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

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

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.

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

1941-42 League of Ireland season

Trophy wins for Shelbourne (with two Paddy Bradshaw goals helping them to a 3-1 win over Shamrock Rovers in the Dublin City Cup final) and Shamrock Rovers (shield) in the opening months of the season hinted at the league title’s possible return to Dublin this year, but Cork United did enough to retain the league championship in 1942, finishing two points ahead of Shamrock Rovers. A late December meeting between the two title rivals at Milltown came to be regarded as a League of Ireland classic, with a crowd of 25,000 being treated to an epic 4-4 draw. With a side that included I.F.A. international captain Davy Cochrane (the club’s top scorer this year; F.A.I. and future Manchester United skipper Jackie Carey also featured for Rovers in one match), the Hoops handed Cork their only league defeat of the season, 3-2 at the Mardyke, and themselves remained unbeaten at Milltown through all four national competitions.

Dundalk (who had adopted their now famous white and black kit the previous season, after a temporary flirtation with maroon and light blue) prevented Cork from claiming a second consecutive double, by winning the F.A.I. Cup decider 3-1. In doing so they got their own hands on the trophy for the first time, after three previous final defeats, and nine previous progressions to the semi-final stages. Club legend and 10-time Irish international Joey Donnelly (considered the best player that the club has ever produced), a survivor of all three of those beaten Dundalk sides, had the honour of lifting the elusive trophy for the Oriel Park outfit.

Dundalk were also the inaugural winners of the new Dublin and Belfast Intercity Cup, a cross-border competition (contested at the very end of the season) introduced to increase the amount of football for both northern and southern teams during the war years, and having the added bonus of generating much needed revenue for the competing clubs. Six teams from each league (there were now just six teams competing in the unofficial “Northern Regional League”) took part, with the victors and two strongest losers from a two-legged first round moving on to two-legged quarter and semi-final stages. The first final, where an Artie Kelly goal (Kelly had scored twice in the F.A.I. Cup final just a few weeks earlier) gave Dundalk a 1-0 win over Shamrock Rovers, took place over 90 minutes, but the next five Intercity Cup finals were two-legged affairs. All six southern clubs played their “home” games at Dalymount Park, and attendances were considerable.

Despite the relatively successful year at Glenmalure Park, controversy would reign at Shamrock Rovers towards the end of the season, with Jimmy Dunne’s omission from the team line-up for an F.A.I. Cup semi-final match with Dundalk prompting a protest march by Hoops fans to the home of the Rovers’ owners, the Cunningham family. Joe Cunningham (with occasional input from his wife Mary-Jane) had enjoyed control of Rovers team selection for years, and the incident would be one of several selection scandals that the family would become embroiled in over the coming decades. With matters not resolved to his satisfaction, Dunne would leave to take the post of player-coach of Bohemians in time for the beginning of the new league campaign.

Despite the war impacting heavily upon Ireland’s economy, attendances at League of Ireland matches showed no sign of waning, and all 10 clubs made themselves available for the beginning of the 1942-43 season. The league’s fortunes were aided by an influx of players from the other “home” leagues in the early 1940s, due to the suspension / downgrading of their own domestic competitions because of the war (it was also an opportunity to avoid national service). As well as players like Cochrane, Carey, and Derry City star Jimmy Kelly, many Englishmen, Scotsmen and Welshmen were happy to ply their trade (or at least have brief stints) in the League of Ireland during this time. Although a number of the league’s better players were also lured north of the border by favourable contract offers, there would be a noticeable increase in the amount of full-time footballers in the League of Ireland as the 1940s progressed.

League of Ireland 1941-42


PWDLFAPts

Cork United181341542030

Shamrock Rovers181242522328

Shelbourne18855382921

Dundalk18837453619

St. James’s Gate18657413519*

Brideville18576294417

Limerick18738323315*

Bohemians18468293614

Drumcondra18468294914

Bray Unknowns18031517613

* St. James’s Gate awarded two points from Limerick

League top scorers : Tommy Byrne Limerick, 20 (includes 3 goals from a 3-1 win over St. James’s Gate, where the points were awarded to the Dublin club after Limerick fielded an ineligible player; the four goals scored in the match were removed from the league table) Artie Kelly Dundalk, 15 Owen Madden Cork United, 14

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

1932-33 Free State League season

While Shamrock Rovers had taken a clean sweep of league, cup and shield during the 1931-32 season, Dundalk had won all three of the sides’ meetings, and buoyed by their first league victories over Bohemians and Shelbourne this season, became the first regional club to win the Free State championship, a full five points clear of Shamrock Rovers. The Milltown club (who returned the favour this year by handing the Louth side their only two league defeats) could more than take comfort, however, from a second consecutive Free State Shield (with the competition held over two rounds for the first time since 1922, Rovers finished two points ahead of the new league champions), and an incredible fifth Free State Cup in succession.

With Bohemians being dispatched in the cup semi-finals for the third year in a row, Shamrock Rovers defeated Dolphin in the final for the second successive season, the Crumlin side seeing a three-goal lead (Irish international George Lennox had scored two penalties for Dolphin) slip to allow Rovers force a replay, which they won on an emphatic 3-0 scoreline. Two goals from Jimmy Daly and one from David Byrne (who this season became the first player to register 100 Free State league goals, before being transferred to Manchester United) did the trick in the second game, and William ‘Sacky’ Glen, John Joe Flood and John ‘Tipp’ Burke each collected their fifth Free State Cup winner’s medals. It was not until a 2-1 defeat to St. James’s Gate in a first round replay in the following year’s competition that the Hoops’ remarkable 28-game unbeaten Free State Cup run would finally come to an end.

Off the field, the government’s 1932 budget had included the creation of a new “entertainment tax” for all outdoor events, with Free State League clubs now having to part with roughly a fifth of all gate receipts. Clubs were already required to pay a 5% share of gate receipts to the league management committee, so the new tax, along with the after-effects of the Wall Street Crash and Great Depression (the Free State’s economic war with Britain was also in session), ensured difficult financial times for many clubs during the early 1930s. Many of them increased admission prices to offset the loss, and the Football Association of the Irish Free State took the opportunity to criticise the new tax in a June 1932 statement that also happened to announce a ban on southern clubs from playing any matches against clubs from north of the border. Disagreements between the F.A.I.F.S. and the I.F.A. over the selection of players for international games had yet to be properly resolved, and the ban (which would last until 1937) was intended to remain in place until the Dublin-based body received “its just share in the use of the name Ireland in international matches”. The F.A.I.F.S. were forced to flex their muscles again a few months later, when betting and bookmaking were reported to have been openly taking place at the Cork Bohemians vs (Dublin) Bohemians match at Ballintemple Greyhound Stadium. A ban on betting was announced by the governing body, but the Cork club escaped further censure and the 3-1 opening day win ultimately helped them to finish one point (and two places) ahead of their Dublin namesakes in the Free State League table.

Free State League 1932-33

PWDLFAPts
Dundalk181332442129
Shamrock Rovers181125483224
Shelbourne181035452623
Cork181017353521
Bray Unknowns18675292919
St. James’s Gate18819394117
Cork Bohemians18468303814
Dolphin18549283914
Bohemians18459244013
Drumcondra18141322436

League top scorers : George Ebbs St. James’s Gate, 20 Tommy Doyle Shamrock Rovers, 17 Jimmy Rorrison Cork, 16

Representative match : Free State League 2-0 Welsh League

1930-31 Free State League season

1930 saw Dundalk G.N.R. become Dundalk F.C., Fordsons (the Ford company having chosen to end its association with the club) change their name to Cork F.C., and Bray Unknowns finally begin playing in their home town, moving from Woodbrook in south Co. Dublin to the Carlisle Grounds in Bray. The changes seemed to benefit Dundalk the most, a late surge helping them finish closest to the eventual league winners, Shelbourne, who were grateful that three-quarter-mark leaders Brideville (whose wholly Irish side contained international forward Charlie Reid and a promising young player named Joe O’Reilly) took just three points from their last seven games to eventually wind up in sixth place, five points adrift of the Reds. Shels, by contrast, had shown tremendous composure during the run-in, defeating Brideville in a crucial fixture on the second last day, and winning two matches against fellow title contenders Cork in the latter weeks of the campaign. The Reds’ Scottish centre-forward Alexander ‘Sandy’ Hair not only topped the national goalscoring charts, but by scoring 29 of Shelbourne’s league goals, accounted for more than half of their total tally of 52.

One other club who had entertained serious title aspirations this season were the previous year’s league champions, Bohemians. After beginning the campaign strongly by taking 15 points from their first 20, the naming of four Bohs players in an I.F.A. amateur squad for a match against England would ultimately deal a severe blow to their season. Although the club initially expressed no problem with Fred Horlacher, Jimmy Bermingham, Alex Morton and Johnny McMahon lining out for the Belfast organisation, the F.A.I.F.S. soon came out as being strongly opposed to their inclusion, eventually causing a split within the ranks of Bohemian F.C. The club voted to adhere to the F.A.I.F.S.’ wishes, but with Horlacher, Bermingham and Morton (McMahon was born in Derry and so did not become part of the issue; he would actually end up being the only player to win a full I.F.A. cap while with a Free State League club) electing to retain their original agreement with the I.F.A., the three players received a three-month suspension from the F.A.I.F.S. on their return. Bohs’ form consequently became quite patchy between November and February, meaning that by the time the trio returned for the final weeks of the season, the league was already more or less beyond the Gypsies, the club eventually finishing four points behind Shelbourne in third position.

In addition to their strong league showing, Dundalk also progressed to their first Free State Cup final in 1931, and found themselves with the chance to prevent Shamrock Rovers from performing a Blue Riband “three-in-a-row”. The Louth side had earlier recorded two league wins over the Hoops (including a 6-0 rout at the Athletic Grounds), and thanks to a goal from Gerry McCourt, appeared to be on course for a victory in the cup final, until Paddy Moore popped up with a last-minute equaliser for Rovers. Dundalk defeated the Milltown club 4-3 in the shield a couple of weeks later, before the cup final replay finally took place on the 9th of May (due to the league’s new 12-team format, the original game had taken place in mid-April; the league itself was now contested from August to February), with another goal from Moore (like Byrne the previous year, Moore appeared to use his hand on the way to putting the ball in the net) eventually settling the issue in Rovers’ favour.

Shamrock Rovers beat Dundalk to win their third consecutive Free State Cup

A debut season success for Waterford in the Free State Shield at last meant an end to the Dublin monopoly of the competition, and despite having to play their last two games of the season on successive days (both were in Dublin, and one was a crucial shield match against second-placed Bohemians), the Suirsiders beat Bohemians 4-1 at Dalymount Park to clinch the trophy, and also register an unbeaten record throughout their 11 shield games. The other venue Waterford visited that weekend had witnessed a record goal haul earlier on in the season, when Cork’s Jimmy Munro netted all seven in his side’s 7-3 league win at St. James’s Gate’s Iveagh Grounds.

Due to situations such as the maximum wage in the English league, and an “open door” policy that allowed players to move between the jurisdictions without too much difficulty, the signing of cross-channel players by some Free State League clubs was now very much on the increase. Shelbourne, Cork and Waterford, for example, were very much embracing the new possibilities, and the influx of cross-channel players helped to maintain (or even strengthen) public interest in a league that was still largely dominated by Dublin clubs. Attendances were increasing all the time (crowds of 10,000-15,000 were starting to become the norm for the bigger clubs from the capital), and the fortunes of the league’s representative team also seemed to have been improving as a result of all the new talent that was available.

Free State League 1930-31

PWDLFAPts
Shelbourne221354522231
Dundalk221165644328
Bohemians221075453227
Cork221237554527
Dolphin221147544326
Brideville221066494426
Shamrock Rovers22958544923
Bray Unknowns228410414520
Waterford228311435219
St. James’s Gate227411364818
Drumcondra225512334915
Jacobs22121921724

League top scorers : Alexander Hair Shelbourne, 29 Johnny Blair Cork, 21 David Byrne Shamrock Rovers, 21 Owen McNally Bray Unknowns, 21

Representative match : Free State League 3-1 Welsh League