It was decided that the Dublin City Cup, like the League of Ireland Shield, should now become a beginning of season competition, and a 2-1 win for Dundalk against Cork in the Dalymount Park final decided this season’s first piece of silverware. Shamrock Rovers (with the returned Irish international and former Arsenal star Jimmy ‘Snowy’ Dunne as player-coach) won the shield with four points to spare over Shelbourne, and went on to collect a fifth League of Ireland championship at the end of the season, one point ahead of Waterford. An unbeaten record at Kilcohan Park, and the goals of Tim O’Keeffe (who would depart for Scottish club Hibernian at the end of the season for a League of Ireland record £400) and Hughie O’Donnell had helped the Suirsiders to land the runners-up position ahead of Dundalk, and an unbeaten record at Harold’s Cross helped Brideville to a fourth-placed finish, their best League of Ireland performance to date. Meanwhile, a large exodus of players from the previous season’s runaway league champions Sligo Rovers meant that the north-westerners could only manage a sixth place finish this time around.
Having been on the losing side with St. James’s Gate in 1934 and 1937, Dundalk striker Alf Rigby now found his former teammates (including the league’s top scorer, Willie ‘Wagger’ Byrne) standing in the way of him and an F.A.I. Cup winner’s medal. A close match was expected, as Dundalk had added a semi-final victory over Shamrock Rovers to a 5-1 league win over the Hoops at Milltown (Rovers won the league in spite of having a very generous defence), and the Gate had done real damage to Dundalk’s championship hopes by inflicting two league defeats on them. A goal from Dickie Comerford gave the Gate a half-time lead, only for Rigby to equalise for the Lilywhites just two minutes into the second period. A penalty from the Gate’s Irish international defender, Paddy Gaskins, a few minutes later proved to be the winner, however, and the border club had to contend with a third defeat in a Free State / F.A.I. Cup decider. The result also ensured that the Lilywhites had been eliminated by the eventual cup winners in each of the previous six campaigns.
The 1937-38 season was definitely one to forget for Drumcondra F.C. As well as finishing bottom of the league table, they were dumped out of the F.A.I. Cup by their near neighbours Distillery, with the Leinster Senior League club strolling to an easy 4-0 win at Tolka Park. Drums put in a much better performance in losing 5-4 to champions-elect Shamrock Rovers in front of a big crowd at Tolka in March, but this game ended up being the catalyst for another bad news story. After a bag containing some of the gate receipts from the match went missing, the teenage son of a club official soon appeared in court, and with his own father among those giving evidence in the case, eventually found himself charged with larceny.
1937-38 was the first time that the league contained a club from the Free State’s third-largest city, with a newly-formed Limerick side (they beat Shamrock Rovers 1-0 in the Dublin City Cup in their debut senior fixture) having been elected to the league following the resignation of Dolphin. The Dublin club would not feature in the League of Ireland again, but with one league championship, two F.A.I. Cup final appearances (in beating St. James’s Gate 10-0 in 1932, they had established a record away winning margin in an F.A.I. Cup match that would stand for over 80 years), and six senior Irish international players, they had certainly made a significant impact on Irish football. Shamrock Rovers took part in an effort to promote the game in Galway by playing an exhibition match there the day after their league victory, but the possibility of a Galway club joining the League of Ireland still seemed some distance away. The league contained the same 12 teams for the beginning of the 1938-39 season, with the only change being Cork’s transformation (the club had been liquidated and immediately reformed in February 1938) into Cork City F.C.
League of Ireland 1937-38
|St. James’s Gate||22||13||1||8||65||40||27|
League top scorers : Willie Byrne St. James’s Gate, 25 Frank Fullen Bohemians, 22 Tim O’Keeffe Waterford, 21
Representative match : League of Ireland 1-3 Irish League