1960-61 League of Ireland season

Though not as open as the previous season, the 1960-61 League of Ireland title race (set against a wintry backdrop of cold, wind and rain) was still fairly competitive, and eventually turned into a three-horse one, with Waterford, St. Patrick’s Athletic and Drumcondra separated by just two points with five rounds of matches remaining. A 2-0 win for Drumcondra at Richmond Park pushed them one point clear of their Dublin rivals, and with both clubs subsequently defeating Waterford, only Pats and Drums could still be champions going into the final day’s action. Drumcondra held their nerve to win 2-1 against Cork Hibernians at the Mardyke (it was their seventh successive league victory), and ensure that Pats’ 1-0 win at outgoing champions Limerick was not enough to alter the situation.

The two Dublin clubs were also scheduled to meet in the F.A.I. Cup final, but having scored eight goals without reply in the sides’ two league encounters, Drumcondra were installed as overwhelming favourites in the build-up to the Blue Riband decider. Thanks to a goal from Johnny White, and another important cup final strike from Willie Peyton, however, the Inchicore club emerged victorious on a scoreline of two goals to one (and in keeping with the pattern of this season, a very strong wind had made an appearance for the final). Drumcondra did secure the Dublin City Cup and Top Four Cup, though, and their extended presence in these competitions afforded centre-forward Dan McCaffrey (a native of Omagh, Co. Tyrone) the opportunity to amass a total of 56 goals for the season, making him an obvious choice for the inaugural Soccer Writers’ Association of Ireland “Personality of the Year” award. 29 of his goals came in the league, with five coming against second from bottom Bohemians, and McCaffrey also scored five against bottom club Sligo Rovers, who he had joined Drumcondra from at the beginning of the season.

Drums had won the league in spite of losing three of their first six matches, and had also seen goalkeeper Maurice Swan (who had proved himself a very good replacement for Alan Kelly over the previous two years) leave for Cardiff City before the beginning of the season. Swan had been replaced by a 20-year old Mick Smyth, and alongside Dan McCaffrey and the veteran ‘Bunny’ Fullam, Smyth was one of the team’s standout performers. Two sons of the club’s owner, Sam Prole, also made contributions to the cause, with Robert Prole playing well as a half-back (he was also a club director) and Royden Prole acting as coach.

Drumcondra became the first League of Ireland champions to add the Top Four trophy, although the final against holders Cork Celtic turned into an epic, three-match tussle, with Drums eventually winning the third game 3-0 under lights at Tolka Park. The third match also saw the first ever use of a substitute in League of Ireland football, when Hendricks replaced Grumley for the Dublin club. Cork Celtic, for their part, had won their last two league matches 3-0 to snatch fourth place from Dundalk, and continue their record of having qualified for every Top Four competition.

Drums had also taken the Dublin City Cup at Cork Celtic’s expense, with goals from Dan McCaffrey and Tony Nesbitt giving them a 2-1 win at Tolka Park. Substitutes had also been allowed in this competition but didn’t end up being availed of, with (like the Top Four Cup) the possibility to replace one player up to the 44th minute, and a goalkeeper at any stage. One other rule change meant that corners could still decide any drawn match in the early rounds of the Dublin City Cup, but not now the final itself (however, no matches had finished level in this season’s competition). Cork Celtic could at least look back on victory in the League of Ireland Shield, having edged out Leeside rivals Cork Hibernians. The trophy was pinched with a 1-0 win at the Mardyke in the second last match of the competition, a solitary goal from Austin Noonan enough to secure one of four derby victories for Cork Celtic over the course of this season.

Ewan Fenton, a Scot who had played in the famous F.A. Cup final of 1953 alongside Stanley Matthews, took over as player-coach of Limerick at the beginning of the 1960-61 season, and with the Shannonsiders having a European Cup tie against Young Boys Berne to look forward to, the decision was taken to play the home game at Thomond Park. A shield match with Shamrock Rovers was used to acclimatise to the venue, but having lost that match by two goals to nil, they went on to concede five without reply against the Swiss outfit, with all five goals coming in the second half. Limerick fared a bit better in the second leg, and were again level at half-time (Donie Wallace had even put them ahead), but eventually lost 4-2 to the team who had won the last four Swiss championships.

Sligo Rovers experienced financial issues during the summer months, and they persisted all the way through the 1960-61 campaign, with the Connacht club eventually having to field a number of local amateur players due to not being able to pay the wages of some of their regular squad. Former Everton and Ireland star Peter Farrell had joined the club as player-coach, but they finished adrift at the bottom of the table, picking up just one win and conceding a whopping 97 goals (only Bray Unknowns in the 1935-36 season had conceded more). Second-from-bottom Bohemians (who played in white jerseys this season) had improved slightly on their 1959-60 form, which had seen them finish without a win in league, shield or F.A.I. Cup.

Though Dundalk had faded out of contention for honours during the second half of the season, the addition of a one-armed centre-forward named Jimmy Hasty to their squad had been a great success. The Belfast native joined the Lilywhites from Newry Town in November, and he set about his business straight away, scoring ten goals in his first seven games and eventually finishing with 17 goals from 20 league appearances. Hasty quickly became the focal point for Dundalk’s play, with his passing and heading ability, along with great strength, balance and footwork meaning that he was more than capable of spearheading their attack. Although Transport F.C. had been well-served by a one-armed winger, Paddy Cody, during the 1950s, Cody had not been as prolific or as dynamic as Hasty, and the Dundalk forward quickly became a major attraction at League of Ireland grounds. After scoring on his league debut in a 2-2 draw against Cork Celtic at Oriel Park, he later scored both in a 2-1 win at Turner’s Cross, a feat that saw him receive applause from the home fans.

League of Ireland 1960-61

PWDLFAPts
Drumcondra221615592133
St. Patrick’s Athletic221444432832
Waterford221255453329
Cork Celtic221147523126
Dundalk221228433726
Shamrock Rovers22976402925
Limerick221048352724
Shelbourne227510434119
Cork Hibernians22589304218
Transport226214273914
Bohemians224414255212
Sligo Rovers22141735976

European Competition : European Cup Preliminary Round, (first leg at Thomond Park) Limerick 0-5 Young Boys Berne (Switzerland), Young Boys Berne 4-2 Limerick

League top scorers : Dan McCaffrey Drumcondra, 29 Donal Leahy Cork Celtic, 21 Jimmy Hasty Dundalk, 17

S.W.A.I. Personality of the Year : Dan McCaffrey, Drumcondra

Representative matches : League of Ireland 0-4 English League, Scottish League 5-1 League of Ireland, League of Ireland 2-3 Irish League, Irish League 1-1 League of Ireland

1958-59 League of Ireland season

An eighth consecutive Dublin league championship success arrived in 1959, with Shamrock Rovers’ ninth League of Ireland title being secured with five points to spare over Evergreen United (who claimed the runners-up position on goal average) and Alec Stevenson’s Waterford. Rovers managed to play some good football in spite of some very muddy and sometimes frozen pitches, and while their league rivals definitely caused them a lot of headaches, none of the rest of the top four were able to find any real consistency. Waterford were possibly the most guilty of this, especially after coming out the right side of a 6-5 thriller at Kilcohan Park in early March that seemed to have thrown the race wide open, but the Blues lost two of their next three league games to allow Rovers to pull away.

Of the Suirsiders’ 58 league goals, some 56 were scored by members of two famous Waterford footballing families, the Hales and the Fitzgeralds (Peter Fitzgerald would depart for Sparta of Rotterdam during the summer, later to play for Leeds United and Ireland). Indeed, the loss of goalscoring prodigy Alfie Hale through injury in an F.A.I. Cup final dress rehearsal against St. Patrick’s Athletic helped the Blues to assume the mantle of this season’s nearly men, as goals from Johnny McGeehan (a recent signing from Transport) and Willie Peyton in a cup final replay (each side had an own goal in the first match) between the sides saw the Inchicore club record their first senior F.A.I. Cup success. Waterford did at least collect a fourth League of Ireland Shield a point ahead of Shamrock Rovers (following a poor start, they won their last eight games and amassed a total of 40 goals), to ensure that they now accounted for four of the seven non-Dublin victories in that competition. Former Aston Villa and Ireland star Con Martin had pulled many of the strings for the Blues this season, and the shield win gave him just his second medal in a career that had begun at Drumcondra in the early 1940s.

1958-59 was probably the most eventful and most impressive season to date for Limerick F.C. At the beginning of the season, a 4-3 semi-final victory over Shamrock Rovers had sent them into their first Dublin City Cup final, and they proceeded to beat Drumcondra (who had recently sold their Irish international goalkeeper Alan Kelly to Preston North End) by the same scoreline to join Sligo Rovers, Cork United and Dundalk on the list of non-Dublin winners of that trophy. Limerick registered a 4-3 win at Kilcohan Park to hand shield-winners Waterford one of just two defeats (Limerick won their last five games to finish third), so it looked like something positive was brewing for the club from the mid-west. They continued to show good form in the league, and in addition to enjoying two thrilling 3-2 wins over Waterford (the Kilcohan Park meeting was a superb match that had also seen a special train being laid on for Dublin-based supporters), they also held Shamrock Rovers to two 1-1 draws, each of which they were unfortunate not to have won. They won the Munster Senior Cup, and in spite of a gruelling four-match saga against Drumcondra, made it to the semi-finals of the F.A.I. Cup, where Waterford gained a measure of revenge thanks to a goal by Tommy Coady. Limerick also pipped Drumcondra to a place in the Top Four Cup, but after another 1-1 draw with Shamrock Rovers in the semi-final, were defeated 18-6 on corners.

Evergreen United were Rovers’ opponents in the Top Four final, and a Donal Leahy goal gave them a 1-0 win in front of a crowd of 15,000 at Dalymount Park. The turnout was very satisfactory for a competition that many had felt would not generate much interest, but the ‘Independent Cup’ had already succeeded in adding bite to what might otherwise have been meaningless end-of-season league games (clubs were also mindful of the extra revenue that would accrue). Leahy also scored both in the 2-0 semi-final win over Waterford (he had almost single-handedly dragged his team into contention for honours this season), and Rovers’ loss in the final meant that although they had regained the league title, they had surrendered possession of all five of the trophies that they had won in 1957-58.

A twelfth place league showing for Bohemians this year meant that the once-mighty Phibsboro club had achieved just one top-half league finish (fifth in 1951) since 1941. This could largely be attributed to the amateur status (in line with the principles enacted at the club’s foundation) that the club had so doggedly adhered to as the decades had passed, refusing to sign professional players, or even those that they felt harboured intentions of becoming full-time footballers. Bohemians recorded a surprise league double over old rivals Shelbourne this season, however, and shocked champions-elect Shamrock Rovers by knocking them out of the F.A.I. Cup, so it seemed that, in spite of their difficulties, the Gypsies might still have the ability to add some value to the league.

In a first for the League of Ireland (the practice was common for Ireland’s rugby and hockey teams at the time), a “trial” game was held in late January between a ‘Dublin XI’ and a ‘Provincial XI’ to aid with the task of selecting a team to play against the English League at Dalymount Park on St. Patrick’s Day. A large Tolka Park crowd was present to see a thrilling match finish 4-4, and Shelbourne centre-forward Christy Doyle (a cousin of St Patrick’s Athletic’s Dunne brothers) netted all four for the metropolitans. Doyle not only played against the English League (a very exciting scoreless draw that the home team were unlucky not to win), but also won a full international cap in a European Nations Cup game against Czechoslovakia a few weeks later. The 21-year old had also appeared in two ‘B’ internationals earlier in the season, scoring in both, including the only goal in a 1-0 win over South Africa’s ‘A’ team.

Although the 1950s had seen League of Ireland aggregate attendances rise to unprecedented levels, and crowds of up to 1,000 people often gathering outside newspaper offices on Sunday evenings to await the posting of the afternoon’s results, there was a noticeable dip during the 1958-59 season, with many clubs towards the middle and lower reaches of the league suddenly finding themselves in financial difficulty. While bad weather might have been a possible factor, heavy defeats for both Shamrock Rovers and Drumcondra in the European Cup, and reduced representation for League of Ireland players in the Irish national team did seem to have robbed the league of some of its gravitas. The 1950s had been a very difficult decade for Ireland that saw rising unemployment and emigration, but the league had been something of a success story. With a new decade on the horizon, it seemed that there might be some challenging times ahead.

League of Ireland 1958-59

PWDLFAPts
Shamrock Rovers221543582934
Evergreen United221336492729
Waterford221417583629
Limerick221156483127
Drumcondra221147302626
Shelbourne22787353322
Transport228311303719
St. Patrick’s Athletic229013455918
Cork Hibernians225512294315
Sligo Rovers226313345115
Dundalk226313345315
Bohemians226313255015

European Competition : European Cup Preliminary Round (second leg at Dalymount Park), Atlético Madrid 8-0 Drumcondra, Drumcondra 1-5 Atlético Madrid

League top scorers : Donal Leahy Evergreen United, 22 Alfie Hale Waterford, 18 Peter Fitzgerald Waterford, 17

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

1955-56 League of Ireland season

Having defeated Waterford 2-1 to land a second Dublin City Cup in three seasons, a third league success for St. Patrick’s Athletic followed in 1956, with Shay Gibbons’ 21 league goals being complemented by 17 from Paddy ‘Ginger’ O’Rourke. St. Pat’s rode their luck at times this season, winning several games where their opponents had played as well if not better, and they also had third-placed Waterford to thank for doing a “double” over runners-up Shamrock Rovers, with both of these wins coming at very important points in the league race. Rovers had beaten Pats 4-2 in a thriller at Chapelizod in the closing stages to place control of the league title’s destiny in their own hands (and to deprive their rivals of a clean sweep of points from their home matches), but a 3-1 loss at Kilcohan Park in their next outing combined with a St. Pat’s win in Sligo meant that the league trophy would be retained by Alec Stevenson’s side.

Paddy Coad’s side (or “Coad’s Colts” as they had now come to be known by fans and the media, a moniker to rival that of the “Busby Babes” of Manchester United) met with Cork Athletic in the F.A.I. Cup final, a game that gave rise to what was perhaps the finest ever example of League of Ireland / F.A.I. Cup folklore. The Leesiders’ team featured one Jimmy Delaney, a Scottish international who had already pocketed F.A. Cup, Scottish Cup and I.F.A. Cup medals in a glittering 20-year career, and with Athletic leading 2-0 (Delaney, who was in receipt of a salary similar to that of Raich Carter in ’53, netted the first) with just 12 minutes remaining, Cork Athletic Secretary Donie Forde left the ground to fetch champagne for the celebrations. Forde was unnerved by the sound of three loud cheers coming from the Dalymount stadium, however, and when he saw the ecstatic Rovers fans walking out as he returned, he knew that Coad’s side had done the unthinkable. Their 3-2 win meant a thirteenth cup success for the Hoops, and ensured that Delaney missed out on that historic quadruple of cup winner’s medals.

An unbeaten Rovers had secured an equally incredible eleventh League of Ireland Shield (Shelbourne, with seven, were the Hoops’ nearest challengers in that roll of honour) earlier in the campaign, following a 2-1 win at leaders Waterford on the last day, and also defeated the Suirsiders (who registered an unbeaten league record at Kilcohan Park) to capture the inaugural Top Four Cup, a new end-of-season competition for the league’s four highest-placed sides. Officially titled the ‘Independent Cup’ (after the Irish newspaper group), the tournament ran on a straightforward semi-final and final format, with a draw determining who would meet who. With the aim of reducing the amount of meaningless end-of-season games, it seemed to pay dividends straight away, with Sligo Rovers going on a six-game winning run (during which their prolific Scottish winger Johnny Armstrong scored nine goals) to move from 10th place to 4th with just one match to play. Evergreen United (who had been in the top four for most of the season) pipped them on goal average, however, and after Shamrock Rovers had beaten St. Pat’s 9-8 on corners in the competition’s very first match (following a thrilling 3-3 draw), a James ‘Maxie’ McCann goal eight minutes from the end ensured not just a win over Waterford in the final, but also that Rovers had scored in every match of the 1955-56 season.

In what was a fairly turbulent year for Shelbourne, a number of the club’s more established players had been released during the close season, and a slightly more youthful side was assembled under the tutelage of returning former player Eddie Gannon (who had spent some time in England’s top division with Sheffield Wednesday and also won 14 international caps). The club had been hoping to free up some funds in advance of moving into their new (but still quite incomplete) stadium in Irishtown, but mediocre league form and a lack of spectator facilities at the ground had a significant impact on their attendances. With the financial situation not looking too favourable, Shels took the difficult decision to vacate the ground after just one season. Signing off with an impressive 7-1 win over Limerick in their last Irishtown match, the Reds returned to being tenants at Tolka Park, and apart from a spell at Harold’s Cross in the ’80s, have played at the northside venue ever since.

League of Ireland 1955-56

PWDLFAPts
St. Patrick’s Athletic221624613434
Shamrock Rovers221516543031
Waterford221426663930
Evergreen United221048342824
Sligo Rovers221129475024
Shelbourne228410454220
Bohemians227510293619
Drumcondra228212415118
Cork Athletic227312384317
Dundalk226511375417
Limerick226511355417
Transport225314335913

League top scorers : Shay Gibbons St. Patrick’s Athletic, 21 Paddy Ambrose Shamrock Rovers, 20 Paddy ‘Ginger’ O’Rourke St. Patrick’s Athletic, 17

Representative matches : League of Ireland 2-4 Scottish League, English League 5-1 League of Ireland, League of Ireland 4-1 Hessen League, League of Ireland 1-0 Irish League, Irish League 6-0 League of Ireland

1954-55 League of Ireland season

Having played a number of games for the club the previous season, former Everton and Ireland inside-left Alec Stevenson took over as manager of St. Patrick’s Athletic during the summer of 1954 (he had recently been serving as Irish international coach), and former Shamrock Rovers defender Tommy Dunne (son of the late Jimmy, and a future Irish international) was a notable addition to a squad that had finished second from bottom at the end of the most recent league campaign. Several other young players were introduced, and a move to Chapelizod Greyhound Stadium seemed to be the final piece of the jigsaw, as the West Dublin club finished three points ahead of Waterford (who they defeated 4-1 in a crunch fixture during the closing stages) to collect their second League of Ireland championship.

Waterford were themselves five points clear of the previous season’s champions, Shamrock Rovers, who had failed to fully recover from a shaky start that had seen them lose three of their first five league matches. The Milltown club could look back on a tremendous season overall, however, having earlier picked up the Dublin City Cup (beating Drumcondra 2-0), the League of Ireland Shield, the Leinster Senior Cup and the L.F.A. President’s Cup. A semi-final win over Longford Town (the non-leaguers in the semi-finals for the second time) then set up another F.A.I. Cup final meeting against bitter rivals Drumcondra, with a Liam Tuohy goal (Tuohy scored in every round of the competition) giving Rovers their twelfth F.A.I. Cup success.

In spite of the offside trap becoming increasingly common, and an overall feeling in recent years that defences had very much been on top, there was a noticeable increase in goals scored during the 1954-55 league season, with the highest goals-per-game ratio since 1946 being recorded. A revitalised Shay Gibbons at St. Pat’s (a haul of 28 league goals was the highest-ever tally for the player who had topped the goalscoring charts in 1952 and 1953), and a productive partnership between Rory Dwyer and Dermot Curtis at Shelbourne were among the contributing factors, but it was Waterford’s centre-forward pairing this year that had really caught the Irish football public’s attention. Scottish striker Jimmy Gauld (who would later serve four years in prison for his part in a match-fixing scandal in the English league) bagged 30 goals to finish top of the season’s scoring charts, and he was ably assisted by local hero Jack Fitzgerald (one of six Fitzgerald brothers that would play for the Kilcohan Park club), who finished the season off by scoring the only goal of the game in his Irish international debut against Holland in May.

The inordinate amount of goals being scored led to some very eye-catching scorelines this season. It began on the opening day, with Shelbourne spoiling St. Patrick’s Athletic’s first league match at Chapelizod by turning a 4-1 half-time deficit into a remarkable 6-4 success. The 1953 champions then went on an excellent run that saw them take 17 points from their first 18, and this set up an eagerly-anticipated mid-January clash with Waterford that got switched to Dalymount Park (Shels had become tenants at Tolka Park this season). However, the crowd of almost 22,500 saw Waterford take the Reds apart by six goals to one, a result that triggered a dramatic mid-season collapse for Shels that saw them take just one point out of 16, before they recovered at the end of the season to win their last five league matches.

On the same afternoon that Shelbourne faced Waterford at Dalymount, St. Patrick’s Athletic were due to host a struggling Dundalk side at Chapelizod. Conditions weren’t ideal, as there had been sleet and snow showers the night before, and a frost had then set in that caused the ground to harden and create a very slippery playing surface. The match went ahead, but the harsh conditions, combined with the Dublin football public’s attention being focused on the other match, meant that a relatively small crowd would be in attendance. With the players slipping and sliding all over the pitch, the champions-elect recorded a slightly bizarre / bonkers 10-3 victory, the total of 13 goals scored being a record for a League of Ireland game.

League of Ireland 1954-55

PWDLFAPts
St. Patrick’s Athletic221723623136
Waterford221615704333
Shamrock Rovers221246633728
Shelbourne221327624128
Cork Athletic221057535125
Drumcondra22958383023
Bohemians229112515519
Limerick228113325017
Sligo Rovers226313343915
Transport225413225114
Evergreen United224513344613
Dundalk225314396613

League top scorers : Jimmy Gauld, Waterford, 30 Shay Gibbons St. Patrick’s Athletic, 28 Rory Dwyer Shelbourne, 19

Representative matches : League of Ireland 0-6 English League, Scottish League 5-0 League of Ireland, League of Ireland 2-1 Irish League, Hessen League 7-2 League of Ireland, Hessen League 5-0 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.

1950-51 League of Ireland season

People may have wondered if the 1950s, like the previous decade, were about to be dominated by a Cork club, with 17 home points from a possible 18 helping Cork Athletic to claim a League of Ireland (captain Florrie Burke collecting his sixth championship medal) and F.A.I. Cup double in 1951. Sligo Rovers, having finished bottom of both the shield and Dublin City Cup, mounted a surprising championship challenge, and only for missing a penalty in a goalless draw with Transport in their last league game, would probably have forced a play-off for the title. Cork Athletic, meanwhile, needed a replay with Shelbourne (whose Tommy Carberry joined Cork’s Paddy O’Leary in scoring in every round of the competition) to make up for the cup final disappointment of the previous year, a Johnny Vaughan goal being the difference between the sides. Four days later they beat Waterford 3-1 at the Mardyke to move a point clear at the top of the table, and dash Sligo’s hopes of a second League of Ireland championship.

Holders Drumcondra took the honours in the last ever “round robin” version of the Dublin City Cup, and (eventually) followed it up with victory in the League of Ireland Shield to become the first club to capture both trophies during the course of the same season. When the final round of shield matches was completed in early December, a three-way tie at the top seemed to have created the need for a round of play-offs, but in a very tightly-packed season, a semi-final and final format was instead opted for, with Transport awarded a ‘bye’ and Drumcondra set to play against Shamrock Rovers in a semi-final match-up. The final was initially scheduled for St. Patrick’s Day, but a hastily arranged league representative match against a team from Germany’s ‘Hessen League’ (the usual March 17th meeting with the Irish League had been cancelled due to a new dispute between the F.A.I. and the I.F.A.) ended up taking place on that date, and a build-up of fixtures in subsequent weeks meant that it would be a Wednesday evening in the middle of April before Drums and Rovers finally played out a 1-1 draw. It had been a fractious match, however, and when the same referee was appointed to take charge of the replay, the Hoops withdrew from the competition in protest. With both clubs’ league programmes by now having been wrapped up (the Tolka Park club finished third to ensure their sixth top three finish in a row), two Dessie Glynn goals helped Drums beat the Busmen 3-1 in the final.

At the end of the season all 10 League of Ireland sides would travel to England to take part in an epic series of friendly matches that was taking place as part of the 1951 ‘Festival of Britain’ event (seen as a promotion / celebration of the culture of the U.K.). Clubs from all over Europe were invited to play matches against English teams, and the League of Ireland contingent played 33 games in total, against the likes of Oldham Athletic, Tranmere Rovers and Darlington. Four wins and four draws were recorded by the Irish sides, with Shelbourne and Shamrock Rovers posting many of the better results.

The 1951-52 close season saw the addition of two new League of Ireland clubs, bringing membership of the league back to 12 for the first time since 1940. A second Cork club, Evergreen United (based at Turner’s Cross), were joined by a fifth Dublin side (a sixth if you include Transport), St. Patrick’s Athletic, a club who had enjoyed extraordinary success in Junior, Intermediate and Leinster Senior League football during the previous 20 years. They won two F.A.I. Intermediate Cups in the late 1940s, and despite beating Transport in the 1948 Leinster Senior Cup final, had been pipped by the Busmen to League of Ireland membership the same year. “Pats” had played their home games at Richmond Park, Inchicore since 1930, but would be required to play at Milltown, Chapelizod Greyhound Stadium and Dalymount Park during the 1950s due to Richmond’s failure to meet the League of Ireland’s ground criteria.

League of Ireland 1950-51

PWDLFAPts
Cork Athletic181224462226
Sligo Rovers181134292525
Drumcondra18873372623
Shelbourne18846372720
Bohemians18765303220
Shamrock Rovers18738333017
Transport18549253614
Dundalk184410354412
Waterford185211284712
Limerick184311274811

League top scorers : Dessie Glynn Drumcondra, 20 Johnny Vaughan Cork Athletic, 14 Martin Colfer Shelbourne, 10 Paddy Gallagher Dundalk, 10 George Gray Sligo Rovers, 10

Representative matches : Scottish League 7-0 League of Ireland, League of Ireland 0-7 Hessen League, League of Ireland 0-1 English League