1963-64 League of Ireland season

The 1963-64 season was all about Shamrock Rovers. Under the management of Sean Thomas (who had been with the club since 1961), and boosted by the return of Liam Tuohy from Newcastle, they made up for the disappointment of the 1956-57 season by achieving an incredible domestic quadruple / grand slam. They brought their league championship haul into double figures, finishing five points clear of both Dundalk and Limerick, and overcame Cork Celtic in a replayed final (Eddie Bailham scored both in a 2-1 mid-week win under the Dalymount lights) to achieve their first league and F.A.I. Cup double since 1932. With half-backs Ronnie Nolan and Johnny Fullam pulling the strings, Rovers had already secured a fifteenth League of Ireland Shield (six home wins helping them finish three points ahead of Dundalk) and an eighth Dublin City Cup (two Liam Tuohy goals helped them get the better of Drumcondra in the final for a sixth time) in the first half of the season, and added the Leinster Senior Cup for good measure.

The Milltown club complemented their domestic achievements by pushing Valencia (winners of the tournament for the last two seasons) all the way in the first round of the Fairs Cup. Goals from Liam Tuohy and Jackie Mooney put Rovers 2-0 up in the second leg in Spain, before the Spaniards, albeit with the help of a disputed goal, brought the match level to progress 3-2 on aggregate. Controversy reigned at Milltown towards the end of the campaign, however, when the Cunningham family once again became embroiled in a team selection scandal. Star winger and Republic of Ireland international Frank O’Neill was left out of the Rovers side for the F.A.I. Cup final replay, prompting Sean Thomas to resign as Rovers manager, and move across the city to Bohemians. Club captain Liam Tuohy stepped into the managerial breach (one of his first tasks would be to replace goalkeeper Pat Dunne, sold to Manchester United for £10,500), but Thomas’s acrimonious departure had unquestionably taken some of the shine off the club’s remarkable achievements this season.

Although the scoring rate was slightly up from the previous season, match reports for this campaign were often dominated by tales of profligate forward lines and wasted goalscoring opportunities. Bohemians’ struggles in front of goal continued, Limerick failed to properly capitalise on the excellent half-back play of Ewan Fenton and Al Finucane, and it was left to Ronnie Whelan to score almost half of St. Patrick’s Athletic’s league goals. Even Shamrock Rovers were not immune from the criticism, despite recording an 8-1 win away to Waterford and a 4-0 win over Shelbourne at Tolka Park. Some League of Ireland supporters would, however, have been happy to see players like Eric Barber, Jimmy Hasty and Donal Leahy (none of whom had reached double figures the previous season) back among the goals.

Shamrock Rovers had also defeated Dundalk 7-0 in the first round of the F.A.I. Cup (the two sides had been level on points at the top of the league at the time of this result), but it was the Lilywhites (under the management of Joey Donnelly) who handed the Hoops their only two domestic defeats of the season. A 2-1 win at Oriel Park represented Rovers’ only league loss, and a Top Four Cup semi-final between the sides was said to be the most keenly contested Independent Cup match ever. Two goals from the Lilywhites’ legendary one-armed centre-forward Jimmy Hasty helped them to a 3-2 win, and Dundalk’s meeting with Limerick in the final (the teams had drawn 2-2 at the Market’s Field on the last day of the league season) took on added significance because of Rovers’ dominance. After Limerick had missed a host of chances in both games, Dundalk prevailed after a replay, with Hasty again on the mark.

One of the league’s top three goalscorers this season (he had been Dundalk’s top marksman for each of the previous three), Hasty’s disability did not seem to affect his play at all, and the Belfastman had been attracting huge crowds to League of Ireland grounds since signing for Dundalk in 1960. Word of him had also spread to Switzerland in advance of Dundalk’s European Cup second leg game against FC Zürich, and with the outcome of the tie seemingly a foregone conclusion after Dundalk’s 3-0 Dalymount Park defeat (the visitors had scored with virtually all of their chances), Hasty made a goal, scored a goal, and hit the crossbar before the Swiss scored again to put the issue beyond doubt. After a couple of more seasons with Dundalk and a short spell with Drogheda, Hasty returned to the north in the late 1960s, but unfortunately, would lose his life in a sectarian attack in Belfast in 1974.

Despite the great showing by Hasty and his teammates in Zürich (and their status as current league champions), it was something of a shock that not a single Dundalk player was selected for the League of Ireland’s match against the English League at Dalymount Park in October of 1963. As it turned out, five Shamrock Rovers players helped the Irish selection to their first and only ever win over their English counterparts, with Eddie Bailham and Ronnie Whelan scoring the goals in a historic 2-1 victory. The visitors’ line-up had included names like Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Roger Hunt, but there had been some Irish optimism due to the recent European performances and also a depleted Republic of Ireland team (one that included Liam Tuohy, Willie Browne and Ronnie Whelan) holding Austria to a goalless draw in Vienna on the same night that Dundalk had been in action in Zürich. The English League had a penalty saved by Drumcondra’s Eamonn Darcy (a standout performer this season) before taking a half-time lead, but Bailham’s 25-yard drive set the home team on their way to success.

With Irish football’s stock having fallen somewhat in recent years, the respectable performances that had been put in against overseas opposition seemed to restore the pride of Irish football supporters, but better was to come, as the national team followed up the away draw with a 3-2 home win over Austria in the second leg of their European Nations Cup tie. The Dalymount crowd was at fever pitch and there were several pitch invasions, but in spite of a possible objection by the Austrians, the result was allowed to stand. Spain were to end Ireland’s interest in the competition at the quarter-final stage, but a 4-2 win for the League of Ireland against the Irish League along with a 2-2 draw in a return game in Belfast meant the representative team (coached by Sean Thomas) had gone through their three matches unbeaten.

A few months after their visit to Valencia, Shamrock Rovers had found themselves back in Spain, after being invited to play a February friendly against a Spanish international ‘B’ team, with the hosts recording a fairly straightforward 7-2 win. The Hoops’ trophy-winning exploits this season were also, slightly peculiarly, bookended by two friendly matches against English second division club Sunderland. It ended up being a notable / historic season for both clubs, with Sunderland winning promotion to the top flight after a six-year absence (Derryman Johnny Crossan was their top scorer), but it was a run to the quarter-finals of the F.A. Cup that saw them make headlines in England and beyond. A three-match tussle with a star-studded Manchester United was eventually lost (had the Black Cats won there would have been three second division clubs in the last four) but the huge demand for entry to the first replay led to an extremely dangerous case of overcrowding at Roker Park. Two Sunderland fans lost their lives and it was only because of good fortune that a more serious disaster was averted. Rovers had won 2-1 on their visit to Roker Park in August, but Sunderland made amends by winning 3-1 at Dalymount Park in early May.

Drogheda‘s first season as a League of Ireland club ended up as a bit of a mixed bag, but they could ultimately be quite satisfied that they managed to avoid having to seek re-election. Their first match of the season was a 4-3 Dublin City Cup defeat by neighbours Dundalk at Oriel Park, but they struggled to attract crowds to their matches early on as they found wins hard to come by. The players had to take a pay cut, but with Dan McCaffrey leading the line the Boynesiders managed to find a little bit of form, and the crowds also started to come through the turnstiles. Although they were heavily beaten in both league matches against Dundalk, a 5-5 draw away to champions Shamrock Rovers was a definite high point of this debut season.

Sligo Rovers had returned after their one-season absence from the league, and although this was the last season for club legend (and all-time top scorer) Johnny Armstrong, another Bit O’ Red great appeared on the scene this year. A local 20-year old centre-half called David Pugh made a big impact and received much praise for his performances, drawing favourable comparisons to the likes of Shelbourne’s Freddie Strahan. By 1966, the well-built defender would be captaining Ireland’s under-23 team, and as well as serving Sligo Rovers with distinction, Pugh would go on to appear for Sligo G.A.A. in a Connacht final against Galway. Several other newcomers to the league this season were destined to make big names for themselves, with Shamrock Rovers handing a debut to 16-year old Damien Richardson, and a 17-year old Turlough O’Connor scoring on his first appearance for Limerick. A young Paddy Mulligan also made his debut for Bohemians before leaving to join Home Farm, but then signed a professional contract with Shamrock Rovers a short time later.

League of Ireland 1963-64


PWDLFAPts

Shamrock Rovers221471682735

Dundalk221264492730

Limerick221264463230

Cork Celtic22985493626

St. Patrick’s Athletic22895412925

Cork Hibernians22976383125

Shelbourne22859464221

Drumcondra229310313821

Sligo Rovers22679305317*

Drogheda225611314416

Waterford22411727649

Bohemians22151619527

* Sligo Rovers deducted two points

European Competition (all home legs at Dalymount Park) : European Cup Preliminary Round, Dundalk 0-3 FC Zürich, FC Zürich 1-2 Dundalk European Cup Winners’ Cup First Round, Shelbourne 0-2 Barcelona, Barcelona 3-1 Shelbourne Inter Cities Fairs Cup First Round, Shamrock Rovers 0-1 Valencia, Valencia 2-2 Shamrock Rovers

League top scorers : Eddie Bailham Shamrock Rovers, 18 Jimmy Hasty Dundalk, 18 Johnny Kingston Cork Hibernians, 18

S.W.A.I. Personality of the Year : Joe Wickham, F.A.I. Secretary

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

1962-63 League of Ireland season

Though not as severely affected as the U.K., the 1962-63 League of Ireland football season was largely defined by the winter “Big Freeze”, which led to a succession of postponements during December and January and threw the championship race almost completely out of step. Dundalk F.C. somehow escaped the worst of it, however, and with a team containing a number of “cast-offs” from other clubs, managed to keep their noses ahead of everyone else for almost the entire campaign. Two late goals away to bottom club Bohemians in their final game secured a dramatic 2-2 draw, and a three-point advantage at the top of the table, but with three other clubs still in a position to catch them. Over the coming days, the title hopes of Drumcondra, Shelbourne (who lost their last three games to slip to seventh), and then Cork Celtic all evaporated, leaving the Lilywhites’ to celebrate their first league title in 30 years (it was the club’s first top four finish in 14 years, and they used a squad of just 14 players). By the time all of the fixture congestion had been cleared, Paddy Coad’s Waterford were left in the runners-up position, ahead of Drumcondra on goal average.

A decision had been taken to reduce the amount of League of Ireland clubs from 12 to 10, and having both finished some distance adrift at the foot of the previous season’s table, Transport and Sligo Rovers had failed to retain their League of Ireland status. Although the north-westerners would soon return, 1961-62 would prove to have been the Busmen’s last League of Ireland action (they would, however, go on to win three F.A.I. Intermediate Cups). The reduction of clubs was partly to accommodate a new P.J. Casey Cup competition, which opened the new season in August. Again open to League of Ireland clubs only, but with a geographical format similar to the modern-day League Cup (two groups of five clubs played each other once, with the top two qualifying for the semi-finals), the trophy was named after the Dundalk administrator and former president of the League of Ireland who had died during the previous season. Fittingly, Dundalk reached the final, but were beaten 3-0 (Billy Dixon scored twice) by Drumcondra, in what would actually prove to be the only ever P.J. Casey Cup decider. The fixture pile-up that happened to occur this year meant that the new competition was sacrificed instead of the league having to possibly introduce a mid-season break.

The shield had kicked off immediately after the P.J. Casey Cup, with eight wins from nine helping Shamrock Rovers finish six points clear of Cork Celtic and Dundalk to capture what would prove to be the first of four consecutive League of Ireland Shields (as with the subsequent league race, most of the teams had found consistent form hard to come by). Something of a new departure for the Dublin City Cup saw it commence in November, with the first round taking place over two legs. The competition was impacted by the cold weather, however, and the second semi-final wasn’t played until the 25th of April, a whole four months after the first. Shelbourne, and Tommy Moroney’s Cork Hibernians (who this season finally began playing their home fixtures at the Flower Lodge stadium, and received big praise for both the facilities and the quality of the playing surface) could look forward to a meeting in the final on the 5th of May.

These clubs had already met in a far more prestigious fixture on April 22nd, however, with the F.A.I. Cup throwing up a repeat of the 1960 decider, and giving Hibs the chance to gain revenge for their 2-0 defeat at the hands of Gerry Doyle’s side. The Leesiders’ team this year included former Shamrock Rovers, Everton and Ireland star Tommy Eglington, and also Tommy Hamilton (hero of the previous season’s final and the reigning S.W.A.I. ‘Personality of the Year’), but in a final played in wind and rain, goals from Shels defenders Paddy Roberts and Paddy Bonham ensured that the 1960 result and scoreline were also destined to be repeated (peculiarly, just as in 1960, Hibs had a goal controversially disallowed). The Reds then rounded the season off with a win over the Corkmen in the Dublin City Cup decider, goals from Ben Hannigan (described in an F.A.I. Cup final match report as the “stormy petrel” of Irish soccer) and Joey Wilson giving them a 2-1 win at Dalymount Park.

At the end of the 1960-61 season, Drumcondra had needed two replays to collect the Top Four Cup at the expense of Cork Celtic, and the first instalment of the 1963 final between the sides finished in a 2-2 draw. Finding themselves 2-0 down at half-time in the rematch, Drums fought back to force extra-time, before a brace of goals from Jimmy ‘Maxie’ McCann helped them to a 4-3 win. It was the Dublin club’s second trophy of the season, but it was their exploits in the new Inter Cities Fairs Cup (although the competition would eventually include sides who finished runners-up in the various European leagues, the League of Ireland was initially represented by the winners of the previous season’s shield) that were maybe more significant. A first victory, and first aggregate victory by a League of Ireland side in European competition were achieved by the Tolka Park outfit, at the expense of an ‘Odense XI’ from Denmark.

A couple of miles away in Dalymount Park, Bohemian F.C. had a somewhat peculiar season. They finished five points adrift at the foot of the table in spite of playing reasonably well, and conceding just 35 goals (two fewer than runners-up Waterford) in their 18 matches. The problem for the Gypsies was up front, where their forward players tended to waste an amount of goalscoring opportunities, week after week. Bohs often sought to remedy the problem by switching their centre-half and leader Willie Browne from defence to attack, and this sometimes paid dividends. Browne was a threat from set-pieces in any case, and he ended up as the club’s top scorer with five goals. The Longford native was voted the Soccer Writers’ ‘Personality of the Year’ for 1962-63 and would go on to win a number of international caps the following season.

The ‘Big Freeze’ affected English clubs and competitions to such an extent that some were forced to go without football for around two months. Manchester United eventually had the idea of travelling to Ireland to play a series of friendlies and exhibition matches, and they were joined by Coventry City for a match at Milltown on the 2nd of February. 20,000 were there to see Bobby Charlton score late to rescue a 2-2 draw for United, and a crowd of 6,000 braved heavy rain to see United beat Bolton Wanderers (who had not played a match since early December) 4-2 at Flower Lodge on February 13th. United rounded off their programme a week later with a 4-0 win over a Bohemians / Shamrock Rovers XI in front of 15,000 at Dalymount Park.

Paddy Crerand made his Manchester United debut and scored in the Flower Lodge match, following his recent move from Glasgow Celtic, and Crerand had been one of the tormentors-in-chief a few months earlier when the Scottish League inflicted a humiliating 11-0 defeat on the League of Ireland at Celtic Park. A match against the Irish League was also lost following a very poor performance, but with this fixture now very much an annual event, and friendly matches between northern and southern clubs also now a regular occurrence (Shelbourne and Portadown, for example, had played each other once a year for the last number of years), relations between the two leagues / associations had seemingly never been better. So much so that one meeting of League of Ireland officials this season raised / discussed the possibility of making a formal approach to their northern counterparts with respect to the creation of an all-Ireland league. In the meantime, however, the League of Ireland was to revert to a 12-team structure, and six applications would be received for the two new positions, including ones from Jacobs, Transport, Tycor Athletic (Waterford) and Home Farm. As it turned out, the 1963-64 season would see Sligo Rovers returning, and for the first time, a team from Drogheda.

League of Ireland 1962-63

PWDLFAPts
Dundalk18963392324
Waterford181035503723
Drumcondra181035332723
Cork Celtic18693332221
Shamrock Rovers18756362519
Cork Hibernians18747222518
Shelbourne18747293518
Limerick185310223013
St. Patrick’s Athletic18459234713
Bohemians18161119358

European Competition : European Cup Preliminary Round (first leg at Dalymount Park), Shelbourne 0-2 Sporting Lisbon, Sporting Lisbon 5-1 Shelbourne European Cup Winners’ Cup First Round (Rovers received a bye to this stage, first leg at Dalymount Park), Shamrock Rovers 0-4 Botev Plovdiv (Bulgaria), Botev Plovdiv 1-0 Shamrock Rovers Inter Cities Fairs Cup First Round, Drumcondra 4-1 Stævnet Odense (Denmark), Stævnet Odense 4-2 Drumcondra. Second Round, Bayern Munich 6-0 Drumcondra, Drumcondra 1-0 Bayern Munich

League top scorers : Mick Lynch Waterford, 12 Jackie Mooney Shamrock Rovers, 11 Jimmy Hasty Dundalk, 9

S.W.A.I. Personality of the Year : Willie Browne, Bohemians

Representative matches : Scottish League 11-0 League of Ireland, League of Ireland 1-3 Irish League

1961-62 League of Ireland season

This season’s league race turned into a tussle between a free-scoring Cork Celtic side (who had four players in double figures) and a Shelbourne team that had shown an uncanny ability to grind out results. With both clubs finishing on 35 points (they drew 1-1 in front of a crowd of 10,000 at Turner’s Cross on the last day of the season), Shels and Cork Celtic contested a Dalymount Park play-off to decide the 1962 championship. A Ben Hannigan strike that came back off a post and went in off Cork defender Frankie McCarthy was enough to ensure a seventh league title for the Dubliners, and it meant that in spite of possessing a far superior goal average (ex-Limerick forward George Lynam had contributed ten goals, and centre-forward Donal Leahy was in the league’s top three scorers for the sixth year in a row), Celtic were condemned to a third runners-up finish in four seasons.

Shels would go on to defeat the Corkmen in the final of the Top Four Cup, and had been overwhelming favourites for the F.A.I. Cup final (which took place a few days before the league play-off) as well, only to be trounced 4-1 by Shamrock Rovers, with Tommy Hamilton and Paddy Ambrose each scoring twice. Shels had won each of the Dublin clubs’ three meetings during the season (and subsequently won a Top Four semi-final 4-1), including a 6-2 victory just nine days before the final, but an illness contracted by a number of their players from a vaccination ahead of a League of Ireland representative trip to Italy had disrupted the club’s preparations. The team that all other League of Ireland clubs loved to hate, therefore, now had some 14 Blue Riband victories to their name, and Tommy Hamilton’s great performance in light of yet another struggle with the Cunningham family (they had seen fit to drop him from the semi-final line-up, only to reconsider their decision after the fans had strenuously objected) saw him being awarded the Irish Soccer Writers’ “Personality of the Year” award.

Shelbourne’s 2-1 win over Rovers at Milltown on the 7th of January was also the first League of Ireland match to play host to a ‘Teilifís Éireann‘ camera crew, with the new television channel having been launched on New Year’s Day, 1962. Goals from Ben Hannigan and Eric Barber saw Shels defeat a Rovers team that featured future Hoops legend Frank O’Neill, who had returned to Ireland following a three-year spell at Arsenal. O’Neill had also guested with Rovers on their summer trip to the U.S.A., where they had become the first (and only ever) League of Ireland club to participate in the recently established ‘International Soccer League’ (they won one and drew two of their seven matches to finish seventh in their group of eight). The Rovers line-up this season also included brothers Eamon and Tommy Farrell, both half-backs, who were the father and uncle of future Hollywood film actor Colin.

Newcomer Hannigan, meanwhile, had arguably been the most consistent and effective forward in a Shelbourne team whose success had mostly been built around a great defence, brilliantly led by Freddie Strahan (Shels had allowed star goalkeeper Finbarr Flood leave to join Scottish club Greenock Morton during the season). Hannigan was one of a number of future League of Ireland stars who debuted during the 1961-62 season, with Johnny Fullam being another notable member of the Shamrock Rovers team this year. Inside-left Al Finucane and goalkeeper Kevin Fitzpatrick both made their debuts for Limerick, and although Finucane performed brilliantly, scoring eight league goals, he would go on to become more famous as a centre-half. Irish amateur international defender Willie Browne joined Bohemians from U.C.D., while Noel O’Mahony made his debut for Cork Hibernians in January, and would be a familiar face in League of Ireland football on Leeside for many years to come.

Cork Hibernians had been the club to lead the League of Ireland Shield table for most of the way, and so were in with a great chance of claiming their first national honour ahead of a last-day meeting with second-placed Drumcondra at Tolka Park. Goals from Jimmy Morrissey and Tommy Kinsella gave Drums a 2-1 win, however, and with it the club’s first shield success in over a decade. Since winning the last two editions of the “round robin” Dublin City Cup in the early 1950s, Drums had appeared in eight of the tournament’s 10 finals since, and they continued this pattern in 1961, with a rematch of the previous year’s decider against Cork Celtic. The issue took a little bit of time to resolve, though, with the clubs’ first meeting on 1st September ending in a 2-2 draw, and a replay in early November also finishing level at three goals apiece (ex-Cork United and Belfast Celtic star Liam O’Neill took over as Celtic coach ahead of this game, and the club lost their first two league matches before turning their form around). Drumcondra decided to fly to Cork for the second replay a few weeks later, but goals from Austin Noonan and Donie O’Leary gave Celtic a 2-0 win and their first Dublin City Cup, in what was the first match of the season to be played at Turner’s Cross (it was also their first “win” in that season’s competition, having reached the final by virtue of two “corners” victories in the earlier rounds). Cork Celtic had been sharing the Mardyke with Cork Hibernians during the early months, but an announcement by University College Cork that the ground wouldn’t be available for League of Ireland football beyond the current season prompted them to refocus their attention on trying to purchase Turner’s Cross from the F.A.I.

Drumcondra had been caught up in some controversy at the very beginning of the season, when they instigated a misuse of the substitute rule during their 3-0 L.F.A. President’s Cup win over St. Patrick’s Athletic at Dalymount Park. An injury to centre-half Sean Smyth saw him being replaced by Tony Nesbitt, but when Nesbitt got injured not long afterwards, the Tolka Park side readied Tommy Kinsella to come on in his stead. Despite the fact that only a goalkeeper substitution was available to Drums, the referee and an L.F.A. official allowed the second “outfield” change to be made. Dalymount Park itself, meanwhile, had yet another memorable moment later in the season, when the Phibsboro venue’s first ever floodlit football match took place. A ‘Bohemians XI’ (with guest players including the likes of Eric Barber and Tommy Hamilton) welcomed Arsenal for a midweek friendly in March, with the Londoners winning a high-scoring encounter by eight goals to three (the match had been played in poor weather conditions; although not as severe as the previous year, bad weather had been a feature of the 1961-62 season as a whole).

The previous season’s standout player, Dan McCaffrey, scored the first Drumcondra goal in their President’s Cup win, but injuries and a loss of form saw him struggle to hold down a place in the team as the season wore on. He eventually moved to Waterford and rediscovered some of his sharpness, but by the time the 1962-63 season rolled around McCaffrey would be on the move again, this time to Cork Hibernians. (Waterford had struggled towards the foot of the table and would have fared even worse if not for the brilliance of goalkeeper Tommy Taylor, whose displays grabbed many headlines this season.) Another of the 1960-61 season’s stars, Jimmy Hasty, also found himself on the sidelines for most of this campaign, but in spite of his injury problems, the Dundalk centre-forward still managed to register eight league goals.

The advent of a new European competition, the European Cup Winners’ Cup, saw St. Patrick’s Athletic acting as Ireland’s inaugural representatives, but unfortunately, with limited success. Meanwhile, a new cross-border tournament, the North-South Cup, had kicked off towards the end of the 1960-61 season, but due to fixture congestion for both the northern and southern-based clubs (St. Pat’s, Shels, Drums and Shamrock Rovers had each met Irish League opposition in a two-legged quarter-final), the unfinished tournament had spilled over into this year’s campaign. No League of Ireland club reached the first final (which took place between Linfield and Glentoran in early 1962), and a new edition of the competition commenced before the end of the current season, with Dundalk joining the other four southern clubs in a slightly revised 10-team version of the tournament. The competition again took place in fits and starts, however, and by the time Shelbourne lost the second decider to Glenavon in May of 1963, clubs’ appetite for the North-South Cup had been more or less exhausted.

League of Ireland 1961-62


PWDLFAPts

Shelbourne221552552335*

Cork Celtic221633712435

Shamrock Rovers221435513231

St. Patrick’s Athletic221138484625

Cork Hibernians22886373625**

Limerick221057413424**

Drumcondra22868454022

Dundalk22859423621

Bohemians226511404617

Waterford227312394917

Transport22231729767

Sligo Rovers22131831875

* Shelbourne beat Cork Celtic 1-0 in play-off for title

** Cork Hibernians awarded one point from Limerick

European Competition : European Cup Preliminary Round, FC Nuremberg (West Germany) 5-0 Drumcondra, Drumcondra 1-4 FC Nuremberg European Cup Winners’ Cup Preliminary Round (second leg at Tolka Park), Dunfermline Athletic 4-1 St. Patrick’s Athletic, St. Patrick’s Athletic 0-4 Dunfermline Athletic

League top scorers : Eddie Bailham Shamrock Rovers, 21 Donal Leahy Cork Celtic, 18 Eric Barber Shelbourne, 15 Austin Noonan Cork Celtic, 15

S.W.A.I. Personality of the Year : Tommy Hamilton, Shamrock Rovers

Representative matches : League of Ireland 1-1 Scottish League, English League 5-2 League of Ireland, League of Ireland 0-3 Italian League, Irish League 3-1 League of Ireland, Italian League 6-0 League of Ireland

1960-61 League of Ireland season

Though not as open as the previous season, the 1960-61 League of Ireland title race (set against a wintry backdrop of cold, wind and rain) was still fairly competitive, and eventually turned into a three-horse one, with Waterford, St. Patrick’s Athletic and Drumcondra separated by just two points with five rounds of matches remaining. A 2-0 win for Drumcondra at Richmond Park pushed them one point clear of their Dublin rivals, and with both clubs subsequently defeating Waterford, only Pats and Drums could still be champions going into the final day’s action. Drumcondra held their nerve to win 2-1 against Cork Hibernians at the Mardyke (it was their seventh successive league victory), and ensure that Pats’ 1-0 win at outgoing champions Limerick was not enough to alter the situation.

The two Dublin clubs were also scheduled to meet in the F.A.I. Cup final, but having scored eight goals without reply in the sides’ two league encounters, Drumcondra were installed as overwhelming favourites in the build-up to the Blue Riband decider. Thanks to a goal from Johnny White, and another important cup final strike from Willie Peyton, however, the Inchicore club emerged victorious on a scoreline of two goals to one (and in keeping with the pattern of this season, a very strong wind had made an appearance for the final). Drumcondra did secure the Dublin City Cup and Top Four Cup, though, and their extended presence in these competitions afforded centre-forward Dan McCaffrey (a native of Omagh, Co. Tyrone) the opportunity to amass a total of 56 goals for the season, making him an obvious choice for the inaugural Soccer Writers’ Association of Ireland “Personality of the Year” award. 29 of his goals came in the league, with five coming against second from bottom Bohemians, and McCaffrey also scored five against bottom club Sligo Rovers, who he had joined Drumcondra from at the beginning of the season.

Drums had won the league in spite of losing three of their first six matches, and had also seen goalkeeper Maurice Swan (who had proved himself a very good replacement for Alan Kelly over the previous two years) leave for Cardiff City before the beginning of the season. Swan had been replaced by a 20-year old Mick Smyth, and alongside Dan McCaffrey and the veteran ‘Bunny’ Fullam, Smyth was one of the team’s standout performers. Two sons of the club’s owner, Sam Prole, also made contributions to the cause, with Robert Prole playing well as a half-back (he was also a club director) and Royden Prole acting as coach.

Drumcondra became the first League of Ireland champions to add the Top Four trophy, although the final against holders Cork Celtic turned into an epic, three-match tussle, with Drums eventually winning the third game 3-0 under lights at Tolka Park. The third match also saw the first ever use of a substitute in League of Ireland football, when Hendricks replaced Grumley for the Dublin club. Cork Celtic, for their part, had won their last two league matches 3-0 to snatch fourth place from Dundalk, and continue their record of having qualified for every Top Four competition.

Drums had also taken the Dublin City Cup at Cork Celtic’s expense, with goals from Dan McCaffrey and Tony Nesbitt giving them a 2-1 win at Tolka Park. Substitutes had also been allowed in this competition but didn’t end up being availed of, with (like the Top Four Cup) the possibility to replace one player up to the 44th minute, and a goalkeeper at any stage. One other rule change meant that corners could still decide any drawn match in the early rounds of the Dublin City Cup, but not now the final itself (however, no matches had finished level in this season’s competition). Cork Celtic could at least look back on victory in the League of Ireland Shield, having edged out Leeside rivals Cork Hibernians. The trophy was pinched with a 1-0 win at the Mardyke in the second last match of the competition, a solitary goal from Austin Noonan enough to secure one of four derby victories for Cork Celtic over the course of this season.

Ewan Fenton, a Scot who had played in the famous F.A. Cup final of 1953 alongside Stanley Matthews, took over as player-coach of Limerick at the beginning of the 1960-61 season, and with the Shannonsiders having a European Cup tie against Young Boys Berne to look forward to, the decision was taken to play the home game at Thomond Park. A shield match with Shamrock Rovers was used to acclimatise to the venue, but having lost that match by two goals to nil, they went on to concede five without reply against the Swiss outfit, with all five goals coming in the second half. Limerick fared a bit better in the second leg, and were again level at half-time (Donie Wallace had even put them ahead), but eventually lost 4-2 to the team who had won the last four Swiss championships.

Sligo Rovers experienced financial issues during the summer months, and they persisted all the way through the 1960-61 campaign, with the Connacht club eventually having to field a number of local amateur players due to not being able to pay the wages of some of their regular squad. Former Everton and Ireland star Peter Farrell had joined the club as player-coach, but they finished adrift at the bottom of the table, picking up just one win and conceding a whopping 97 goals (only Bray Unknowns in the 1935-36 season had conceded more). Second-from-bottom Bohemians (who played in white jerseys this season) had improved slightly on their 1959-60 form, which had seen them finish without a win in league, shield or F.A.I. Cup.

Though Dundalk had faded out of contention for honours during the second half of the season, the addition of a one-armed centre-forward named Jimmy Hasty to their squad had been a great success. The Belfast native joined the Lilywhites from Newry Town in November, and he set about his business straight away, scoring ten goals in his first seven games and eventually finishing with 17 goals from 20 league appearances. Hasty quickly became the focal point for Dundalk’s play, with his passing and heading ability, along with great strength, balance and footwork meaning that he was more than capable of spearheading their attack. Although Transport F.C. had been well-served by a one-armed winger, Paddy Cody, during the 1950s, Cody had not been as prolific or as dynamic as Hasty, and the Dundalk forward quickly became a major attraction at League of Ireland grounds. After scoring on his league debut in a 2-2 draw against Cork Celtic at Oriel Park, he later scored both in a 2-1 win at Turner’s Cross, a feat that saw him receive applause from the home fans.

League of Ireland 1960-61

PWDLFAPts
Drumcondra221615592133
St. Patrick’s Athletic221444432832
Waterford221255453329
Cork Celtic221147523126
Dundalk221228433726
Shamrock Rovers22976402925
Limerick221048352724
Shelbourne227510434119
Cork Hibernians22589304218
Transport226214273914
Bohemians224414255212
Sligo Rovers22141735976

European Competition : European Cup Preliminary Round, (first leg at Thomond Park) Limerick 0-5 Young Boys Berne (Switzerland), Young Boys Berne 4-2 Limerick

League top scorers : Dan McCaffrey Drumcondra, 29 Donal Leahy Cork Celtic, 21 Jimmy Hasty Dundalk, 17

S.W.A.I. Personality of the Year : Dan McCaffrey, Drumcondra

Representative matches : League of Ireland 0-4 English League, Scottish League 5-1 League of Ireland, League of Ireland 2-3 Irish League, Irish League 1-1 League of Ireland

1959-60 League of Ireland season

After just a few weeks of this season’s league programme, it looked as if it had the potential to be one of the most open championship races ever, with any one of nine different teams looking as if they could be potential champions. When Limerick ascended to the top of the table for the first time at the halfway point (earning an £11 bonus for many of their players, the equivalent of about three weeks’ wages), they had been the eighth different club to hold leadership or joint-leadership of the table, and though no-one could have known it at the time, a 1-0 win for the Shannonsiders at Dundalk the previous weekend (Gerry O’Brien was the goalscorer) ended up being a very significant result come the end of the season. Limerick won their first League of Ireland championship after taking 22 points from a possible 22 at the Market’s Field, beating the bottom three sides away from home, and losing all but one of their away games against the rest of the “top nine”.

Although Austin Noonan and Donal Leahy (often swapping positions at centre-forward and inside-forward) hit 47 league goals between them to elevate Cork Celtic (who had changed their name from Evergreen United, and adopted a new colour scheme of black and gold) into the runners-up position for the second year in a row, it was Shelbourne who had looked like Limerick’s most dangerous title rivals this season. With a side containing 10 players who were 23 or under (some had been part of Shels’ F.A.I. Youth Cup win the previous year), and five current or future Irish internationals, it was a very memorable season for Shelbourne overall, with Gerry Doyle’s young guns (Doyle advocated a policy of “if they’re good enough, they’re old enough”) defeating Cork Hibernians 2-0 in the F.A.I. Cup final to record what was only their second Blue Riband success. Eric Barber scored a goal in every round, and Tony Dunne, later to become a European Cup winner, an Irish international captain, and one of the world’s finest full-backs, left Tolka Park for Manchester United the day after the game. One other notable member of the Shels team was goalkeeper Finbarr Flood, who had broken three fingers in the semi-final but still ended up playing in the final with a heavily strapped hand. Flood later became managing director of Guinness and chairman of the Labour Court, before rejoining the Reds as club chairman in the early 2000s.

This season was the first to feature St. Patrick’s Athletic playing League of Ireland football (albeit just a handful of games) at their spiritual home of Richmond Park, and the Inchicore club marked the occasion by winning their first League of Ireland Shield. They won their first eight matches to build a virtually unassailable lead, and their record was only finally blemished by a defeat at Shelbourne (Eric Barber scored four in a 5-1 win) and a home draw against runners-up Limerick. St. Pats’ Johnny McGeehan topped the shield’s goalscoring chart alongside Barber, but one other player managed to equal their tally of nine goals in this year’s competition. Drumcondra hammered Sligo Rovers 9-0 at the Showgrounds in round three, and seven of those goals came from Billy Mackay, a recent signing from Leinster Senior League side Bray Wanderers. Scottish-born Mackay was the latest in a line of players that had gone from Bray to Drumcondra during recent seasons, but in spite of his promising shield form (he had also scored in a 2-0 win over Shamrock Rovers, Drums’ first Tolka Park win over the Hoops since 1952), he only scored two goals for Drums in the league before departing the League of Ireland scene.

Paddy Coad had taken over as player-manager of Shamrock Rovers midway through the 1949-50 season, and with the team that he assembled almost coming to define League of Ireland football during the 1950s, there was a sense of perfect symmetry when Coad decided to step away from the Glenmalure Park club midway through the 1959-60 campaign. It was a very mixed, and a very transitional season for the Hoops, as they won “only” the L.F.A. President’s Cup and Dublin City Cup, the latter trophy again being secured after defeating Drumcondra on corners, in the first final to be played away from Dalymount Park (the Tolka Park game was Drums’ fourth loss in the final in as many years). Rovers went through the first nine rounds of the League of Ireland Shield without winning a game (they did win their last two but there was now a view that other teams had figured out how to counteract their playing style), had a slow start to the league that saw them fall too far back to be able to mount a realistic challenge (they were the only one of this season’s “top nine” who never held or shared the lead), and suffered a chastening 3-0 F.A.I. Cup defeat at the hands of eventual winners Shelbourne.

Coad’s final Shamrock Rovers season did have one suitable high point, however, with the Hoops’ narrow 4-3 aggregate defeat by French champions OGC Nice in the European Cup being an extremely encouraging result for all League of Ireland sides. The manner of their performance was also very encouraging, with Rovers said to have played a “continental” style of football in the first leg, where goals from Tommy Hamilton and Liam Tuohy (who would join Newcastle United for £9,000 at the end of the season) had caused significant consternation for the home team and their supporters. Liam Hennessy had to sit out part of the away game after suffering a bout of sunstroke (the temperature reached 98° F), but he recovered to put in an excellent performance, and then scored a spectacular 40-yard goal against French international goalkeeper Georges Lamia in the second leg at Dalymount Park. Nice would go on to defeat Real Madrid 3-2 in the first leg of their quarter-final tie, before being eliminated by the eventual European Champions in the return leg in Spain.

39-year old Coad headed for his hometown, and took over as player-manager of a Waterford team that included several other great names from the club’s history, including his much younger brother Seamus (in his breakthrough season), the Fitzgerald brothers Jack and Denny, and also Alfie Hale. Hale’s star continued to rise following his return from the injury that had kept him out of the previous season’s cup final, as he hit a hat-trick in his inter-league debut against the Hessen League (the 5-2 win was the League of Ireland’s first against the German side), and scored twice in a 6-3 Olympic qualifier win against the Netherlands. It was the F.A.I.’s first Olympic football qualifying campaign, and with only amateur players allowed, the teams that took to the field for the four matches against Great Britain and the Dutch were almost entirely composed of League of Ireland players (Willie Browne of U.C.D. was the notable exception). Two somewhat unlucky defeats against Great Britain ultimately proved costly, but Hale’s performance against the Dutch helped him secure a move to Aston Villa a couple of months later, with a fee of £4,500 being agreed for the 20-year old.

The 1959-60 season was also one that had captured the imagination on Leeside. With both clubs in contention for honours, and a dispute having earlier arisen over the transfer of winger Paul O’Donovan from Cork Hibernians to Cork Celtic (Hibs had themselves recruited ex-Glasgow Celtic and Northern Ireland star Charlie Tully), a crowd of 30,000 attended the Mardyke in mid-January to see Celtic win a local derby 2-1, and take over from Hibs (on goal average) at the top of the League of Ireland table. It was initially believed that O’Donovan had not been properly registered by Cork Celtic, leading to them being docked two League of Ireland points and fined a sum of 10 guineas, but a subsequent appeal to the F.A.I. found that the Turner’s Cross club had not acted improperly. The two restored points helped them to finish second (instead of sixth), and they handed Limerick a rare Market’s Field defeat in the semi-finals of the Top Four Cup, before goals from Donal O’Leary and Frank McCarthy gave them a 2-0 win over Shelbourne in the final.

A significant off-the-field development this season was the foundation of the Professional Footballers’ Association of Ireland (P.F.A.I.) in February of 1960. It followed a visit to Dublin by Jimmy Hill, the secretary of the British P.F.A., who had been invited over to offer advice in relation to the grievances of some Irish players. The organisation had three key objectives, namely the improvement of conditions for players, the advancement of the game, and the improvement of player insurance and benefit schemes. Representing the interests of both professionals and semi-professionals, the P.F.A.I. was registered as an official Irish trade union in September 1960.

League of Ireland 1959-60

PWDLFAPts
Limerick221507462630
Cork Celtic221246664428
Shelbourne221165483328
Shamrock Rovers221237543127
Dundalk221237503227
Cork Hibernians221237573727
St. Patrick’s Athletic221219464425
Waterford221048404324
Drumcondra2210210453522
Sligo Rovers225314446713
Transport22321718668
Bohemians22051715715

European Competition : European Cup Preliminary Round (second leg at Dalymount Park), OGC Nice 3-2 Shamrock Rovers, Shamrock Rovers 1-1 OGC Nice

League top scorers : Austin Noonan Cork Celtic, 27 Tommy Collins Cork Hibernians, 21 Donal Leahy Cork Celtic, 20

Representative matches : League of Ireland 1-4 Scottish League, English League 2-0 League of Ireland, League of Ireland 5-2 Hessen League, League of Ireland 2-1 Irish League