the dominant League of Ireland force in the early 1940s. Meanwhile, Drumcondra (who had been investing heavily in their Tolka Park home in recent years) combined their F.A.I. Cup success with a top three finish in the league, their best league showing in their 15 seasons so far.

Action from the 1943 cup final between Drumcondra and Cork United

The Intercity Cup final was an all-southern affair for the second season in a row, Shamrock Rovers taking the trophy on corners after drawing 2-2 with Bohemians over two legs. Having finished well adrift at the bottom of the table for the previous three campaigns (winning just four games during those three league seasons), Bray Unknowns failed to attain re-election, and 1942-43 would prove to be their last-ever League of Ireland involvement. With Brideville also absent for the start of the new season, the 1943-44 title race would be contested by just eight sides.

1943 would unfortunately see the premature deaths of two of the most prominent league players of the last decade or so. In March, Bohemians utility player (he played in every position except goalkeeper for the club) and seven-time Irish international Fred Horlacher passed away after a short illness, and in September, former Cork, Waterford, Hibernian and Ireland winger Tim O’Keeffe lost his battle with cancer. Both players were just 33 years old at the time of their deaths.

League of Ireland 1942-43

Cork United181233421427
Shamrock Rovers18846362820
St. James’s Gate18747313018
Bray Unknowns18111614723

League top scorers : Seanie McCarthy Cork United, 16 Davy Walsh Limerick, 13 Paddy Coad Shamrock Rovers, 12 Don McDonald Dundalk, 12 Tommy McNamara Drumcondra, 12

Representative matches : League of Ireland 0-1 Northern Regional League, Northern Regional League 2-2 League of Ireland

1941-42 League of Ireland season

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


Cork United181341542030

Shamrock Rovers181242522328



St. James’s Gate18657413519*





Bray Unknowns18031517613

* 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

1940-41 League of Ireland season

The season began with Drumcondra winning a second consecutive Dublin City Cup after a 3-0 win over Dundalk, and St. James’s Gate cruising (they won nine and drew one of their 10 matches) to their second League of Ireland Shield. The league title was destined for Leeside, however, with Cork United succeeding where previous incarnations Fordsons, Cork F.C. and Cork City had failed. United could count themselves lucky to have got their hands on the trophy this time, though, with Waterford (who had a potent attack that featured Johnny Johnstone, Tim O’Keeffe and a young Waterford native called Paddy Coad) having finished on the same amount of points, and also having done the double over the Corkmen during the course of the league season. League rules dictated that a play-off be held, but due to a dispute regarding payments to the club’s players, Waterford failed to participate in the championship decider. The league title was thus awarded to Cork United.

Action from the first cup final match between Cork United and Waterford

Waterford had earlier lost the F.A.I. Cup to their southern rivals, United winning 3-1 in a replay, following a 2-2 draw first time out. The second match saw Cork captain Owen Madden and Waterford’s Jackie O’Driscoll (who himself was a Corkman) becoming the first players to be sent off in an F.A.I. Cup final. The Kilcohan Park outfit’s disappointing season was compounded by a heavy fine for their non-appearance in the league decider, and also the club being suspended from the League of Ireland before the onset of the 1941-42 campaign. Leinster Senior League side Distillery F.C. (who had taken the scalps of Drumcondra, Brideville and Dundalk in the F.A.I. Cup in recent seasons) made an application to take Waterford’s place, but the league decided against admitting another Dublin-based team.

1941’s league top scorer, Mick O’Flanagan, would make even more significant history seven years later. When being capped for the Irish rugby team against Scotland in February of 1948 (Ireland’s only Grand Slam-winning year prior to 2009), he emulated the achievement of his brother and Bohemians teammate Kevin (also an Irish sprint and long-jump champion, and an accomplished tennis player and golfer) by winning Irish caps in both rugby and soccer.

League of Ireland 1940-41


Cork United201343502330*



Shamrock Rovers20938484321

St. James’s Gate20938444121






Bray Unknowns20331429559

* Cork United awarded league title after Waterford failed to participate in play-off

League top scorers : Mick O’Flanagan Bohemians, 19 Johnny Johnstone Waterford, 17 Tim O’Keeffe Waterford, 17

Representative matches : League of Ireland 3-8 Northern Regional League, Northern Regional League 2-1 League of Ireland

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