1953-54 League of Ireland season

The race for the 1954 championship came down to the very last day of the season, with a near-perfect (nine wins, two draws) record at Turner’s Cross propelling Evergreen United to within touching distance of their first league title. Having defeated Drumcondra the previous week to end that club’s title aspirations, the Corkmen now looked forward to a last day showdown with Shamrock Rovers, with the two sides level on 28 points after 21 matches. A solitary Liam Tuohy strike at Glenmalure Park was enough to secure the Hoops’ seventh League of Ireland championship title, their first for 15 years.

In the F.A.I. Cup, St. Patrick’s Athletic reached the decider for the first time, and with the squad having placed a bet on themselves to win the trophy much earlier in the season, each man was set to pocket a considerable sum of money if they could get the better of Drumcondra (whose manager Billy Behan had played in two finals for Shamrock Rovers, and refereed the decider of 1943) in the Dalymount showdown. The omission of Pats’ star striker Shay Gibbons from the line-up (which did include a 19-year old Joe Haverty, who would soon join Arsenal) was even more bizarre given these circumstances, and a Dessie Byrne own-goal was enough to give Drumcondra a 1-0 win, and their fourth F.A.I Cup success. The defeat meant that St. Pat’s would not add to the Dublin City Cup that they had secured earlier in the season, after a 4-3 win over Shelbourne.

1953-54 saw Limerick F.C. capture the first national honour of their 16-year existence, and in extremely dramatic circumstances. Needing a win at Oriel Park in their last League of Ireland Shield (a competition that they had finished in the bottom two of for five of the last seven seasons) match to overtake leaders Shamrock Rovers, the Shannonsiders found themselves two goals in arrears early in the second half. The match was turned on its head between the 65th and 68th minutes, however, with the visitors scoring three times (Irish international Sean Cusack scored the first from the penalty spot) to fashion a famous 3-2 victory, and trigger wild celebrations in the Treaty city.

Drumcondra had actually gone on to secure second position in the shield, and days before their league defeat to Evergreen, they had played host to a slice of League of Ireland history at Tolka Park. Owner Sam Prole, who had taken over the club during the close season after 25 years as secretary of Dundalk (a hugely influential figure, Prole was often described as the “godfather” of Irish football, and later became President of the F.A.I.), fittingly welcomed his former club to the Richmond Road venue for the first ever League of Ireland match to take place under floodlights (he would later oversee the introduction of pitchside advertising at the ground, Drums being the first League of Ireland club to make such a move). Although a 4-0 victory for the home team would probably have pleased Prole, the fact that the result helped condemn the Lilywhites to finish in twelfth and last position (they took just one point from 11 away matches, and also lost their long-standing unbeaten F.A.I. Cup home record this season) for the first time in their history would not have been so agreeable. Prole’s shrewd financial management of the club over the previous years had been instrumental in ensuring that Dundalk not only competed for footballing honours, but that it had even survived. He had been commended for garnering very respectable transfer fees from English clubs for several Dundalk players in the late 1940s and early 1950s, monies which had, in essence, saved the Louth club from bankruptcy.

League of Ireland 1953-54

PWDLFAPts
Shamrock Rovers221183442030
Evergreen United221165442928
Drumcondra221075372527
Cork Athletic221138404625
Limerick22886424324
Shelbourne221039353523
Waterford22868454522
Bohemians228410414620
Sligo Rovers228410333720
Transport227411424918
St. Patrick’s Athletic224711274315
Dundalk224414325412

League top scorers : Danny Jordan Bohemians, 14 Paddy Ambrose Shamrock Rovers, 13 Christy Bergin Waterford, 12 Eddie Doran Evergreen United, 12

Representative matches : League of Ireland 3-1 Welsh League, English League 9-1 League of Ireland, League of Ireland 1-3 Scottish League, Irish League 0-0 League of Ireland, League of Ireland 1-0 Hessen League (Germany)

1952-53 League of Ireland season

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

PWDLFAPts
Shelbourne221264462430
Drumcondra221093493329
Shamrock Rovers221237402727
St. Patrick’s Athletic22886493424
Sligo Rovers22877423723
Dundalk22868454522
Limerick22859394421
Cork Athletic229310414721
Transport22778354221
Evergreen United228410363520
Waterford225512355815
Bohemians224315275811

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

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.

1950-51 League of Ireland season

People may have wondered if the 1950s, like the previous decade, were about to be dominated by a Cork club, with 17 home points from a possible 18 helping Cork Athletic to claim a League of Ireland (captain Florrie Burke collecting his sixth championship medal) and F.A.I. Cup double in 1951. Sligo Rovers, having finished bottom of both the shield and Dublin City Cup, mounted a surprising championship challenge, and only for missing a penalty in a goalless draw with Transport in their last league game, would probably have forced a play-off for the title. Cork Athletic, meanwhile, needed a replay with Shelbourne (whose Tommy Carberry joined Cork’s Paddy O’Leary in scoring in every round of the competition) to make up for the cup final disappointment of the previous year, a Johnny Vaughan goal being the difference between the sides. Four days later they beat Waterford 3-1 at the Mardyke to move a point clear at the top of the table, and dash Sligo’s hopes of a second League of Ireland championship.

Holders Drumcondra took the honours in the last ever “round robin” version of the Dublin City Cup, and (eventually) followed it up with victory in the League of Ireland Shield to become the first club to capture both trophies during the course of the same season. When the final round of shield matches was completed in early December, a three-way tie at the top seemed to have created the need for a round of play-offs, but in a very tightly-packed season, a semi-final and final format was instead opted for, with Transport awarded a ‘bye’ and Drumcondra set to play against Shamrock Rovers in a semi-final match-up. The final was initially scheduled for St. Patrick’s Day, but a hastily arranged league representative match against a team from Germany’s ‘Hessen League’ (the usual March 17th meeting with the Irish League had been cancelled due to a new dispute between the F.A.I. and the I.F.A.) ended up taking place on that date, and a build-up of fixtures in subsequent weeks meant that it would be a Wednesday evening in the middle of April before Drums and Rovers finally played out a 1-1 draw. It had been a fractious match, however, and when the same referee was appointed to take charge of the replay, the Hoops withdrew from the competition in protest. With both clubs’ league programmes by now having been wrapped up (the Tolka Park club finished third to ensure their sixth top three finish in a row), two Dessie Glynn goals helped Drums beat the Busmen 3-1 in the final.

At the end of the season all 10 League of Ireland sides would travel to England to take part in an epic series of friendly matches that was taking place as part of the 1951 ‘Festival of Britain’ event (seen as a promotion / celebration of the culture of the U.K.). Clubs from all over Europe were invited to play matches against English teams, and the League of Ireland contingent played 33 games in total, against the likes of Oldham Athletic, Tranmere Rovers and Darlington. Four wins and four draws were recorded by the Irish sides, with Shelbourne and Shamrock Rovers posting many of the better results.

The 1951-52 close season saw the addition of two new League of Ireland clubs, bringing membership of the league back to 12 for the first time since 1940. A second Cork club, Evergreen United (based at Turner’s Cross), were joined by a fifth Dublin side (a sixth if you include Transport), St. Patrick’s Athletic, a club who had enjoyed extraordinary success in Junior, Intermediate and Leinster Senior League football during the previous 20 years. They won two F.A.I. Intermediate Cups in the late 1940s, and despite beating Transport in the 1948 Leinster Senior Cup final, had been pipped by the Busmen to League of Ireland membership the same year. “Pats” had played their home games at Richmond Park, Inchicore since 1930, but would be required to play at Milltown, Chapelizod Greyhound Stadium and Dalymount Park during the 1950s due to Richmond’s failure to meet the League of Ireland’s ground criteria.

League of Ireland 1950-51

PWDLFAPts
Cork Athletic181224462226
Sligo Rovers181134292525
Drumcondra18873372623
Shelbourne18846372720
Bohemians18765303220
Shamrock Rovers18738333017
Transport18549253614
Dundalk184410354412
Waterford185211284712
Limerick184311274811

League top scorers : Dessie Glynn Drumcondra, 20 Johnny Vaughan Cork Athletic, 14 Martin Colfer Shelbourne, 10 Paddy Gallagher Dundalk, 10 George Gray Sligo Rovers, 10

Representative matches : Scottish League 7-0 League of Ireland, League of Ireland 0-7 Hessen League, League of Ireland 0-1 English League

1949-50 League of Ireland season

Having finished in ninth the previous season, Cork Athletic surprised everyone by being in the shake-up for a league and cup double as the 1949-50 season (one that had been severely impacted by bad weather / bad pitches) drew to a close. Drumcondra (who had earlier won their last five Dublin City Cup matches to take the trophy ahead of Sligo Rovers) were themselves aiming for a championship three-in-a-row, and a 2-1 win for Drums at the Mardyke put them a point clear of Cork at the top of the table, with all 18 of their league games played. Thanks to Athletic becoming embroiled in a cumbersome F.A.I. Cup campaign (they needed six games to reach the final, including a three-match semi-final with non-league St. Patrick’s Athletic), the Leesiders’ last remaining league fixture against bottom club Bohemians was due to take place after their Blue Riband decider, against the league’s newest side, Transport.

Action from the first cup final match between Transport and Cork Athletic

The Corkmen squandered a two-goal lead to allow the Busmen to force a replay, and led twice in the second match before a spectacular, 35-yard overhead kick from Jim Loughran in the last minute of extra-time ensured that the sides would need to meet for a third time. A mere two days before the second replay was scheduled, Athletic faced into their delayed league fixture, and a last-minute Paddy O’Leary goal gave them a dramatic 2-1 win over Bohs, to edge out Drumcondra and capture what was essentially their sixth (but officially their first) League of Ireland championship title. Preparations for the second cup final replay, therefore, were far from ideal, and two Bernie Lester goals helped Transport (who had engaged in a full-time training regime over the course of the saga) to a comfortable 3-1 victory. Athletic’s Jackie O’Reilly (acting as player-manager this year) could at least look back on the season with a great deal of pride, having secured a record sixth League of Ireland championship winner’s medal, and also scoring a goal in the second meeting with Transport to become the all-time record goalscorer (seven goals) in F.A.I. Cup finals, having netted for Cork United in 1941, 1942 and 1943.

League of Ireland football had been rocked by the sudden death of Shamrock Rovers manager Jimmy Dunne in November 1949, at the age of 44. Paddy Coad took over as player-manager, and in a fitting tribute to Dunne, the club rallied to press home their advantage in the League of Ireland Shield, three points ahead of Transport and Drumcondra. Shelbourne (who finished third in the league behind Cork and Drumcondra) became tenants at Rovers’ Glenmalure Park ground at the beginning of the season, and proceeded to remain unbeaten in all their “home” league fixtures, but were defeated by the Hoops themselves in the match where Rovers were listed as being the home side. An unbeaten home record (consisting of two wins and seven draws, in a season where almost a third of matches were drawn), meanwhile, was not enough to prevent Limerick from having to seek re-election for the second time in four seasons, while the end of 1949-50 signalled very worrying times for amateur side Bohemians, the club propping up the League of Ireland table for a third year in succession. However, all 10 member clubs would return to contest the 1950-51 league season.

League of Ireland 1949-50

PWDLFAPts
Cork Athletic181053452625
Drumcondra18963322124
Shelbourne18774342921
Waterford18684403220
Dundalk18756353119
Sligo Rovers18756283019
Shamrock Rovers18747393018
Transport18468232914
Limerick18288264212
Bohemians18241216468

League top scorers : Dave McCulloch Waterford, 19 Paddy O’Leary Cork Athletic, 13 Johnny Vaughan Cork Athletic, 12

Representative matches : League of Ireland 0-1 Scottish League, English League 7-0 League of Ireland, League of Ireland 3-1 Irish League, Irish League 2-2 League of Ireland

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

PWDLFAPts
Drumcondra181251342329
Shelbourne18954392323
Dundalk18954332423
Shamrock Rovers18684332520
Transport18585354118
Limerick18657273517
Waterford187110393415
Sligo Rovers18459313713
Cork Athletic186111334113
Bohemians18251128499

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

PWDLFAPts
Drumcondra14743292218
Dundalk14653211417
Shelbourne14734302417
Shamrock Rovers14464262414
Limerick14536222713
Cork United14365293012
Waterford14518182411
Bohemians14428192910

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

PWDLFAPts
Shelbourne14833342419
Drumcondra14824292518
Shamrock Rovers14734342117
Cork United14725402716
Bohemians14536333313
Dundalk14437253711
Waterford1433817309
Limerick1425716319

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

PWDLFAPts
Cork United14932462021
Drumcondra14833373419
Waterford14725292816
Shamrock Rovers14626403114
Dundalk14455363713
Limerick14518252811
Bohemians14428193610
Shelbourne1432926448

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

PWDLFAPts
Cork United141103592422
Limerick14734382517
Shamrock Rovers14653202017
Drumcondra14554323215
Shelbourne14536212113
Dundalk14437223311
Brideville1425720449
Bohemians1424817308

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