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

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

1957-58 League of Ireland season

Despite losing both league encounters between the sides, Drumcondra garnered a third league championship in 1958, following another season-long battle with Shamrock Rovers. One of the most significant games of the year (and indeed the decade) was the meeting of the sides at Tolka Park in January 1958. Billed as the League of Ireland’s first all-ticket game, by kick-off time it was apparent that many fans had gained unauthorised entry, and with the Tolka stands creaking and swaying, many supporters were forced to decamp to the touchlines. Then, with Rovers leading 2-1 midway through the second half, Hoops’ forward Tommy Hamilton (having been taken down by Drums’ goalkeeper Alan Kelly, who was arguably the league’s best player this season) careered into a number of spectators behind the goal-line. As he struggled to free himself, and chaos suddenly threatening to break out, the match was abandoned. Amazingly, the result stood, but was not enough to prevent Drums from eventually becoming champions with two points to spare.

Two 1-0 defeats to Dundalk had not helped Rovers’ championship aspirations, but the Milltown side had the chance to gain some revenge when the two clubs locked horns in the final of the F.A.I. Cup. With Tommy Hamilton (like last season) having been controversially dropped from the Rovers team at the behest of the Cunningham family, a header from former Hoop Hughie Gannon (who broke his cheekbone in the process) was enough to ensure a fourth Blue Riband success for the Lilywhites. The Louth side kept clean sheets in all five of their cup games, and bizarrely, before the first round of this season’s competition, had not won an F.A.I. Cup match since their victory in the decider of 1952.

While it was only Rovers’ fifth defeat in 18 F.A.I. Cup final appearances, they could take some solace from a fourth successive League of Ireland Shield (three points clear of St. Patrick’s Athletic and Waterford), and an incredible four cup final victories over Drumcondra. In addition to triumphing in the Leinster Senior Cup and L.F.A. President’s Cup deciders (both replays – the drawn games were Drumcondra’s only joy against the Hoops in nine meetings this season), Rovers defeated Drums in the Dublin City Cup final (in front of a crowd of 14,000) for the fourth time in six years, and a 2-1 victory in the Top Four decider meant that the Hoops now led the roll of honour in all five of the main domestic competitions (league, F.A.I. Cup, shield, Dublin City Cup and the Top Four Cup).

It was perhaps fitting, therefore, that Rovers had earlier had the honour of being the first League of Ireland side to participate in the European Cup. Over 45,000 packed Dalymount Park to see them take on the mighty Manchester United, and although humbled 6-0 by a far fitter team in that first leg (it was just 1-0 at half-time, and three goals came in the last 10 minutes), they achieved a more respectable 3-2 defeat at Old Trafford. Tragically, six months later, five of the players who had lined out against Rovers (including Dubliner Liam Whelan, scorer of two goals in the Dalymount game) would perish in the Munich air disaster.

With the League of Ireland’s involvement with the Irish national side being at the mercy of a seemingly extremely volatile and capricious five-man selection committee, the decision to create a Republic of Ireland ‘B’ team was viewed as a very welcome development this season. It was envisaged it would provide another avenue for home-based players to attain some international experience, and indeed three home-leaguers (all Shamrock Rovers players) took to the field for the team’s debut outing against Romania ‘B’ in October of 1957. Although three more matches (with each of them featuring entirely home-based XI’s) would be arranged for the ‘B’ team during the coming seasons, the initiative would surprisingly be shelved indefinitely in 1960.

While the 1950s had seen the League of Ireland’s profile rise to previously unscaled heights, the increase in attendances had seen a corresponding increase in crowd disturbances, with the Tolka Park match of early 1958 being just the latest (though perhaps the most notable) of several such incidents during the decade. Cork Athletic’s double-winning season of 1950-51 had seen a league game against Shelbourne and a cup game against Limerick produce unsavoury scenes, while the 1955-56 season saw a section of Shamrock Rovers fans respond with distaste to their team’s damaging late-season defeat by Waterford at Kilcohan Park. On the very first day of the 1957-58 season, a Dublin City Cup game between Rovers and St. Pat’s almost had to be abandoned due to crowd encroachment, while Cork Hibernians’ first ever home League of Ireland match was also marred by crowd trouble, as a group of supporters surrounded the pavilion after the game against Waterford at the Mardyke and chanted “we want the referee”. In the wake of the Tolka Park match, serious questions were raised regarding safety at League of Ireland games (only six gardaí had been on duty at the ground), leading to a more vigilant attitude to fixtures on the part of league authorities.

League of Ireland 1957-58

PWDLFAPts
Drumcondra221534512333
Shamrock Rovers221516552631
Evergreen United221336533029
St. Patrick’s Athletic221066453226
Shelbourne221138412925
Waterford221039433723
Limerick227510314019
Dundalk227312384617
Bohemians226412365216
Transport226412305016
Sligo Rovers225512326115
Cork Hibernians226214376614

European Competition : European Cup Preliminary Round, (first leg at Dalymount Park) Shamrock Rovers 0-6 Manchester United, Manchester United 3-2 Shamrock Rovers

League top scorers : Donie Leahy Evergreen United, 16 Johnny McGeehan Transport, 15 Austin Noonan Evergreen United, 15

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

1956-57 League of Ireland season

Despite winning the championship in each of their two seasons at the venue, St. Patrick’s Athletic vacated the Chapelizod Stadium during the summer of 1956, meaning that their 4-2 defeat by Shamrock Rovers (regarded as one of the best matches of the era) ended up being the last League of Ireland game to be played at the ground. St. Pat’s would move to Dalymount Park for the new season, but in spite of adding a couple of promising young players to their squad (these players went by the names of Jimmy Dunne and Ronnie Whelan), the 1956-57 season would be something of a transitional one for them. This meant that their growing rivalry with Paddy Coad’s Shamrock Rovers was to be put on ice for now, but a club from the northside of Dublin were ready to step back into the breach.

The 1956-57 season ended up being a year-long struggle for supremacy between two clubs, taking in six different competitions. Shamrock Rovers and Drumcondra (both registering unbeaten home records in all competitions) first met in the final of the Dublin City Cup, with Rovers being awarded the trophy on corners after a 1-1 draw between the sides. Although Rovers were comfortable winners of the subsequent League of Ireland Shield (winning 10 of their 11 matches), Drumcondra were still their closest challengers, finishing four points behind the Glenmalure Park outfit. A 2-0 win for the Hoops in the final of the Leinster Senior Cup condemned Drums to a third set of runners-up medals, and then, despite dropping four of their last six points (their only league loss of the season came against Cork Athletic on the last day), Shamrock Rovers secured an eighth league championship in 1957, five points ahead of their bitter Dublin rivals. Thus, having taken three national trophies at Drumcondra’s expense, only Drums, in the F.A.I. Cup final, now stood between them and an unprecedented “quadruple”.

It was the fourth time in 12 years that the teams had met in the F.A.I. decider, and goals from Bunny Fullam and Willie Coleman were enough to level the amount of victories in these matches at two all, and shatter Rovers’ quadruple dreams in the process. Drums followed up that victory with a 3-0 win over Rovers in the semi-final of the Top Four Cup, but Evergreen United (who this season stumbled upon the lethal strike partnership of Austin Noonan and Donal Leahy, which would yield some 267 league goals over the next 11 seasons) upset the script somewhat by beating the Dubliners 2-1 to claim their first national honour.

Despite missing out on that third successive F.A.I. Cup, Paddy Coad’s charges were of course by now easily the League of Ireland’s main attraction, with crowds of up to 20,000 going to see them at every venue in the country. Backed by the cash-rich Cunninghams (legend has it that they were sometimes known to drop fistfuls of coins from their horse-drawn carriage as they made their way to Rovers matches), the club’s travel arrangements were the envy of other sides, with fancy cars, top hotels, and steak dinners being par for the course. Players like Gerry Mackey, Ronnie Nolan and Paddy Ambrose had also several international caps (eight Rovers players took to the field for an inter-league game with the Irish League in March 1957) to their names, and turning up at away grounds in a club blazer and tie, the Colts were some of Ireland’s first real football celebrities.

With a one-armed winger called Paddy Cody as their top scorer, and future Ireland international Ray Brady also a part of the side, Transport finished in fifth place this season to record what would ultimately prove to be their best ever League of Ireland performance. The Busmen’s league campaign began with high drama at Harold’s Cross, when they conceded four first-half goals to Shelbourne before scoring five of their own in the second half to register an incredible 5-4 win. They went on to record a positive goal difference this season for the first and only time, but along with league runners-up Drumcondra, were left to rue an excessive amount of draws in a season that (like the 1949-50 edition) had been impacted by a lot of bad weather and muddy pitches.

Not too many could have predicted that Cork Athletic’s last day victory over Shamrock Rovers would prove to be their last-ever League of Ireland fixture. Long-standing financial problems (although this was not explicitly stated at the time of the expulsion), not aided by their fondness for full-time footballers, saw their membership being cancelled in July of 1957, their place being taken by a new club from the southern capital, Cork Hibernians. Hibernians, like several previous Cork teams, were initially based at the Mardyke, but intended to move into a new stadium in the Ballintemple area of the city in the coming years. The ground, Flower Lodge, had already had an unofficial opening for an F.A.I. Cup first round tie between A.O.H. (an amateur Cork club whose members had helped in the creation of Cork Hibernians) and Sligo Rovers in February of 1957. The match programme for that day spoke of what was hoped would become “Munster’s Finest Sports Stadium”, with a capacity of up to 60,000 people ultimately being envisaged.

September 1956 saw goals from Shay Gibbons, Liam Tuohy and Dermot Curtis (who would soon leave Shelbourne for Bristol City for a fee of £8,000) help the League of Ireland representative side finally avoid defeat against the English League. With the Irish selection having lost the sides’ 10 previous meetings, a 3-3 draw in front of a crowd of 32,000 at Dalymount Park was therefore extremely welcome. The League of Ireland’s finest ever hour on the international stage, meanwhile, occurred in Dalymount two months later, with seven home-based players helping Ireland to a 3-0 friendly victory over world champions West Germany. The other four members of the team had played in the League of Ireland previously, and Noel Cantwell, Joe Haverty, and Shamrock Rovers’ Jimmy ‘Maxie’ McCann scored the all-important goals.

League of Ireland 1956-57


PWDLFAPts

Shamrock Rovers221561682436

Drumcondra221192492831

Sligo Rovers221174422929

Evergreen United221156483127

Transport228104423626

Shelbourne221066473924*

Waterford22949444122

Cork Athletic22589324618

St. Patrick’s Athletic226511335517

Dundalk224810334016

Bohemians22251520569

Limerick22231721597

* Shelbourne deducted two points

League top scorers : Tommy Hamilton Shamrock Rovers, 15 Donie Leahy Evergreen United, 15 Austin Noonan Evergreen United, 13

Representative matches : League of Ireland 3-3 Football League, Scottish League 3-1 League of Ireland, League of Ireland 2-2 Irish League, Irish League 1-2 League of Ireland

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

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

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

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

PWDLFAPts
Cork United181233421427
Dundalk181143402226
Drumcondra18954473423
Shamrock Rovers18846362820
Shelbourne18756352819
St. James’s Gate18747313018
Limerick18819413817
Bohemians18648283416
Brideville183510253911
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

1927-28 Free State League season

With their Dalymount Park home continuing to act as the benchmark for all other Free State League grounds (it would soon become the home stadium for the Free State national side), 23 points from the first 24 saw Bohemians establish a strong position in the 1927-28 championship race. Despite a strong showing from Shelbourne in the closing stages, the title was destined to go to Dalymount for a second time, with Shamrock Rovers and Fordsons making up the rest of the top four.

Bohemians’ superiority for this season was emphasised by a 2-1 defeat of Drumcondra in the Free State Cup final (Bohs’ Jimmy White scored a goal in every round, and Drums’ semi-final with Fordsons was the first soccer match to be broadcast live on Irish radio), and also victory in the Free State Shield (Dundalk G.N.R.’s Eddie Carroll amassed 16 goals in just nine shield games; his club were fined £100 when the referee was assaulted following a key shield fixture against Bohemians), emulating Shamrock Rovers’ “treble” of 1925. Indeed, by adding the Leinster Senior Cup, the Gypsies actually eclipsed the achievement of their Dublin rivals (it should be noted, however, that the Free State League clubs had not competed in the Leinster cup that season), and also brought the Hoops’ 30-match league unbeaten run to an end with a 3-1 win at Dalymount in November. It was a truly remarkable achievement for the amateur club, with so many of their domestic opponents being drawn from the semi-professional and professional ranks. Despite their unbeaten sequence being ended, Shamrock Rovers could still take a lot of heart from the fact that, throughout two full seasons in league, shield and cup, they had yet to be defeated at their new home of Glenmalure Park.

Having lost out to Dundalk G.N.R. (who this year replaced their existing black and amber club colours with a kit of white shirt and navy shorts) for election to the league in 1926, Drumcondra (who played their home games at Tolka Park, the ground formerly known simply as “Richmond Road”) finally did gain admission in 1928, with bottom club Athlone Town this time making way. The cost of fulfilling their away games (the club had moved into a new home at the Ranelagh Grounds in 1926) was a key factor in the Co. Westmeath club’s resignation, and their last three shield matches had been left unfulfilled (in previous seasons, Athlone had occasionally conceded victory in shield matches rather than incur the cost of travel). Their place at the highest level of Irish football gone, the midlanders (outside of some involvement in the reserve league) would not return to League of Ireland action for another 40 years.

Free State League 1927-28

PWDLFAPts
Bohemians181512532031
Shelbourne181323672428
Shamrock Rovers18972411825
Fordsons18945463422
Dundalk G.N.R.18936443621
Brideville18756373319
St. James’s Gate18549284214
Jacobs18251120469
Bray Unknowns18141329706
Athlone Town18211519615

League top scorers : Charlie Heinemann Fordsons, 24 Sammy McIlvenny Shelbourne, 22 Jock McMillan Shelbourne, 17

Representative matches : Welsh League 5-1 Free State League, Free State League 3-1 Irish League