1962-63 League of Ireland season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

League of Ireland 1962-63

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

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

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

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

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

1961-62 League of Ireland season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

League of Ireland 1961-62


PWDLFAPts

Shelbourne221552552335*

Cork Celtic221633712435

Shamrock Rovers221435513231

St. Patrick’s Athletic221138484625

Cork Hibernians22886373625**

Limerick221057413424**

Drumcondra22868454022

Dundalk22859423621

Bohemians226511404617

Waterford227312394917

Transport22231729767

Sligo Rovers22131831875

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

** Cork Hibernians awarded one point from Limerick

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

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

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

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

1959-60 League of Ireland season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

League of Ireland 1959-60

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

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

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

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

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

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

1943-44 League of Ireland season

Given that there were now just eight sides in the League of Ireland, the Dublin City Cup reverted to a round robin format at the start of the 1943-44 season. The race for that competition boiled down to a match between Cork United and Drumcondra (who were tied on nine points after six games), with a 4-1 Mardyke victory ensuring that the cup came to Leeside for the very first time. The win appeared to augur well for United’s chances of a fourth successive league title, but having capitalised on a last day slip-up by Shamrock Rovers (who had scored twice as many goals as Shels had) to win their first League of Ireland Shield since 1930, Shelbourne went on to capture their first league championship in 13 years (their fourth in all) in 1944.

Reaching only their second cup final in 20 years, Shels were denied a domestic treble in a thrilling game by local rivals Shamrock Rovers, who eventually triumphed on a scoreline of 3-2. Shels were controversially awarded a penalty late on when a Rovers defender handled a ball that already appeared to have crossed the line, but with the subsequent spot-kick being missed, Rovers held out to record an incredible ninth cup success. The competition was notable this year for the absence of any non-league teams due to the suspension of the F.A.I. Intermediate Cup, resulting in the first round, and subsequent semi-final ties, all being contested over two legs.

A change of club colours from red-and-white to blue-and-white seemed to be advantageous, as having failed to finish above fifth in any of their six previous league seasons, Limerick (both they and Shels had remained unbeaten at home, albeit through just seven league games) claimed the runners-up position in 1944, with the title only being clinched after Shelbourne’s 5-3 victory in their delayed last fixture against Shamrock Rovers. St. James’s Gate finished bottom of the table this year, and with the league refusing to grant their application for re-election, Brideville returned to the league fray after their one-year absence. The club who had won the inaugural League of Ireland would not compete in the league again for another 46 years.

League of Ireland 1943-44

PWDLFAPts
Shelbourne14932322221
Limerick14842341920
Shamrock Rovers14554382715
Dundalk14635211915
Cork United14626362814
Drumcondra14626242814
Bohemians14428253210
St. James’s Gate14111212473

League top scorers : Seanie McCarthy Cork United, 16 Paddy Coad Shamrock Rovers, 15 Paddy O’Leary Limerick, 15

Representative matches : League of Ireland 3-4 Northern Regional League, Northern Regional League 2-2 League of Ireland

1938-39 League of Ireland season

In 1939, Shamrock Rovers became the first club to put League of Ireland titles back to back, a full nine points ahead of Sligo Rovers and Dundalk, and in doing so moved ahead of Bohemians in the league roll of honour. Shelbourne defeated Sligo Rovers following a replay to record what was, amazingly, their first F.A.I. Cup success, with William ‘Sacky’ Glen scoring the only goal of the game from a 2nd minute free kick to ensure that he would collect a record eighth Free State / F.A.I. Cup winner’s medal. The first half of the season had seen St. James’s Gate defeat Cork City 6-0 to take the Dublin City Cup (Cork had beaten Shamrock Rovers 7-0 in the semi-final), and Bohemians take the League of Ireland Shield after a play-off victory over Bray Unknowns at Shelbourne Park. It was a fifth shield success for the Gypsies (who introduced a permanent club programme / magazine for every league game this year, with other clubs soon to follow suit), and their third to be secured via a play-off. Meanwhile, the fortunes of Cork’s League of Ireland representatives continued to stagnate, with the club finishing second bottom for the third year in a row, and seeking re-election to the league for a fourth time in five years.

Sligo Rovers’ strong showing in both the league and cup could arguably be attributed to the euphoria created by the arrival of the legendary William ‘Dixie’ Dean to the club in January 1939. While the involvement of English players (and indeed coaches / managers) in the league was nothing new, a player of the calibre of Dean (widely believed to be the greatest player of his generation, Dean had scored 60 English First Division goals in the 1927-28 season) had never graced Irish football before. The former Everton and England star scored 10 goals in seven league games for Sligo, including five in a 7-1 defeat of Waterford. He also scored Sligo’s goal in the 1-1 cup final draw with Shelbourne, before returning to England at the end of the season.

St. Patrick’s Day 1939 saw the League of Ireland record a historic 2-1 victory over the Scottish League at Dalymount Park, six days after they had beaten the Irish League by the same scoreline in Belfast. 35,000 people turned out to witness this first ever meeting of the two sides, with Sligo’s Johnny Johnstone (a Derryman) and St. James’s Gate’s Irish international forward Paddy Bradshaw (who had enjoyed a meteoric rise from the Leinster Senior League to scoring twice for Ireland against Switzerland in the space of just five months) netting the all-important goals. Remarkably, it would be another 40 years, taking in an incredible 21 meetings, before the League of Ireland would record a second victory (and that would be against a mainly part-time team) over their Scottish counterparts.

The annual match against the Irish League had been restored since the previous season, but with some difficult financial times being experienced by clubs both north and south, the idea of establishing a cross-border cup competition was now also being strongly considered. To test some of the waters around this, an exhibition match between the northern and southern champions took place at the end of the 1938-39 season. Belfast Celtic had just taken the fourth in what was to be a run of five consecutive Irish League titles, but two goals by Owen McNally helped Shamrock Rovers to a 2-1 win at Dalymount Park. The attendance wasn’t quite as high as expected, however, and with the match itself also being seen as something of a disappointment, it seemed there might be some thinking to be done before any new tournament came into being.

League of Ireland 1938-39

PWDLFAPts
Shamrock Rovers221642603236
Sligo Rovers221075503127
Dundalk221075483127
St. James’s Gate221039594823
Limerick22949363822
Shelbourne22949404822
Bohemians228410414620
Drumcondra226610384518
Bray Unknowns227411414918
Brideville226610374918
Cork City227312394917
Waterford224810365916

League top scorers : Paddy Bradshaw St. James’s Gate, 22 Tom Davis Dundalk, 18 (including 15 for Cork City) Paddy Leeney Bray Unknowns, 18

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

1933-34 Free State League season

With the Free State Shield “double-round” system of the previous year being retained, it was decided to open and close the season with a round of shield fixtures, and to effectively “sandwich” the league championship race in between. With Shamrock Rovers leading the shield at the halfway stage, victory in their last seven league games saw Bohemians (coached by Billy Lacey) claim a fourth Free State championship title one point ahead of Cork (who went unbeaten at the Mardyke and also inflicted Bohemians’ only home league defeat), before wrapping up their fourth shield with the help of an unbeaten away record and a 5-2 play-off win over Rovers at Shelbourne Park (the fixture was actually held over until August 1934). Needing seven matches to reach the final (the last ever to be held on St. Patrick’s Day), Cork did at least enjoy Free State Cup success, scoring a 2-1 win over Charlie Dowdall’s St. James’s Gate, who were making their first appearance in the decider since their league and cup double of 1922. Cork’s top scorer Tim O’Keeffe netted a goal in every round of the competition, and teammate Bobby Buckle emulated the achievement of his father Harry Buckle eight years previously by collecting a Free State Cup winner’s medal.

Apart from the trophies that were added to their cabinet, Bohemians’ 1933-34 season became memorable because of the somewhat international / cosmopolitan flavour that it ended up taking on. On the 1st of October a Peruvian / Chilean team were at Dalymount Park to play against Bohs in the opening match of a five-month long European tour. The team consisted mostly of Peruvian talent from the Universitario club, and Billy Jordan scored for the home team as they held the “Combinado del Pacifico” to a respectable 1-1 draw. Six months later (with their shield campaign not yet complete), Bohs travelled to Amsterdam to take part in an Easter tournament alongside three of the best teams from the low countries (including A.F.C. Ajax). Although beaten 6-2 by Go Ahead F.C. in a semi-final, the Free State League champions defeated Belgian side Cercle Bruges 4-1 in their next game to secure a third-place finish.

Bohemians draw 1-1 with a Peruvian / Chilean XI in October 1933

A dispute between the league authorities and Shelbourne F.C. led to some of the most significant events of this football season. Shels objected to the scheduling of an Irish international match for the same day as one of their league matches, but when both fixtures went ahead as planned, the club resigned their place in the league during the shield competition (a subsequent application for membership of the I.F.A. was refused). Cork Bohemians, meanwhile, having experienced great financial hardship during the year, would also be also absent for the beginning of the next league season (they were actually suspended and re-instated, before resigning in the middle of the shield), the two new vacancies being filled by Sligo Rovers and a returning Waterford.

Free State League 1933-34

PWDLFAPts
Bohemians181152382327
Cork181143472626
Shamrock Rovers18945282322
Dundalk18936332521
Dolphin18738232117
Shelbourne18657222517
Drumcondra18648272816
St. James’s Gate185310263213
Bray Unknowns186111264413
Cork Bohemians18241218418

League top scorers : Alf Rigby St. James’s Gate, 13 Ray Rogers Bohemians, 12 Billy Merry Drumcondra, 11 Tim O’Keeffe Cork, 11

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

1928-29 Free State League season

With David ‘Babby’ Byrne having joined during the close season (the former Shamrock Rovers and Bradford City player would receive a wage packet of £4 per week), his 15 league goals were combined with a very miserly defence (which conceded just 12 times) to ensure a second Free State League title for Shelbourne in the 1928-29 season. The Reds would win all nine of their home matches to hold off the challenge of outgoing champions Bohemians (who introduced 19-year old utility player and future club legend Fred Horlacher to their line-up during this season) by a single point, even though the Phibsboro team had also remained unbeaten at home and won each of their last nine league fixtures.

Shamrock Rovers (11-0 winners over Bray Unknowns this season, a record winning margin for a League of Ireland fixture) were the only other side to win more games than they lost this year, with new boys Drumcondra finishing the best of the chasing pack, a full 15 points behind the league champions. Rovers ensured that Bohemians missed out on both of the season’s top prizes, winning a cup final replay (again at Shelbourne Park) 3-0 thanks to two goals from John Joe Flood (who would score a hat-trick for Ireland against Belgium two weeks later) and another from Bob Fullam, following a scoreless draw first time out in Dalymount (it was only the second all-Free State League decider). The latter clubs also vied for this season’s Free State Shield, and with a virtually identical record in the competition (both teams had gone unbeaten, and Bohs’ extra goal scored was the only difference between the sides in the table), a 2-0 play-off victory for Bohemians at Shelbourne Park finally settled the issue.

Rovers defeated Dundalk in a replay to win the final of this season’s Leinster Senior Cup, but it was a game in an earlier round of the competition that had ended up becoming headline news. Recently-crowned champions Shelbourne made a trip across the river to play Drumcondra at Tolka Park, but found themselves two goals in arrears early in the second half. In the midst of a stirring comeback that saw the visitors eventually winning 4-2, a hoarding behind the Drumcondra goal gave way, and some of the large group of supporters that had been positioned on it suffered injuries. The match was allowed to continue, but a number of people had to be taken to hospital, with one young spectator suffering a broken arm and two broken legs.

After two draws and three defeats in previous meetings, the Free State League representative side gained a first victory over their Welsh counterparts this season, with league top scorer Eddie Carroll among those to find the net in a 4-3 Dalymount Park success. The selection panel had been vindicated for choosing form players over some of the league’s more established names, and the Welsh contingent continued their tradition of traveling to play a match in Cork the following afternoon. Although a few more games took place against the Welsh during the first half of the 1930s, the fixture was to more or less disappear from the calendar after that. For the Free State League’s first decade, however, the annual match against the Welsh League was to be something of a defining feature. In an apparent sign that the league was at last beginning to find a sense of stability, there were no demotions or admissions for the beginning of the 1929-30 season.

Free State League 1928-29

PWDLFAPts
Shelbourne181611491233
Bohemians181521612332
Shamrock Rovers181044582824
Drumcondra18747283118
Dundalk G.N.R.18738434417
St. James’s Gate18549374414
Fordsons185310273613
Brideville184311285711
Jacobs182610264810
Bray Unknowns18241224588

League top scorers : Eddie Carroll Dundalk G.N.R., 17 David ‘Babby’ Byrne Shelbourne, 15 Billy Dennis Bohemians, 15

Representative matches : Free State League 4-3 Welsh League, Irish League 2-1 Free State League