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