history of soccer in Ireland may not bulge with long lists of
great achievements on International playing fields but it sparkles
with a cast of wonderful people who have helped to make it the
fastest growing sport in the country, a credit to its humble
of our current crop of players might have difficulty finding
the Football Association of Ireland headquarters at 80 Merrion
Square but the hundreds of volunteer officials who trooped through
that green door over the years have built an organisation of
which we can be proud.
National sports associations are seldom judged on their legislative
records, improvements in the running and development of the game
at domestic and International level are largely unsung but the
quality of the game in the League of Ireland improves with each
passing season while the grounds are rapidly becoming a pleasure
to visit, models of hygiene and comfort.
those in search of Herculean deeds on or off the field of play,
may search in vain for even one magnificent defining moment of
greatness. Defeats of England were of course as memorable as
they were rare but only a handful of headings are needed for
a modest soccer summation.
while this is a very personal choice, I would list them as follows:
The formation of the Football Association in 1921.
The breakaway from the Irish Football Association in l959.
The appointment of Liam Tuohy as the first Republic team manager
with the power to select teams.
The appointment of Jack Charlton as Republic team manager.
fans who began to follow the Republic's fortunes seriously during
the reigns of Tuohy, John Giles and Eoin Hand were augmented
by a massive surge of enthusiasm during Charlton's tenure. He
led Ireland to the World Cup Finals twice and to the European
Championship Finals on one unforgettable occasion.
recent "revelations" by Tony Cascarino that he was
a "phoney" Irishman and not qualified to play for the
Republic, was, I consider a cheap publicity trick by the former
player and the author of his book to boost sales. It diminishes
the efforts of other great players and is not worthy of further
vast majority of Charlton's army of support knew little about
football and cared less, they simply wanted to travel, to be
at the all singing, all dancing party which was the backdrop
to Ireland's efforts during those merry and in the main successful
whether Charlton was the saviour of Irish football or the man
who tore the soul out of the Irish game, got away with it and
a great deal of money in the process remains to be seen. Was
he a genial genius or a cute country boy with a ruthless streak
who bullied a generation of footballers and bent them to his
was certainly an enigma a smiling giant one moment, a brusque
dictator the next, a man who could not tolerate criticism, who
found debate uncomfortable, had a selective memory and could
be churlish, canny or charitable as the mood swings took him.
more of this craggy Geordie anon, first let us glance through
the pages of F.A.I. history and the men who carried it through
its difficult early years with dignity but not without a great
deal of hard work.
great moments at club and International level are inevitably
linked with the names of great players, wonderful performers,
extraordinary entertainers, proud and honourable men. And it
all began when the F.A.I was formed at a meeting in Mary Street,
Dublin on September l7, 1921 when A.J. Ryder was elected its
League of Ireland had already been formed the previous June,
Ireland had competed in the Paris Olympics of 1924 and long before
that - on March l7, 1900 - England had played an All Ireland
team at Lansdowne Road.
Republic played their first International in March l926, losing
by three goals to Italy in Turin. They also lost their first
home International to the Italians at Lansdowne Road the following
April by two goals to one.
in that same year, Drumcondra alas now defunct but always remembered
as the Prole family's club had won the F.A.I. Cup, the only non
league club to do so and Bohemians, then true blue amateurs won
every domestic competition in 1928 - League Championship, F.A.I.
Cup, Shield and Leinster Senior Cup.
in the same year Ireland had their first International victory
when they beat Belgium 4-2 in Liege. It is only in recent times
that the Republic has qualified for the World Cup Finals under
the baton of Jack Charlton in Italy l990 and the United States
four years later.
it was on February 24, l934 that Ireland made a World Cup debut
and with it a little bit of history when they drew 4-4 with Belgium
at Dalymount Park with Paddy Moore getting all four goals.
was the first player to score four goals in a game in the history
of the World Cup. And Moore was undoubtedly the first super star
to appear on the Irish scene, a cult figure, a bit of a rebel,
a hard drinker and alas dead before he reached his 42nd birthday.
was first capped against Spain in 1931 when he was a Shamrock
Rovers player, later when he joined Aberdeen and again when he
returned to Shamrock Rovers in 1937. His was a glittering but
tragically short career, he was capped only nine times but scored
if Moore was the first of Ireland's great football heroes, there
was another in the wings ready to move centre stage and grace
the game at the highest level for an astonishing fifteen years,
born Carey began his career with the great Guinness Brewery team,
St.James's Gate and was transferred from there to Manchester
United for £250 in 1938. There were, of course, no International
games played during the Second World War but Carey played for
the Republic 29 times between l938 when he made his debut against
Norway and 1953 when he bowed out after a game against Austria.
was one of those elegant, gifted players who always appeared
to have lots of time on the ball and his professionalism, skill
and qualities of leadership were well used by Matt Busby who
made him club captain. Carey played a vital role in the reshaping
of United under Busby and was skipper in 1948 when they bet Blackpool
4-2 to win the F.A. cup for the first time in almost forty years.
them Busby and Carey transformed United from a moderate middle
of the table team to serious challengers for a League title.
And having finished runners up four times between l947 and 5l,
they became champions for the first time since 1911 the following
his seventeen years with he club, Carey played in nine different
positions and although he was best known as a fine right full
back he was just as comfortable at centre half or wing half.
Pipe smoking Carey achieved just about everything in his career,
captained Ireland l9 times including on that memorable day at
Goodison Park in l949 when Ireland bet England 2-0, the first
"foreign" country to beat England at home.
was Footballer of the Year in 1949, captain of the Rest of Europe
v Great Britain in 1947 and Sportsman of the Year in 1950. He
was also capped seven times for Northern Ireland when it was
possible to play for both Associations and later managed Blackburn
Rovers, twice, Everton and Leyton Orient.
of course he also managed the Republic in those difficult days
when players came over to Dublin on the mail boat on Saturday
night after playing for their clubs that afternoon. His managerial
style was just as laid back as he had been as a player.
usually ended his team talks by telling the players to go out,
play their natural game and enjoy themselves.î He once
told goalkeeper Alan Kelly senior to, "kick the ball up
the field lad, it will take longer to come back."
the sort of sentiments which would be acceptable to day but those
were the bad old days before the threat of strike by International
players brought about a revolutionary change in the management
structure of Republic of Ireland teams.
while the fledgling Football Association was finding its feet
at International level, the first League Championship was won
by St.James's Gate. But the following season newcomers Shamrock
Rovers won the title at their first attempt, scoring a record
seventy seven goals in he process.
continued to break records on a regular basis, winning the Championship
fifteen times - no other club comes near - and the F.A.I. Cup
on 24 occasions, six times in succession from 1964 to '69, again
an astonishing feat which may never be equalled much less surpassed.
those early days were good for League of Ireland clubs who invariably
supplied most of, if not all the players. In fact all he players
in Ireland's first international - against Italy away in 1926
were home based.
team was: Harry Cannon (Bohemians); Frank Brady (Fordsons), Jack
McCarthy (Bohemians); Mick Foley (Shelbourne) Capt., Denis Doyle
(Shamrock Rovers), James Connolly (Fordsons); John Joe Flood
(Shamrock Rovers), Joe Grace (Drumcondra), Fran Watters (Shelbourne).
Cannon, Billy Lacey, Bob Fullam and William "Sacky"
Glen were all local heroes, crowd pleasers for years. Fullam
was the league's top scorer with 27 goals in the season 1922
-23 a figure which was not passed until 1931 when Alec Hair got
29 for Shelbourne.I rather fancy that the wags on the terraces
had some fun with that surname.
Republic team which played and beat Belgium 4-2 at Dalymount
Park in 1929 saw Tom Farquharson of Cardiff City replace Cannon
in goal and Charlie Dowdall (Barnsley) and Mick O'Brien (Walsall)
make their first appearances. But sadly such romantic club names
as Fordsons, Jacobs Bray Unknowns and Brideville, soon drifted
off the scene.
and only gradually players from clubs such as Bury, Aberdeen,
Glasgow Celtic, Manchester City Arsenal (Jimmy Dunne)Leeds United
and Notts County began to appear on Ireland team sheets.
it was not until l937 that the first Manchester United player
appeared, that was goalkeeper Tommy Breen. How times have changed.
But six months later a young Jackie Carey, now a Manchester United
player made his Republic debut at inside left against Norway
in a World Cup qualifier which finished 3-3 at Dalymount Park.
Kevin O'Flanagan, then a young medical student and playing with
Bohemians also made his debut that afternoon and went on to play
with the great Arsenal side and with his brother Mick also played
rugby for Ireland, the only brothers to play rugby and soccer
was also a noted athlete and was in time to be a distinguished
President of the Olympic Council of Ireland, having previously
been medical officer to that organisation.
last game before the war was a l-l draw with Germany in Bremen,
the great Paddy Bradshaw scoring Ireland's goal. Ireland opened
its International campaign after the war with games against Portugal
and Spain away and against England at Dalymount Park. The O'Flanagan
brothers played for Ireland and the late great Paddy Coad made
his debut, the first of his eleven caps, all of them as a Shamrock
Rovers player. Had the war not intervened Coad would surely have
blossomed in England.
time England coach Walter Winterbottom reckoned that had Coad
played in England in his youth he would have become a greater
player than Peter Doherty.
has often been described as the "greatest player who never
left Ireland". But Liam Tuohy who played for Shamrock Rovers,
Newcastle United and also played for and managed the Republic
disagreed.î He was Ireland's greatest player," he
indeed when one considers, Jackie Carey, Charlie Hurley, Noel
Cantwell, John Giles, Liam Brady and Roy Keane. But whatever
picture history paints of Paddy Coad, he undoubtedly played a
major role in making Shamrock Rovers the best ever League of
Ireland club when he took over a player - coach in the mid fifties.
Shamrock Rovers roll of honour is quite something. League Championship
Shamrock Rovers 15;Dundalk 9. F.A.I Cup Shamrock Rovers -24;
Dundalk 8.League of Ireland Shield - Shamrock Rovers 18; Shelbourne
8.Dublin City Cup :- Shamrock Rovers 10; Drumcondra 6.
Rovers won their fair share of Championships, they were recognised
as the Cup specialists, appearing in 38 semi finals and 31 finals.
They have won the Cup six times in succession 1964 to 69, five
times in succession 1929 to 33 and three times in succession
l985 to 87. They also had back to back victories in l944 - 45
only other clubs to have retained the Cup were Cork Hibernians
and Shelbourne. And in the process of compiling these impressive
statistics Rovers produced players of the highest calibre, men
like Paddy Moore and Sacky Glen before the Second World War.
Later there was Coad, Peter Farrell and Tommy Ellington, Pat
Dunne, Noel Peyton, Paddy Ambrose and Liam Tuohy.
the "Hoops" did not have it all their own way, far
from it. St.Patrick's Athletic won the Championship when they
made their debut in 1951 and then in successive years in l955
Gibbons, three times the Championship leading goal scorer was
the Inchicore hero in the early to mid fifties but those years
also produced Dessie Glynn (Drumcondra), Jimmy Gauld (Waterford),Tommy
Hamilton (Shamrock Rovers), Donal Leahy (Evergreen United) and
Austin Noonan of the same club. Then in the early sixties came
headline grabbers and goal scorers like Dan McCaffrey (Drumcondra),
Mick Lynch (Waterford), Eddie Bailham (Shamrock Rovers), Jimmy
Hasty (Dundalk), Johnny Kingston (Cork Hibernians) and Johnny
Brooks of Sligo Rovers.
days, great players and the decade which saw the emergence of
Waterford as League Champions four times, three times in succession
from 1967 to '70. But before these happy days when Jimmy McGeough,
John O'Neill, Al Casey. Alfie Hale and their happy band brought
renewed glory to the Blues, there was another historic chapter
in the F.A.I. story.
before we get carried away with tales of swashbuckling football
at League of Ireland level, we must consider another event of
major importance in the annals of the F.A.I., the final break
with the Irish Football Association, the definitive parting of
FINAL SPLIT WITH THE IRISH FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION.
F.A.I. had been formed in 1921 but until 1950 players from the
Republic or as it was known in its early days the Irish Free
State were free to play for Northern Ireland if selected. And
Tom Keogh 2000/2001