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
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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