The tail-gunner at full-back

Bohs during the War years

League football ceased in Britain almost immediately after the outbreak of the Second World, the 1939-40 League season was only three games old when it was suspended and a full league season wouldn’t be completed until the end of the 1946-47 season This robbed many talented players of the peak years of their careers. However, in neutral Ireland football continued as usual, or as usual as possible in the midst of a bloody, global conflict. There may have been food and petrol rationing but the early and mid-40’s gave the League of Ireland one of it’s most dominant ever sides, Cork United, who won the league five times between 1940 and 1946.

For Bohemian F.C. the 40’s weren’t to be their most successful era, victory in the League of Ireland Shield in 1939 and an Inter-city cup win in 1945 were pretty much all that the era provided in terms of silverware but as always the club was developing players who would rise to prominence elsewhere. While I’ve written previously about the likes of the famous O’Flanagan brothers perhaps a less well known story is of Paddy Ratcliffe, a talented full-back for Bohemians who enjoyed a good career in the English League but by even having a career at all he had cheated death and defied the odds.

From the printers to Dalymount

Patrick Christopher Ratcliffe, better known simply as Paddy Ratcliffe was born in Dublin on New Years Eve 1919. Paddy was the son of Bernard and Bridget Ratcliffe. Bernard was a postman but he had also served in the British Army, joining at the age of 18 in 1904 and serving in the Royal Artillery. He later rejoined to serve during World War I.

Patrick first appears on the footballing radar as a player for Hely’s F.C. which was likely the works team of Hely’s stationers and printers of Dame Street. Hely’s were a large and prominent business in Dublin at the time and as well as selling stationery they also had a line in sporting goods, so you could buy a tennis racquet or fishing rod along with your pens and ink. Hely’s is also mentioned in Ulysses as a former place of employment for Leopold Bloom.

Paddy Ratcliffe is mentioned as having left Hely’s F.C. to sign for Bohemians in August 1939, he made his first team debut the following month in a 2-1 win over Jacob’s in the Leinster Senior Cup. The League season began in November of 1939 and Paddy was an ever-present as Bohs playing all 22 at left-back games as Bohs finished eighth that year. He was also part of the Bohemians side that defeated Sligo Rovers to win the league of Ireland Shield for 1939-40. The following season saw significant improvement in the league with Bohemians finishing third, Paddy played 25 games across all competitions but only 10 in the league, the reason for this fall in appearance numbers had nothing to do with a loss of form however, because in 1941 Paddy Radcliffe joined the RAF to fight in the Second World War. Newspaper reports announced in April 1941 that Paddy had played his last game for Bohemians, and like his father before him he was off into the violent theatre of global conflict.

Paddy the POW

Paddy joined the RAF and became the tail gunner on a Lancaster bomber, Paddy’s role as a tail-gunner saw him sit in an exposed turret at the very rear of the plane, operating four heavy machine guns which would play a crucial role in the defence of these heavy bomber planes. It was also an incredibly dangerous job, the tail-gunner was a particularly vulnerable target to lighter, more maneuverable, fighter plans, there were risks of frostbite from flying at such high altitude often with open panels, and the small, cramped rear turret could be awkward to escape from in the event of an emergency.

A tail-gun turret from a Lancaster bomber (source wikipedia)

Not everyone came home from the Lancaster bombing raids over Germany,  for example the Lancaster was the main bomber used in the famed Dambusters attacks of Operation Chastise in May 1943. Of the 19 Lancaster bombers deployed eight were shot down over Germany. A similar fate befell Flight Sergeant Paddy Ratcliffe during one of those bomber missions when his bomber was shot down over Germany. Paddy was lucky to survive as he had two Nazi bullets in his leg but he was destined to see out the War as a POW in Stalag 357 in North-western Germany. In these particular POW camps over 30,000 prisoners (the vast majority of them Soviet prisoners) died over the course of the War.

Irish newspaper reports from September 1943 even went so far as to express remorse at his death as it must likely have been assumed that Paddy and his crew had perished over Germany.  We don’t know if even his family knew he had survived. Thankfully Paddy did survive the war and after hostilities had ceased he was straight back into the Bohemians team for the 1945-46 season. While playing usually in the position of left-back he also lined out as both an inside left and scored his only goals for Bohemians in a Shield game from that position.

A Lancaster Bomber ( source wikipedia)

A return to football

Ratcliffe’s performances in the early part of the season were impressive enough to secure a move across the water to Notts County as they prepared for a return to post war football. Notts County’s manager was Major Frank Buckley who had known Ratcliffe’s first manager at Bohemians, George Lax. Like Ratcliffe, Lax had also joined the RAF during the War. Perhaps it was on the recommendation of George Lax that Ratcliffe was signed? Paddy may also have come to their attention from playing wartime matches as there are reports of him lining out for the likes of Rochdale during 1942.

Either way his spell with Notts County was short, by the time the first full, post-war league season was underway in 1946-47 Paddy had signed for Wolverhampton Wanderers. He joined Wolves as part of a deal that also brought forward Jesse Pye to Moulineux for a combined fee of £10,000. Pye would enjoy great success at Wolves scoring 90 times for them, including a brace in the FA Cup final which brought the cup to the black country. He was even capped for England in the famous Goodison Park game when they were defeated 2-0 by Ireland. Paddy, however, would only make two appearances in the English top flight before moving to Plymouth for the 1947-48 season.

This meant that Paddy had to drop down to Division Two to ensure more first team football. He made his Plymouth debut on the opening day of the season in August 1947 against Newcastle in front of a crowd of more than 50,000 in St. James’s Park. Paddy’s first two seasons were ones of mixed fortunes, he played only 25 league games in his first two years, while he got a better run of games in the 1949-50 season (playing 21 games) Plymouth finished second bottom of the Second Division and were relegated to Division Three South.

Success and a first taste of the Big Apple

Despite the relegation the following seasons were some of Paddy’s best, he became the undisputed first choice at right-back and began to contribute goals as well, becoming a regular penalty taker for the side. In the 1951-52 season Plymouth Argyle finished as Champions in Division Three South and kept clear of relegation when back in the Second Division. In fact Plymouth came fourth in the second tier in 1952-53 with Paddy as a regular. This remains Plymouth’s best ever league finish.

In the 1953-54 season there were greater challenges for Plymouth, they finished in 19th place in Division Two, only three points clear of relegation but they did take part in an ambitious end of season tour to eight cities across the the USA. Paddy boarded the Ile de France at Southampton on the 27th April 1954 and set sail for New York. The Plymouth Arglye tour would see them face local sides like Simpkins of St. Louis, the Chicago Falcons and various “All-Star” teams, as well as randomly playing two games against Borussia Dortmund in Chicago and then Los Angeles. The games against Dortmund were the only games which Plymouth lost on their tour where they racked up easy wins including a 16-2 trouncing of a supposed “All-Star” team in Denver. The tour ran through to the beginning of June when the Argyle signed off their visit with a 1-0 win over a New York All-Stars team in Astoria, Queens.

A short quote from “Irish soccer player” Paddy Ratcliffe appeared in the Big Spring Daily Herald of West Texas in June of 1954 where he asked what his impressions were of the United States. A somewhat wide-eyed Paddy described his experiences as follows: “Every city I’ve seen is like London at rush hour. Life here is a bit too strenuous for me. You Americans don’t take holidays. You don’t relax and lounge around. But you seem to have more fun. At home we’re in bed by 11. That’s when you people are going out”.  An interesting first impression as we’ll later see.

The 1954-55 season was another tough one for Plymouth. They escaped the drop by a single place. The 1955-56 season was to be Paddy’s last in English football, he had been a regular up until this point but by the start of the season he was 35 years old and new manger Jack Rowley (a superstar player in his time as a Manchester United player) preferred others in the full-back berths. Paddy would only make 8 appearances that season as Plymouth were again relegated from Division Two. In all he had made 246 appearances and scored 10 goals for the Pilgrims.

Despite spending most of his career playing at a decent standard Paddy was never selected for Ireland, this is especially surprising given his versatility in either full back position. There were suggestions that he should be called up aired in the newspapers, in the Dublin Evening Mail in 1953 and from “Socaro” the football correspondent in the Evening Press.  The Irish selectors had the chance to watch Paddy in the flesh when he lined out one final time for Bohemians in May 1952. He was playing in a memorial match for the Jimmy Dunne, the legendary Irish striker who died suddenly in 1949. Dunne had played and coached Shamrock Rovers but had also been Paddy’s coach during his last spell with Bohs in 1945.  A Rovers XI played a Bohs XI in Dalymount just before a national squad was picked for the upcoming game against Spain but Paddy never got a call up. Guesting for that Bohs XI were the likes of Tom “Bud” Aherne and goalkeeper Jimmy O’Neill who did feature in the heavy 6-0 defeat to Spain just two weeks later.

In America

While he may never have gotten that cap for Ireland and his career in England had come to an end with Plymouth this wasn’t the final act in Paddy’s footballing career. The tour of the United States had obviously made a big enough impact on Paddy and he decided to up sticks and move to the United States with his young family. Paddy had married a Dublin woman named Olive Privett in 1946 and they set up a new life in Los Angeles in 1957. They moved to the Lawndale area of Los Angeles with their four children (two girls and two boys) and Paddy began a career in the printing business, becoming print foreman of Palos Verdes newspapers and occasionally penning articles in its pages about the beautiful game. Paddy also continued playing for a Los Angeles Danish side well after his 40’s birthday, only hanging up his boots in 1962. He was also involved in coaching young American talent in football of the association variety. He even took time to catch up with former professional colleagues when they visited the United States, entertaining his old adversary Stanley Matthews when he was on a tour of America.

Paddy going for a header on the soccer pitches of Los Angeles

Despite being somewhat of an evangelist for soccer in the States, Paddy’s son Paul shone as a varsity American football player, lining out as a quarter back for his high school. When quizzed about the American variant of the sport, Paddy described it as “a daffy game –  they call it football but a specialist comes on to kick it maybe ten times in a 60 minute game. How can they call it football?”

Paddy passed away in October 1986 at the age of 66 and was buried in Los Angeles. He had begun his career with Bohs before the War, lived a perilous existence as a rear-gunner on an Allied Bomber, survived the deprivations as a prisoner-of-war in Nazi Germany and returned to have a successful footballing career in Britain, despite having a pair of German bullets in his left leg. Even after his playing career had ended he began a new life and trade in the United States believing it presented the best opportunities for his young family but never forgetting where he came from or the sport he loved.


Once more, thanks to Stephen Burke for his assistance on Paddy’s early life and Bohs career, and for more on Paddy’s career at Plymouth check out the excellent Vital Argyle website. Featured image is from the profile of Paddy in the Greensonscreen website.




Bohs v Rovers: The biggest rivalry of them all

Bohs versus Rovers, what was the first flashpoint that turned a local game into one of the biggest rivalries in Irish sport? Well to understand we need to travel back almost a century.  Over the course of the month of April 1923 Bohemian F.C. and Shamrock Rovers played each other four times in various cup competitions. As the old saying goes “familiarity breeds contempt” and the final of these matches almost ended in violence after two Bohemians players had to be stretchered from the field due to rough tackling by Rovers. At the final whistle, the Bohemians’ half-back Ernie Crawford removed his jersey and challenged Rovers star forward Bob Fullam to a fist-fight. Crawford was born in Belfast and was the full-back and Captain of the Irish Rugby Team, he was also a decorated World War One veteran. Not a man to be taken lightly.

Fullam himself was no shrinking violet, as well as being an accomplished footballer who was capped twice by Ireland he supplemented his income as a docker in Dublin Port. He had finished the 1922 FAI Cup final amid a mass brawl after Rovers were beaten by St. James Gate. The fighting only ceased when the brother of the Gate’s Charlie Dowdall reportedly confronted Fullam with a pistol.

Could we perhaps trace the beginnings of perhaps the fiercest rivalry in Irish football back to these events in 1920’s?

In the early decades of football in Ireland the Dublin Derby were the games contested between Bohemians and Shelbourne. Both clubs had been founded in the 1890’s with Bohemians finally settling into their permanent home in Dalymount Park in 1901. Shelbourne had their beginnings in what is now Slattery’s Pub at the junction of South Lotts Road, Bath Avenue and Shelbourne Road in 1895. Founded by a group of dock workers from the local Ringsend/Sandymount area, their name was reportedly decided upon by a coin toss between the names of the various nearby streets. It was these two clubs who would have the great north -south city rivalry of the city.

By the 1904-05 season Shelbourne and Bohs were the only Dublin-based clubs who were competing in the Ulster dominated Irish League and they faced off against each other in the final of the 1908 Irish Cup which Bohs won in a replay. This was the first time the final had been contested by two Dublin sides.

Bohs didn’t even face Rovers in competitive games until 1915. In a Leinster Senior Cup first round tie on the 9th January 1915, Bohs won 3-1 thanks to a hat-trick by forward Ned Brooks. Later that same year the Rovers were elected to the top division of the Leinster senior league, their second game at this level was against Bohs were they again lost 3-1. This game came just two weeks after Rovers young centre-back James Sims died tragically in a shipping accident in Dublin Bay. At this time Bohs great rivals were still very much Shelbourne F.C.

By the early 20’s the FAI had split from the Belfast based IFA and founded a new league for the clubs in the nascent Irish Free State. Shamrock Rovers didn’t compete in the League in that first season but they made their mark, reaching the Cup final against eventual double winners St. James Gate. The following season they were elected to the league and finished as Champions.

The 20’s would begin an era of fierce competition for Bohs and Rovers, before the decade was out both clubs would have 3 league titles apiece to their names. Rovers would have also begun a run which would establish their reputation as “Cup kings” by winning the FAI Cup five years in a row. The first of those five-in-a-row titles would begin with victory over the holders Bohemians in the 1928-29 final in Dalymount Park. The initial game finished 0-0 but in the replay Rovers ran out 3-0 winners, with two goals coming from John Joe “Slasher” Flood and another from that man again Bob Fullam.

On 22nd April 1945, almost exactly 22 years since the tussle between Ernie Crawford and Bob Fullam and 16 years since their last cup final meeting Bohs and Rovers met again in Dalymount Park in the final. To date it is the last cup final meeting of the pair and remains the biggest attendance ever for an FAI Cup Final. Depending on which estimate you read there were anything from between 39,000 and 45,000 packed into the famous old ground that Sunday afternoon. Among Bohs ranks was the Irish international Kevin O’Flanagan, newly qualified as a doctor. He had an untypically poor game that day, perhaps due to the fact that he’d failed to diagnose himself with the flu and had played the game with a 103 degree temperature! Podge Gregg, the Rovers centre-forward broke Bohemian hearts in the second half as he converted from a Mickey Delaney cross to score the game’s only goal. On the Rovers bench that day as coach was a man well familiar with the fixture, Bob Fullam.

By the time of that final Bohs star was already on the wane. Their strictly amateur status meant that they tended to bring through and develop players before losing them to other Irish or cross channel clubs who were prepared to offer professional terms. As just one example the following year Rovers lost the FAI Cup final with four former-Bohemians in their line-up; Frank Glennon, Noel Kelly, Charlie Byrne and goalkeeper Jimmy Collins. The team that defeated Rovers in that 1946 final was Drumcondra F.C. For the next two decades as Bohemians drifted towards the lower reaches of the league table the great north-south Dublin rivalry would be between Drumcondra and Rovers in what many view as the competitive peak of the League of Ireland.

Between the end of the 40’s and the early 60’s Drumcondra would see players of exceptional quality grace Tolka Park. Among them future Ireland legends Con Martin, Eoin Hand and Alan Kelly Snr. as well as the likes of Tommy Rowe, “Kit” Lawlor, Christopher “Bunny” Fullam, Ray Keogh, Dessie Glynn, and Jimmy Morrissey to name but a few. They would win five league titles and another two cups. In Europe, they would knock out Danish side Odense from the Fairs Cup and also face the likes of Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich.

Rovers would claim three more titles in the 50’s. This was the era of player-manager Paddy Coad and his exiting young side that became known as Coad’s Colts and featured the likes of Liam Touhy, Paddy Ambrose and Ronnie Nolan. The matches between Drums and Rovers, whether in Tolka Park or at Milltown were huge fixtures in the sporting calendar. Well before TV coverage became the norm and when direct experience of British football was through occasional newsreels and the odd pre-season friendly or player guest appearance, the Rovers/Drums rivalry capturing the sporting imaginations of the Dublin sporting public in a way that has happened seldom since in relation to the League of Ireland.

As this great rivalry played out during the 50’s and into the 60’s Bohs were very much in the back seat. However, in the early 1960’s they experienced a turnaround in fortunes thanks in no small part to their new manager Seán Thomas. He was the man who had just led Rovers to the 1963-64 league title but quit after a bust up with the club’s owner’s, the Cunningham family. His next port of call was Dalymount Park where he helped revive the fortunes of the struggling Bohemian club. In his first season Bohs finished an impressive 3rd place, a huge improvement on 12th the year before.

By the end of the 60’s the Bohemian membership had decided to make the biggest change in their history. They were going to scrap their amateur status and begin paying players. The policy quickly began to pay dividends. Only a year later Bohs would win their first major trophy in almost 35 years when they defeated Sligo Rovers in a 2nd replay of the FAI Cup final. Among the Bohs XI were a number of seasoned pros, which included  several names more than familiar to the Rovers faithful, among them Ronnie Nolan, Johnny Fullam and the first professional Bohemian, Tony O’Connell.

Over the course of the next decade Bohemians would win another two league titles and another cup during a relatively fallow period for Rovers. Despite bringing in Johnny Giles as player-manager (and a certain Eamon Dunphy as player-coach) and signing Irish international Ray Treacy a solitary FAI Cup was all their reward. Things would change by the beginning of the 1980’s. Manager Jim McLaughlin, backed by the finances of the Kilcoyne family brought unprecedented success to Milltown and in some ways the basis for a lot of the modern enmity with Bohs crystallised in these years.

By the early 70’s Drumcondra were on the wane before their League spot was eventually taken over by Home Farm. With the disappearance of Drums from League football so went over 20 decades of a great footballing rivalry. A resurgent Bohemians in the 1970’s meant a rekindling of an old enmity that had never truly disappeared. While as we’ve seen earlier players swapping the red and black of Bohs for the green and white hoops of Rovers has never been particularly uncommon many Bohemians supporters with longer memories still clearly recollect the movement of several significant players from Dalymount to Milltown. From the 70’s, 80’s and into the 90’s many prominent players such as Pat Byrne, Terry Eviston, Paul Doolin and Alan Byrne all made that journey southside which tended to create a certain amount of rancour amongst Bohs supporters.

It should be mentioned that the movement wasn’t totally one-way, and that (whisper it) even the legendary Jackie Jameson began his footballing career at Shamrock Rovers before making his name at Dalymount in the 1980’s.

Despite the success of the Jim McLaughlin era the 80’s were also a time of disharmony for Rovers. Owner Louis Kilcoyne decided to sell the club’s home ground of Glenmalure Park in Milltown which would then be developed for houses and apartments. Glenmalure had been home to Rovers since the 20’s and the fans acted swiftly by forming the pressure group KRAM (Keep Rovers at Milltown). Their actions however couldn’t halt the sale of the ground and the by the late 80’s Rovers had migrated northside, first to Tolka Park and then, for two seasons to Dalymount Park, home of arch-rivals Bohemians. No doubt a galling episode for the small group of supporters who chose to attend games in the Phibsborough venue, tenants to their great adversaries.

The 90’s were to be fallow years for the Hoops, a solitary league title in the 1993-94 season, when the club were playing their games in the RDS was the sole silverware of note. The club had plans to relocate to a permanent new home in the south Dublin suburb of Tallaght as far back as the mid-1990’s but it was to be almost another 15 years of wandering before Rovers would kick a ball at a completed Tallaght stadium. In the meantime, the intervening period contained more lows than highs, including examinership and a first ever relegation in the 2005 season. But there were a couple of notable victories against their old rivals Bohemians, perhaps the most pleasing would have been Rovers 1-0 win thanks to a Sean Francis goal in Dalymount in 2001. That victory sent Rovers briefly to the top of the league but it also meant that they had defeated their great rivals in their own back yard on the 100th anniversary of the opening of Dalymount Park. Rovers may have viewed that as some form of revenge for a result earlier that year which has gone down as one of the most storied in League of Ireland history.

That particular game took place on the 28th January 2001 in the then-home of Shamrock Rovers, Morton Stadium, Santry. Rovers then managed by Damien Richardson swept into a commanding 4-1 lead by half-time having got their first goal through Tony Grant only two minutes into the game. At half-time Bohs manager Roddy Collins gave a rousing team-talk, exhorting his charges to go out and “win the second half” what followed has gone down in legend for Bohemians supporters.

Five second half goals followed unanswered from Alex Nesovic, Dave Morrison, Mark Rutherford and a brace from Glen Crowe. Bohs left the pitch 6-4 winners and on a roll. Many players from that side have credited that result as part of the impetus that would see Bohemians haul back league leaders Shelbourne and finish up winning the double by the season’s end.

Today whenever the two sides meet they is likely to be action and drama and plenty of colour and pageantry in the stands. There have been times when footballing passions have spilled over as happened all those years ago with Crawford and Fullam. In 2003 Rovers were forced to move from their then-base of Richmond Park in Inchicore after crowd trouble during a match against Bohemians. A year later at a match in Dalymount former Hoops Tony Grant and James Keddy who had just signed for Bohemians were greeted with a torrent of abuse, then pig’s feet and finally a large pig’s head was thrown onto the pitch. A not so subtle message from the Rovers faithful about what they thought of Grant and Keddy’s move cross-city. Grant, interviewed by the Sun newspaper several years after the event described the Derby games in this way,

That game, it’s a religion to the supporters, it’s a cult, it’s what they live for. It’s the same for both sets of fans.

The noughties did nothing to diminish the rivalry between the two. The move to Tallaght stadium was to revitalise Rovers who took the title in 2010. Despite being in the ascendance and Bohs encountering financial troubles of their own the Derby games have remained wildly unpredictable. While recent seasons have been dominated by exceptional Dundalk and Cork City sides the Bohs v Rovers rivalry remains the biggest game in the Irish football calendar.

This article first appeared on the SSE Aitricity League website and in the “Greatest League in the World” magazine, issue one with artwork by Barry Masterson.

The method in the miracle

The German city of Kaiserslautern sits only a short distance from the French border and close to the edge of the vast Palatinate forest. It’s a city whose history of settlement stretches back into prehistory but after the end of the Second World War the city lay in ruins with as much as 60% of its buildings having been reduced to rubble by aerial bombardment in late 1944. When American troops reached the city in 1945 they faced little resistance. The area around the city later became home to thousands of occupying American and French troops, a legacy that continues to this day in the US air force base at Ramstein. It would not be dismissive to say that for all the other qualities the city of 100,000 possesses it is probably best known for it’s football team 1. FC Kaiserslautern. A side that have been German champions on four occasions and provided the backbone of Germany’s most iconic national teams.

Plenty of notable players have turned out for the Red Devils in the past, among them Youri Djorkaeff, Michael Ballack, Andy Brehme, and a name familiar to English fans, Stefan Kuntz. But head and shoulders above all these players stands Fritz Walter, captain of the Kaiserslautern side that won two league titles in the 1950’s and who, along with four of his club teammates helped an emergent West Germany lift the 1954 World Cup after the famous “Miracle of Berne” victory over the Hungarians.

Miracle is an often overused word in sporting parlance, every mildly unexpected result tends to be recast as some sort of David and Goliath struggle but even competing at the World Cup was an achievement for the West German side.

Kaiserslautern being so badly damaged by the end of the war was not an uncommon fate for many German cities directly after the war. By 1954 the new state of Rhineland-Palatinate where Kaiserslautern were based had only existed for eight years having as part of French Occupied Germany. The neighbouring state of Saarland was still a separate entity under French direction and was on course to be established as an independent state. In the otherworldly post war landscape the West Germans had even played against Saarland (formerly one of their constituent parts) as opponents in their qualifying group. The pace of rebuilding was slow in Germany and subject to the caprices of the various occupying powers. Millions of displaced, ethnic Germans had fled into West Germany from what is today Poland and the Czech Republic seeking homes, jobs, even the bare minimum of food and warmth. Multiple families crowded into cellars, the last habitable remains of a decimated building stock in the ruins of German cities. The civilian death rate in the immediate post war period was several times what it had been in the late 30’s immediately before the war. Those prominent German footballers who had escaped the war relatively unscathed quickly went back to the game (when permitted by the various occupying allied forces) competing in numerous friendlies with local sides in exchange for foodstuffs, coal and even fabric for jerseys. Teams without proper kit often found themselves draped in red and white shirts as they tailored discarded Nazi flags and banners into football shirts.

By the end of the 1940’s there was something approaching a return to league football in Germany but not in the form of the Bundesliga that we would recognise today. Football in Germany was still regional with the best teams of the five West German regional top-level divisions qualifying to play off for the German championship. Full professionalism was still prohibited, players had to have a day job and be able to demonstrate that this was their primary labour, not football.

The ’54 World Cup was being held in Switzerland because it was one of the few countries that had escaped the horrors of war relatively unscathed, it was safe and prosperous enough to host a World Cup. Fritz Walter had been a soldier in that war, his coach Sepp Herberger had tried to protect him and his teammates as best he could, he thought that an Air Force regiment would offer the best protection for his star player. It was commanded by a Major Graf, a football lover who appreciated Herberger’s desire to protect a key player like Walter. For the most part Herberger was right, Fritz Walter played more than 20 wartime international games for Germany while with the armed forces, however as the war progressed and the Germans losses mounted Fritz and his colleagues were pressed into more active service.

It was while on active duty with the air force that he contracted malaria, then later towards the very end of the war he was captured and faced the very real possibility of being transported to a Soviet labour camp in Siberia. It was only the intercession of a football loving guard who recognised Fritz during an impromptu kick-about which saw his name removed from a list of those bound for the Soviet camp. His footballing prowess had saved his life.

Also on the pitch that day in Berne was Fritz’s brother Ottmar, or “Otte” as he was affectionately known. He had finished the Second World War with shrapnel throughout his body, but particularly in his right knee. He was lucky even to be alive, as a member of the Navy his ship was sunk near Cherbourg and only 11 of the more than 130 crew survived. The worsening condition of Otte’s ruined knee would end his career in 1956. Apart from the brothers Walter, three further Kaiserslautern players took to the field in the final. Though dominant in the early 50’s they had shocked the German football public when they were hammered 5-1 in the final of the German football championship by the unfancied Hannover 96.

Fritz’s malarial blood didn’t like the heat of the central European summer so the cooler, wetter weather of the final was a blessing, the type of weather when he could play his type of game, to try and dictate the flow of play much as the roving Nandor Hidegkuti did for the opposition. Some to this day call it Fritz Walter weather.

Apart from Toni Turek, his goalkeeper, Fritz was the oldest man on the pitch, it was nearly seventeen years since his debut for his hometown team, FC Kaiserslautern as a naive 17 year old. His sole focus was football, to the absence of all else, despite his natural talent he thought about football so much that he drove himself to a form of obsession; highly-sensitive he fixated on defeats, personal mistakes and guilt for opportunities missed.

The Kaiserslautern players that made up almost half the national team had to prove themselves again, prove their mettle, show that the wouldn’t bottle it on the big occasion as they’d done only weeks earlier against Hannover. They’d achieved respectability to an extent by even getting to the final against the Hungarians. They’d done so in some style, dispatching a good Yugoslavian side before comfortably beating the Austrians 6-1 in the semi-final, Fritz and Otto had split four of the goals in that game between them. In the Yugoslavia game Fritz Walter’s room-mate Helmut Rahn had returned to the starting XI and gotten on the score-sheet, he too would start the final. That Rahn was Fritz’s roommate was no accident, he was eight years junior to Fritz, as a laid-back, humorous and fun-loving character he was chosen to act as an antidote to the stoic, pensive and neurotic Walter. His brother Ottmar recalled that Fritz would emerge to the team breakfast each morning with tears in his eyes from the laughter caused by Rahn’s latest jokes.

Memorial to the Kaiserslautern players who appeared in the 1954 World Cup (source wikipedia)

Rahn like all his team-mates had to have a day job. He enjoyed driving and worked as a chauffeur for a time before later becoming a rep for a confectionery company. Otte Walter ran a petrol station. Fritz Walter ended up working as a sales representative for sports giant Adidas. The founder of the famous company, Adi Dassler (who’s name was the origin of the brand) was on the German bench at the World Cup alongside Herberger, his pioneering use of replaceable screw-in studs of differing lengths to suit changing conditions gave the Germans a slight advantage on the wet, heavy turf of the Wankdorf stadium in Berne.

Thousands of words have been written, dramas and documentaries have been made on the final itself. Suffice to say that no team is unbeatable. While the Hungarians had demolished the Germans 8-3 in a group game Herberger had learned from that defeat. Helmut Rahn had scored one of the Germans three goals and Herberger had noticed how much space Rahn had been afforded by the Hungarian defence. Despite being an outside right Rahn also had a strong left foot shot and often cut inside with devastating effect.

Many theories still swirl about why the game played out as it did. Hungarian complacency after going 2-0 up early on? That the great Ferenc Puskas lacked full fitness having been cynically targeted by Werner Liebrich in the previous meeting of the sides? Even that the Germans were given injections of amphetamines to make them play at a more intense level. The Germans always claimed that they were only given vitamin C injections and several players later developed jaundice due to a dirty needle being used.

Whatever the precise truth the Germans bounced back from an early 2-0 deficit to triumph 3-2 thanks to two goals from Helmut Rahn and one from Max Morlock. Perhaps of greater impact was what happened next. In footballing terms little changed for the next decade. Herberger had been pressing the German FA for a proper nationwide league but his very success in 1954 undermined that. If a regionalised league with semi-professional players could win the World Cup then why would the West German FA change something that wasn’t broken? Or so went the logic. The establishment of the Bundesliga wouldn’t arrive until 1963. In the meantime professional clubs in Spain, France and Italy offered lucrative contracts to the heroes of Berne but to a man they rejected them.

Moving away from Germany would have meant removal from the national team, generally players were “rewarded” with sinecures with sportswear concerns or car companies. A trend that continued for years after with the likes of Uwe Seeler turning down lucrative moves to Italy and Spain to stay with Hamburg.

Politically the ’54 victory has been recast as a foundational moment in modern German history. One German historian credited Sepp Herberger as being one of the three father’s of the emerging West German state along with Konrad Adenauer, the country’s Chancellor and Ludwig Erhard, the Government minister most credited with the German economic miracle of the 1950’s and 60’s. The credit attributed to that maiden World Cup victory’s role in the German economic recovery has tended towards the hyperbolic. While it’s clear that there were massive obstacles to German success to suggest that footballing success spurred economic growth is somewhat far-fetched.

Despite the levels of devastation documented above the German economy was already beginning a period of unlikely, yet stunning growth. The large, young displaced German populations of Poland and Czechoslovakia provided a willing workforce. The deepening of the Cold War prompted the Allied powers to relax restrictions of German industry. A strong West Germany was seen as a necessary bulwark against Soviet expansion eastward. All while the largesse of the Marshall plan provided economic capital to help rebuild German industry.

If anything the World Cup victory provided a rare moment of national pride for a nation that was shamed for their wartime murder and brutality. During the denazification processes instigated immediately after the war it was noted that only two in ten Germans were willing to bear any personal responsibility for the war and the crimes of the Nazis. They were viewed as terrible events that were due to the actions of others. The unexpected triumph in Berne however offered an opportunity to display national pride in the supposedly safe, non-bellicose arena of a sporting rather than a military victory.

Despite this some elements of German society offended the global sporting public with the singing of the infamous opening verse of Deutschland Uber Alles rather than the benign third verse. At a celebratory dinner the German football president, in the alcohol clouded fug of a beer-hall started talking about German superiority and the importance of the Fuhrer principle in German sport. These events were an embarrassment to the overall celebrations and were widely reported at the time but the majority of the celebrations seemed not to tend towards the violent nationalism of the previous decade.

While the ruling regimes of Brazil in 1970 and Argentina in 1978 had sought make political capital out of a World Cup triumph (and how Hitler had used the 1936 Olympics for his Ayrian propoganda) the heads of government in West Germany eschewed the celebrations. Those other fathers of the nation; Adenauer and Erhard avoided the official homecoming celebrations in Berlin. This after all was just football, there were issues of real importance to be dealt with. Neither Adenauer nor Erhard were football fans, the Chancellor preferring the game of bocce (an Italian variant of boules). Not until Helmut Kohl took over the office of Chancellor in 1982 could it be said that there was a true football fan in charge of West Germany.

Kohl had grown up in what is now the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, as a youngster he idolised Fritz Walter and became a lifelong Kaiserslautern fan. He was even Club President for a time. When he became regional governor Kohl awarded Fritz Walter with the Freedom of the State in front of a packed football stadium in 1970. By that stage a new golden age of German football was emerging.

The Bundesliga was by then established as a national league. Within the next five years the West German national team would win the European Championships in some style before shocking the world yet again with an underdog triumph in the World Cup final against the majesty of the Total Football era Dutch team. In that same year of 1974 the second division of the Bundesliga was established while Bayern Munich won the first of their three-in-a-row European Cups. It was an unparalleled time of success at club and international level but for all these triumphs the German nation would never again capture the euphoria of that debut victory.

This piece originally featured in the Football Pink issue 20 World Cup edition.

A Dublin pub crawl with a token distraction

Last week I was invited out for a pub crawl to find out more about the betting tokens public houses used during a time when betting was made illegal I went to find out more about how Irish publicans found a loophole in legislation to allow their customers enjoy a not so legal pastime.

In the 1840’s and 1850’s the social ills caused by gambling preoccupied the minds of many in the Westminster parliament. They decided to legislate for the issue, outlawing most forms of gambling apart from things like on-track betting at race meetings which was where the wealthy and influential liked to mingle and place the occasional wager on a horse.

One item that was made illegal was the practice of using licenced premises for gambling of any kind, but in order to provide amenities for their customers, many publicans had tables for bagatelle and other games. As official coins could not be used for gaming, specially minted tokens were issued which could also be used for buying drinks. Very much an Irish solution for an Irish problem.

Many of these tokens still exist and a small collection of them are in the care of collectors from the Numismatic Society of Ireland (coin collectors to you and me) and thankfully many of the pubs that issued their own, early form of crypto-currency are still with us today. So on a warm July afternoon I was invited to join them in recreating a short pub crawl first done some 50 years earlier by society members in 1968.

A pub crawl with a difference

Our first port of call was the Bankers Bar on the corner of Trinity Street and Dame Lane, I’ve written about the history of the Bankers before, and in the 1860’s when it was minting it’s tokens it was known as the Trinity Tavern. Bankers coin2The one shown below was minted in Dublin by John C. Parkes of The Coombe and he was responsible for striking most of the pub gambling tokens.

After our start in the Bankers we made the short journey around the corner and up Grafton Street before turning onto Duke Street and stopping at the Bailey. As it was a warm bright day the famous bar’s outdoor seating area was packed with punters enjoying the fine weather. The Bailey Bar took its name from its former proprietor, Nicholas Bailey who ran the pub (with minor interruption) from 1852 until 1880.

While the Bankers and the Bailey are still with us today some of the pubs that were minting their own coins have disappeared with the passage of time. One of these number George Flood’s once stood at 28 Grafton Street, a site now occupied by the Victoria’s Secret store. No trace of Flood’s pub remains although the tokens that he minted, like the regular coins of the day, featured the head of the reigning British monarch on the reverse, in this case it was Victoria appearing on the back of some Secret currency.

Victoria reverseWhile Grafton Street isn’t too well known for pubs today the Duke Pub, back on Duke Street is named after the 2nd Duke of Grafton Charles Fitzroy. Originally opened in 1822 the Duke Pub was run by a James Holland when they first started issuing their own tokens in the 1860’s. Since that time the pub has expanded and has taken over premises that once housed the famous Dive Oyster Bar and part of the hotel building that was operated by Kitty Kiernan and her family. It was for a time known as Tobin’s pub but has since reverted back to the original name of the Duke Bar. After a chat and a drink with David, the bar manager we were due to head onto our final watering-hole, north of the river this time to Brannigan’s of Cathedral Street.

En route there was a slight detour at the Westin Hotel, as the site of a major branch of Provincial Bank of Ireland the banking and coinage themes run through the hotel and this is apparent in the names of function rooms like the Banking Hall, or the Mint Bar. They also display many historic coins and notes on the walls of the hotel so keep an eye out next time you drop by.

Elephant Lane
And finally onto Brannigan’s on Cathedral Street. The pub is named after the (in)famous Garda Jim “Lugs” Branigan but has previously been known as “The Goalpost” and “The Thomas Moore”. When it was minting tokens back in the 1860’s it was run by James Kenny and was known as the General Post Office Tavern. It also wasn’t called Cathedral Street but at time was known elusively as Elephant Lane. One theory as to the street’s unusual name was offered by our generous host, publican Padraig McCormack who suggested that the Elephant that was accidentally killed in a fire just off Essex Street in 1681 had been housed in buildings on off the street which gave rise to it’s name.

Padraig was presented with of a framed farthing tavern from the old “General Post Office tavern” days that will hopefully find a home on the wall’s of Brannigan’s along with the extensive array of memorabilia they display.

First featured on in July 2018

The Lost Clubs – Jacob’s F.C.

The industrial revolution as experienced in the heartlands of Lancashire; in its mill and mining towns had for the most part bypassed Ireland apart from the area around Belfast in the north west. In Belfast the linen industry had thrived, shipbuilding was king and whiskey distillers prospered. It is not much of a surprise that in these growing towns, full of young men, now with a small amount of disposable income and a half day on a Saturday should see the early growth of football in Ireland and Britain. As football professionalised it was Lancashire clubs like Preston North End and Blackburn Rovers who were early pacesetters in the 1880’s. In Ireland in the 1880’s it was clubs around industrial Belfast the led the way, including the likes of Linfield formed in 1886 by workers at the Ulster Spinning Company’s Linfield Mill.

In a city where regular employment could be in pretty perilous supply, a steady, decent paying job in Dublin in the early decades of the 20th Century was a very valuable commodity. The city did not have the same industrial base as its northern neighbour and the city regularly suffered from high rates of unemployment and an over-reliance on unsteady casual labour such as unreliable work around Dublin Port.

Dublin was an administrative centre and from the late 19th century onward had a growing number of white collar workers, many operating in the civil service and the legal profession. What large scale industry did exist was often derisively referred to as a “beer and biscuits” economy based around the St. James’s Gate brewery and the Jacob’s biscuit factory. Such were the connections between the two firms that many female relatives of Guinness employees were found employment in Jacob’s.

I’ve written elsewhere about the football team that the brewery produced but this piece focuses on the Biscuitmen of Jacob’s Football Club. The Jacob’s factory began life in 1851 in Waterford before setting up base at Peter’s Row off Bishop Street (now occupied by part of the DIT campus) in Dublin soon afterwards. It was initially run by brothers William and Robert Jacob who were later joined in 1864 by William Frederick Bewley of Bewley’s Cafe who invested into the firm. The Bewley’s and the Jacob’s were just a number of prominent Quaker families who had established successful business in the city around this time.

When at its zenith Jacob’s had thousands of Irish men and women working at its factory in Dublin, and many more in it’s UK factories and warehouses. A workforce of this size meant that the company enjoyed many outlets for its workers, including social clubs, swimming pools and of course, football.

Such outlets were important as the life of a factory worker was a tough one, Jim Larkin himself described the conditions for the biscuit makers as ‘sending them from this earth 20 years before their time’. Indeed the factory workers went on strike on several occasions such as in 1909 (led by Rosie Hackett) and again in 1913 in support of the Lock-out workers. The factory was occupied by the rebels during the 1916 Rising under the command of Thomas MacDonagh and John MacBride, both of whom were executed in the weeks afterwards. Jacob’s also lost many men to the front during the First World War with 388 workers from the factory enlisting between 1914 and 1918, of this number 26 were killed and many more were wounded.

However, despite the upheaval of this time period this was when Jacob’s started to reach greater prominence as a football team. During and immediately after the First World War Jacob’s F.C. were playing in the Leinster Senior League. In the 1916-17 season they were runners-up in the IFA Junior Cup and just four years later they were part of the first Free State League season following the split from the Belfast-based IFA.

The club played their fixtures on the company sports grounds at Rutland Avenue in Crumlin and one of their local rivals, Olympia, were also part of that inaugural Free State League season. Olympia were based nearby, in the area around the Coombe and in the season before the formation of the Free State league they had had something of a run-in with Jacob’s in a Leinster Senior Cup game played in April 1920.

It is worth remembering that this game took place in the midst of the Irish War of Independence and apparently during the game the Olympia team, who included active IRA volunteers, taunted the Jacob’s team for the presence in their ranks of the number of former British soldiers.

The Jacob’s players invaded the opposing team’s dressing room at the end of the game and just weeks later the Leinster Football Association issued bans to three players involved in the fracas. A six month ban was issued to Jacob’s defender Stephen Boyne while his brother Edward got a three month ban. Olympia forward Michael Chadwick was also banned for six months. When not banging in goals for Olympia Chadwick was also the Vice – commander of the 6th Battalion of the Dublin Brigade of the IRA. In later life he would also campaign politically for Seán MacBride, son of John MacBride who had been part of the unit that had occupied the Jacob’s factory in 1916.

The Jacob’s team from that era were often known as the Red necks which was not due to a rural origin, but more down to the fact that many of the men literally had red necks from carrying heavy bags of biscuit flour over their shoulders. During the early years of the League of Ireland several Jacob’s players reached positions of prominence through football. Striker Patrick Smith was the second highest scorer in the inaugural league season and just a few years later Jacob’s were to have three players appearing for the League of Ireland XI that took on the Welsh League in the first even inter-league game since the split with the IFA. Representing the League for Jacob’s was Frank Collins in goal, Stephen Boyne in defence and Hugh James Harvey among the forward line. The League drew that 1924 encounter 3-3.

Stephen Boyne we already met above after he had stormed the Olympia dressing room. Frank Collins had returned to Jacob’s after a short sojourn in Scotland with Celtic, he won two caps for the Free State international team in two of their earliest internationals as well as being picked by the Northern selectors in 1922 and keeping goal for Northern Ireland on a single occasion.

As for Hugh James Harvey, he was better known as Jimmy Harvey and was born in Dublin in 1897. He had been a physical instructor in the British Army during World War I and had played for Shelbourne on his return to Dublin, featuring in the 1923 FAI Cup final where Shels had surprisingly lost to Belfast side Alton United, Harvey had the unlucky distiction of being the first player to ever miss a penalty in a FAI Cup final in that game. Harvey was useful in several positions across the forward line but found a new lease of life after his sporting career. During his time as a Jacob’s player records list him as a labourer. However, his father (also Hugh) was a “Variety artist” and the younger Hugh, decided to follow his father into show businesses. He excelled as a comedian as part of a comedy troupe known as the “Happy Gang” who performed in many theatres around Dublin and was also an accomplished singer, dancer and actor.

Jacob’s best league finish would be in the 1923-34 season when they came a respectable third but three consecutive last place finishes saw them fail to be re-elected to the league at the end of the 1931-32 season.

Despite dropping out of the league the Jacob’s team continued on as a football club at Leinster Senior League level, winning that league on four occasions from the early 1950’s to the late 1960’s. In the 1949-50 season the club also won the Intermediate Cup beating St. Patrick’s Athletic in the final just a year before Pat’s moved up a level and joined the League of Ireland. They also made regular trips to England to play matches in Aintree, against a team from the Liverpool Jacob’s factory.

The team continued in existence well into the 1960’s, though the factory’s move away from the city centre and out to Tallaght in the 1970’s probably meant a certain disconnection from their traditional area around the south inner city and Crumlin. There were occasional surprise results against sides in the FAI Cup but the glory days of the team were certainly in the early years of the League when the works teams of the city had such a huge presence in the early Free State League.

First published on the SSE Airtricity League website


It’s called the World Cup for a reason

The World Cup is only in its second day but already there has been plenty of comment from people identifying as journalists about the teams that aren’t even there. This is mainly because a tidy, if ineffectual Saudi Arabian team were well beaten by Russia which prompted several of the blue-ticked Twitterati to exclaim how unfair and unjust it was that the USA, the Netherlands, Italy or Chile were not at the World Cup but that Saudi Arabia were.

This was then broadened out by other users of the social media platform to mention teams like Morocco or Iran or Tunisia. Do you see a trend here?

First of all lets point out that this is in fact a WORLD CUP, not a Europe and South American cup with a couple of others we deem worthy thrown in Cup. The first World Cup in 1930 was an open invitation competition, most European nations didn’t even bother turning up. The English national team didn’t bother entering the tournament until 1950, when they qualified they were beaten by Spain and also 1-0 by the United States thanks to a goal scored by a Haitian student in a team captained by a Scottish journeyman. But then that’s the joy of the World Cup, the underdog beating the heavily-favoured, football aristocrat.

Egypt played in the 1934 World Cup, while the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) played in 1938 but representatives from Africa and Asia were rare. In 1966 every team in the African confederation boycotted qualifying for the World Cup because they were offered only half a place at the World Cup. Effectively one African side would have to play-off against the winners of the Asia/Oceania group for a place in England. This boycott meant that North Korea qualified and went on to famously beat Italy 1-0 and drew with Chile which saw them through to the Quarter-finals.

In that quarter final the North Koreans took a surprise 3-0 lead before being eventually overhauled by the personal brilliance of Eusébio who scored four of the Portugal’s five goals in a memorable comeback. Eusébio was of course born in Mozambique, (still a Portuguese colony in 1966), as were team captain Mário Coluna and central defender Vincente.

Things did gradually begin to change however, the FIFA President Stanley Rous ran for re-election in 1974 but was roundly defeated by João Havelange, mainly because Havelange has actively canvassed the support of the AFC and CAF with the promises of greater access to the World Cup tournament.

Whatever one says about Havelange and his debatable legacy, he did follow through on his promise and expanded the World Cup to 24 teams in 1982. With each nation having an equal vote Rous’s reluctance to campaign, coupled with his support for keeping apartheid South Africa as a member of FIFA (he famously said if “South Africa applies segregation in soccer, that is its own concern”) meant that his Eurocentric viewpoint was never going to see him elected to another term and practically guaranteed Havelange victory. Havelange was of course later succeeded by his protege Sepp Blatter, perhaps if Stanley Rous had taken the African and Asian confederations more seriously then FIFA wouldn’t have been defined by the hyper-commercial forces that Havelange and Blatter unleashed? It’s just a thought.

’82 saw steady progress for African sides, Cameroon were unlucky to be eliminated having not lost a game, while Algeria, despite impressive performances were also knocked out after the Disgrace of Gijón when Austria and West Germany conspired to play out a mutually beneficial 1-0 win for the Germans which saw both sides progress.

Subsequent tournaments saw further progress and African and Asian sides created several stand-out performances, in my own lifetime I can think of Cameroon in 1990, Nigeria in 1994, South Korea in 2002, Ghana in 2010 as campaigns from African and Asian sides with a special resonance. South Korea got as far as the semi-finals in 2002, which helps show that a regular high standard of competition can indeed help develop football performance of a nation and indeed a Continent.

Due to a number of factors, historic, colonial and industrial among them, European nations developed a football culture, and crucially professionalised and formalised the sport early, this gave them a certain advantage that subsequent generations of men like Rous fought to preserve.

If a World Cup is to be worthy of it’s name it should of course be about crowning the greatest national side on the planet but it should also be a way to celebrate and grow the game globally. That means competitive football for teams from all corners of the world. Representation is important, younger generations seeing their nation compete, even if and when they lose have something to aspire to. Ireland enjoyed a participation boom in football after Euro 88 and Italia 90 which helped embed the sport in areas which previously might have been a cold house for the Association game. It’s also worth noting that Ireland were dismissed and even derided as England’s “B” team by sections of the football media at both tournaments. No doubt if Twitter had existed users would have bemoaned our qualification for a World Cup ahead of the likes of France or Portugal?

And finally the true mark of a great team, one who deserves to lift the World Cup is that they win games, African and Asian teams who participate this year won their qualification matches, often going through arduous groups and play-offs to get to the World Cup. Saudi Arabia finished higher than Australia, who beat Honduras in a play-off to qualify. Honduras in turn finished higher than the USA in qualifying, though you won’t hear many US pundits mention that.

If people want to see Italy or the Netherlands at the World Cup that’s understandable, but those teams also need to, you know, win matches to get there.

My United States of first ever

Back in 2000 the then Enterprise Minister Mary Harney told a gathering of the American Bar Association that Ireland was “a lot closer to Boston than Berlin”. At the time that statement provoked plenty of debate and whatever your views its accuracy it held a certain truth in the very early days of the FAI. There was certainly a greater footballing closeness with the Americans than with our near neighbours in Britain. When the Football Association of Ireland formed out of the split from the Belfast-based IFA they entered a very inhospitable footballing climate. They were no longer part of the British Championship and their requests for fixtures with neighbouring Associations were rebuffed. Looking further afield international recognition came from FIFA in 1923 and the following summer the FAI sent an amateur international side to compete in the Paris Olympics in what was to be the nascent Association’s first foray into International football.

A victory over Bulgaria in the opening round, followed by a quarter final exit after extra time to the Dutch was a credible performance for a new and poorly funded side. But there was little on the horizon in terms of a home international. Here however enter the Americans; another side who had likewise been knocked out in the Olympic quarter finals would be heading Ireland’s way shortly after.

The USA had been knocked out by eventual winners Uruguay and had taken the opportunity to play a couple of friendly games before the long journey back across the Atlantic. After defeating Poland 3-2 in Warsaw on June 10th the Americans were swiftly on a boat to Cork and then by train to Dublin to play the Irish on June 14th 1924 in Dalymount Park.

It was a game of many firsts. It was a first home match for the FAI, indeed it was the first Irish international to be held in Dublin since 1913. It was one of the first football matches to feature the playing of Amhrán na bhFiann as the national anthem (an official decision had not been made on a post-Independence anthem and other songs such as Let Erin Remember had been used before), and it recorded the first hat-trick for the young Free State side as the Irish ran out 3-1 winners.

The side that had travelled to the Olympics had been all amateur but there were to be some changes ahead of the American game. St. James’s Gate’s Charlie Dowdall for one was unavailable. He had gone to visit relatives in England on his was back from Paris!

In goal Frank Collins joined the side. Collins has spent a season as a professional with Glasgow Celtic and had already been capped by the IFA but he was back working as a baker in Dublin in 1924 and playing for his employers Jacob’s in the League of Ireland. Another who was making a debut appearance was the hat-trick hero Ned Brooks of Bohemians, like Collins he had also been previously capped by the IFA.

The USA game was to be his only appearance for Ireland which means he has an enviable goals per game ratio. He started at centre-forward which meant that Paddy Duncan of St. James’s Gate was withdrawn into the midfield which seemed to have the desired affect against the Americans. The side in this first home international was captained by Brooks’ Bohemian team-mate Bertie Kerr.

Brooks ad
Ned Brooks featuring in an advertisement

Most of the USA players were active in the American Soccer League (ASL), an early professional soccer league based mainly around the states of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Many of the participating clubs would have found similarities with the likes of Jacobs and James’s Gate as they too were works teams. The side’s star player on the day was their goalkeeper, Jimmy Douglas who would have a relatively long international career with the USA, featuring for them in the semi-final of the inaugural World Cup in 1930 (see banner pic). A goal from James Rhody of Harrison F.C. and that fine performance for Douglas in goal was as good as it got for the USA on the day.

Pathé newsreel footage of the game can be seen here.

There was also an Irish connection with the USA party, their Association President Peter J. Peel was in Dalymount Park in 1924 and it was sure to have been a familiar sight. Peel had been born in Dublin and moved to Chicago as a young man. He was a sporting all-rounder, prominent in the fields of golf and tennis in his home city. Such was his devotion to football that he was convinced that it would outstrip baseball in the competition for American sporting affections within five years. Peel obviously had the Irish gift of the gab matched with an American sense of indefatigable optimism though with the continued growth of the MLS who is to say that the predictions of a Dubliner some 94 years ago may yet come to pass?


This article first appeared in the June 2018 match programme for the Republic of Ireland v USA international friendly match.

A Bohemian life – through the eyes of Mick Morgan

As a goalkeeper little is more important that being in the right place at the right time. No one wants to be all at sea, watching helplessly as a ball arches overhead and into the goal. The ball nestling accusingly in the back of the net, the criticisms of the crowd ringing in a ‘keeper’s ears, whether its his fault or not the keeper bears the brunt. However, when you’re in the right place at the right time, the slightest tip of a gloved finger sending the ball over the bar and away from danger the keeper becomes the hero, the last line of defence, the glory, fleetingly, is theirs.

At Bohemians we pride ourselves on being a bit different, the clue is in the name. In the reductive dictionary description a Bohemian (noun) is described as a “socially unconventional person”. Through this blog I’ve tried at times to demonstrate this unconventionality through the stories of some significant individuals from the past. And surely the most Bohemian, most unconventional of players is the goalkeeper? Jonathan Wilson in his wonderful examination of the goalkeeper’s lot named his book The Outsider, taking inspiration not only from the keeper’s role on the pitch but from the title of the Albert Camus’ novel. Camus grew up in North Africa, the son of a Spanish mother and a French father and was himself a useful goalkeeper.

Bohs have been lucky over the years to have been blessed with a great array of goalkeepers, recognised not only for their sporting talents but their big personalities. We have a truly impressive collection of great “Outsiders” dating back to the likes of Jack Hehir an Irish international whose Bohs career was interrupted after a mysterious summons for an “important appointment” to the War Office in 1915 through to the likes of Mick Smyth, Mick O’Brien (of crossbar destruction fame) Dermot O’Neill, Dave Henderson, one-season-wonder Ashley Bayes, Brian Murphy and on down to present day Shane Supple. And then of course there is Mick Morgan, a man, depending on how you look at it either in the right place at the right time or the wrong place at the wrong time.

For you see you can’t really tell the story of Mick Morgan, a Bohemian F.C. goalkeeper between 1930 and 1936 without also telling the story of Harry Cannon as Mick’s fortunes were so much intertwined with the peaks and troughs of perhaps Bohemians greatest ever goalkeeper, Captain Harry Cannon. That Morgan was a talented ‘keeper and spent six years at Bohemians yet managed to make only around 50 first team appearances due to the prominence of Cannon in the Bohemian goal tells its own story. However, it was due to Cannon’s success as an all-round sportsman and administrator that presented the opportunity for Morgan to make the bulk of those appearances, including a number of games against quality European opposition.

Cannon was an Irish Army officer who made his Bohemian debut in 1924 at the age of 27 and wouldn’t make his final appearance for Bohs until after his 40th birthday. During this time he was also capped twice by Ireland, against Italy in 1926 and in a 4-2 win against Belgium in 1928 when Cannon saved a penalty. At club level he would win four league titles and two FAI Cups for the Bohs.

Being the understudy to one of the most dominant and consistent goalkeepers in the league couldn’t have been an easy task, especially at what was then an amateur club. Several men filled this role in the more than a decade of Cannon’s dominance but one of the most talented and interesting is Mick “Boysie” Morgan who got the chance to make his mark for Bohemians due to the extra-Bohemian sporting activities of Captain Cannon.

The North Circular, the Lock-out and early sporting passions

Michael Morgan was born in November 1910 to Joseph and Mary Morgan at 35 Avondale Avenue just off the North Circular Road and only a short distance from Dalymount. Both of Michael’s parents were originally from County Meath. Joseph worked as a tram conductor and was one of those transport workers who suffered the deprivations of the 1913 Dublin Lock-out before passing away in December 1916 of tuberculosis at the age of just 33. Michael’s mother Mary was greatly affected by her husband’s early death and her son was sent to live with relatives in Dunboyne.

It was while living in Dunboyne that Michael first rose to sporting prominence, somewhat surprisingly as a Meath hurler. As a 14 year old he was part of the 1924 Dunboyne team that won the Meath Junior hurling title. Included among his hurling teammates was John Oxx Senior who would go on to find greater fame as a racehorse trainer.

Mick’s time as a hurler was short lived however, he had a passion for sports beyond Gaelic Games and fell foul of the infamous GAA Rule 27 which prohibited the playing or watching of “foreign games” like rugby, association football, cricket and hockey. By 1929 when Mick would have been 19 he was double jobbing as a hurler for Dunboyne while playing in goal for Leinster Senior League side Strandville F.C.

Strandville took their name from Strandville Avenue off Dublin’s North Strand and were a team of some prominence. For example Oscar Traynor who achieved fame and on-field success as a goalkeeper for Belfast Celtic had played for Strandville pre-1910. Traynor  became a prominent Republican during the War of Independence as a Brigadier in the Dublin Brigade of the IRA. He would later become a government Minister and was President of the FAI for almost thirty years until he passed away in 1977.

Morgan developed a sufficient profile for Strandville to be signed up by Bohemians, joining the club in March of 1930. According to his son, also Michae,l his signing for Bohs was somewhat fortuitous. As an ambitious young keeper, always eager to improve aspects of his game Mick Morgan used to go to the Connaught Street entrance mid-week to watch Bohemians train. He was there so often that one of the officials asked him what he was doing. Mick simply told them he wanted to watch and learn because he was a football player and that he already played in goal. On one of these mid-week visits Bohs were short a goalkeeper and the trainer asked Mick to fill in and he obviously impressed enough that he was asked if he wanted to join the club.

By this stage however, his GAA career was over. Displeased by the Associations attitude towards his playing soccer he focused his sole sporting attentions on the “garrison game”. Even years later Morgan refused to attend GAA matches and carried a certain resentment towards the organisation due to its attitude.

Morgan had joined Bohemians at a time of success, they were league Champions for the 1929-30 season and secure as first choice keeper was Captain Harry Cannon. Like his young understudy Cannon had also started out as a GAA man, being a talented Gaelic footballer and hurler, however, like Morgan that side of his sporting life came to an end when he joined Bohemians in 1924. Due to Cannon’s prominence Morgan was confined to appearances for the Bohemian “B” selection who competed in the Leinster Senior League and also appeared in competitions like the Metropolitan Cup. Bohs were victorious in that season’s Metropolitan Cup, beating Dolphin in the final 2-0 with Mick Morgan between the sticks.

Harry Cannon
Harry Cannon in action for Bohemian F.C.

Morgan was in good company in that side, featuring alongside the likes of Paddy Andrews (a future Irish international), Christy “Dicky” Giles (father of Irish football legend Johnny Giles), as well as veteran Ireland and Bohemians player Jack McCarthy. During the 1930-31 season the Bohs “B” side also finished runners-up in the Leinster Senior League division one with Mick Morgan as their regular keeper. This good form meant that in December 1930 he was given the chance to keep goal for the Bohs first XI in a league match against Dundalk. The reason this opportunity presented itself was the death of Harry Cannon’s father, Thomas, a carpenter, at the age of 64, a few days before the game. As a mark of respect to Cannon the flags were flown at half mast and the players wore black armbands.

Morgan performed well in this debut match as Bohs ran out 3-1 winners but it was to be his only appearance that season as Harry Cannon returned swiftly as the undisputed number one. Progress was also slow the following year despite Morgan continuing to impress for the Bohs “B” side who triumphed in the Leinster Senior League and in the Intermediate Cup during the 1931-32 season. However his first team appearances were limited to two games in the League of Ireland Shield, one of which ended in a heavy 5-0 defeat to Cork F.C.

How the Los Angeles Olympics sent Mick Morgan to France

There would however be something of a bonus for Mick Morgan towards the end of the year as he was chosen to be part of the travelling party that went to Paris for a series of friendly matches. By early 1932 Harry Cannon was well into his work in preparation for the Los Angeles Olympics taking place later that summer. Through his involvement with the Army Athletics Association and subsequently the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) he had demonstrated himself to be an able administrator. By the end of 1931 Cannon had found himself the Secretary of a Irish Olympic committee alongside Henry Brennan (Irish Amateur Swimming Association) as Treasurer and the infamous Eoin O’Duffy, Garda Commissioner, sports enthusiast, and future ally of Francisco Franco, as its President.

Cannon as secretary was heavily involved in the detailed preparation for the Los Angelus games and by June of 1932, as Tom Hunt has noted, Harry Cannon was “given an additional responsibility when he was appointed Chef de Mission of the Irish team. As such, he was effectively the team manager in Los Angeles and brought the experience of a still active competitive sportsman to the post for the only occasion in Irish Olympic history”. The Games were to go down in history as one of Ireland’s most successful with both Bob Tisdall (400 meter hurdles) and Dr. Pat O’Callaghan (Men’s hammer) winning gold on the same day, 1st August 1932.

These commitments prevented Cannon from travelling for the end of season tour to France in May of 1932 and gave Mick Morgan his opportunity to shine. Bohs took part in two scheduled games in France in what was an interesting time for football in that nation. The French league had up until that point been an amateur one but the upcoming 1932-33 season was to be professional with the 20 team league broken into two groups of ten with the winners of each group playing off in a final for the title. The ultimate winners would be Olympique Lillois who have since merged with another club to form Lille OSC that we know today.

In this context it is interesting that two of these newly professional clubs chose to play matches against Bohemians as preparation ahead of that first professional campaign. The two sides in question were Cercle Athlétique de Paris (CA Paris) and Club Français, both of whom used the Stade Buffalo in the suburb of Montrouge, Antony in Paris. The stadium got its somewhat unusual name due to the fact that an early incarnation of the ground had hosted the Wild West shows of Buffalo Bill Cody, and it would be here that Bohs would play both matches.

Both French sides had a certain pedigree, to even be accepted to the inaugural professional Ligue 1 season they had to demonstrate that they could sign at least eight professional players and had to have performed to a certain standard in the previous seasons.  CA Paris had been champions in the amateur era in the 1926-27 season while Club Français had been runners up in 1928-29 and also won the 1931 Coupe de France. Both clubs had players of international caliber as well . Lucien Laurent, the inside right for Club Français had appeared for France in the 1930 World Cup and had scored in their win over Mexico in that competition.  He had also gotten on the score-sheet when France played England a year later in Paris where the French emerged triumphant by a 5-2 scoreline. His club mate Robert Mercier scored twice in that game and would finish the inaugural professional season of Ligue 1 as its top scorer.

Lucien Laurent

Louis Finot of CA Paris also featured in that surprise, first-ever win over England in 1931. Such was the joy of the players in beating the English after six previous defeats that the French players asked to keep the English jerseys as souvenirs in one of the earliest examples of shirt-swapping in football history. Finot was also highly successful in other sporting fields as a champion sprinter.

The games against the two sides were scheduled back to back for a Sunday and Monday (15th & 16th May) to coincide with the public holiday around the feast day of Pentecost which gave the competition its name, the Tournois de Pentecôte . Mick Morgan, who had never been out of the country had to collect his passport on the 12th May, catch the ferry that same day and then travel by train and boat to Paris arriving with the team on the 14th, a day before the first game.

Michael Morgan’s passport, stamped on the day he arrived in France, 14 May 1932

While this may have been a maiden voyage beyond Irish shores for Mick it was not the first time a Bohs side had traveled abroad. In 1929 Bohemians had journeyed to Belgium to take part in the Aciéries d’Angleur tournament, which also featured Standard Liege and RFC Tilleur. Bohs won both games and the tournament as well as two other friendly matches during that tour and several of the side who took part would also be part of the travelling party to France such as Billy Dennis, Johnny McMahon and Jack McCarthy. In fact McCarthy had already been to Paris as part of the Irish football team that competed in the 1924 Olympics.

It was perhaps not surprising that Bohemians should be invited to tour, the late 20’s and early 30’s was a good period for Bohs results-wise and they may have had a certain prominence after their tour to Belgium in 1929 and other high profile games against English and Scottish sides.

Team photo from the trip to France with Mick Morgan in the centre

The opening game on Sunday 15th was against CA Paris and finished as a comfortable win for Bohemians. Irish internationals Fred Horlacher and Jimmy White scoring either side of a Parisian O.G. There was a clean sheet for Mick Morgan and the rest of the Bohemian XI that day.  The following day saw the game against Club Français which presented a tougher test.  They were led by player-coach Kaj Andrup, an interesting character, who as a player represented Danish side AB as well as Hamburg SV,  and as a coach would also enjoy spells with Amiens, FC Nancy and Strasbourg later in his career. He was still living in France when the Second World War broke out and despite being a Danish citizen quickly joined up with the French army, he was later captured by the Germans, imprisoned, escaped, and went on to continue his fight as part of the French Resistance.

From the match reports that survive it is not clear if Andrup played against Bohs but he would have been on the touchline to see his charges lose out 2-1. A Billy Dennis goal and a Johnny McMahon penalty making the difference on the day.  The team that day (likely the same XI as the earlier match) was Mick Morgan; King, Jack McCarthy; Paddy O’Kane, Johnny McMahon, Doherty; Plev Ellis, Billy Dennis, Ebbs, Fred Horlacher and Jimmy White. A crowd of 6,000 spectators watched the game which was played in poor conditions due to heavy downpours of rain. Despite the journalists bemoaning the impact of the weather on the quality of football the reports suggest it was still a fiercely contested game which was full of incident.

Two wins out of two and only a single goal conceded and victory in the Tournois de Pentecote proved to be a good return for Mick Morgan in his first trip outside the country. An even more impressive return when considered that both CA Paris and Club Français were professional clubs and founding members of the first professional season of Ligue 1. CA Paris would finish their group in 5th place in that debut season while Club Français would finish in the bottom three in their group and be relegated to the second tier despite the fact that centre-forward Robert Mercier finished as the league’s top scorer.

Bohemians must have made a favourable enough impression on the French footballing public as the following season, prominent amateur French side, Stade Français (not to be confused with Club Français) traveled to Dublin to take on Bohemians in another friendly match in which Mick Morgan also featured in goal as part of a 1-1 draw.

19330417 - Bohemian Stade Francais dinner at Metropole - large group
The Bohemian F.C. and Stade Français players and their partners in formal wear at a celebratory dinner in the Metropole Hotel after their 1-1 draw.

First team action and personal tragedy

That season (1932-33) was the most successful one in terms of appearances and personal achievements for Mick Morgan. Harry Cannon’s role in the organisation of Ireland’s participation in the Olympics meant that this dominated much of his time and gave an opportunity to his young understudy. The Los Angeles Olympics ran from July 30th to August 14th and also around the same time Captain Cannon was elected to the executive board of the Federation Internationale de Boxe Amateur (FIBA), the world governing body of amateur boxing.

While Cannon’s absence may have gifted Morgan his chance it was his ability that kept him in the team. Over the course of the season Morgan made 31 first team appearances, including starting in 14 out of 18 league games. Cannon, by contrast only made 10 appearances in total after his return from the Olympics. Such was the form of young Morgan that he was even selected to keep goal for the League of Ireland XI in a match against the Welsh League. The Irish Press lauded his selection after a series of “brilliant displays” in the league, they further commented that his “rise to fame is meteoric, as he got his place on the Bohemians team due to the absence of Capt. Cannon who was in Los Angeles when the season opened. Since then Morgan has maintained his place on sheer merit”.

Morgan played with “confidence and skill” and kept a clean sheet against the Welsh League as the League of Ireland notched up a 2-0 victory in Dalymount. Inter-league games were highly prestigious affairs at the time and shouldn’t be viewed as a mere friendly. At the time international matches were far less commonplace and the so-called “Home Nations” were still refusing to play an FAI selection after their split from the IFA. Inter-league matches offered Irish footballers and the sporting public the rare chance to compete against cross-channel opposition. Morgan’s form must have been impressive enough for him to be called up ahead of any other keepers in the league.

While there was inter-league action there was also inner-city action as Mick Morgan was chosen to represent Dublin’s Northside against the Southside in a fundraising match for the construction of Christ the King church in Cabra. Morgan was part of a side that contained other Bohemians players as well as representatives of Drumcondra and somewhat confusingly Bray Unknowns players against a selection from Shamrock Rovers, Shelbourne, Dolphin F.C. and St. James’s Gate. The southsiders would win that game one nil.

One game that did see a return to the side for Harry Cannon was a Shield game early in 1933. Much as the passing off Cannon’s father Thomas had given Morgan his first team opportunity so did the sudden passing of Mick’s mother Mary mean that Cannon was recalled to the Bohs side to face St. James’s Gate. Mary Morgan was only 51 when she passed away, she was described in the language at the time as a woman who “suffered from her nerves” and when her body was spotted floating in the Royal Canal on a cold January day it was presumed that she had taken her own life.

The coroner recorded a death by “asphixiation from immersion in the Royal Canal” on her death certificate. The family history tells that there was some salacious interest in her passing from journalists but such comment never made it to print partially due to the intervention of members of the Bohemian F.C. committee.

Harry’s return and Going Dutch

Despite Mick’s personal playing success and prominence over the course of the 1932-33 season Bohs finished a disappointing 9th out of 10 teams. With the veteran Harry Cannon back for the start of the following year Morgan’s contribution to the first team was greatly diminished. In all Mick Morgan would only make seven first team appearances, all in the Shield or in the Leinster Senior Cup while Cannon starred in the League as Bohs won their fourth title.

Bohemians ship to France
The Bohemian squad en route to the Netherlands

While not first choice for Bohs that season there was still the bonus of another end of season tour to the Continent and again Mick Morgan would be first choice. Perhaps this could be viewed as an early example of rotating keepers for European competition? In a later reminiscence in the Irish Independent Mick mentioned that Harry Cannon was “unable to travel” on the tour though the reason wasn’t mentioned.

The destination for this tour was the Netherlands, to compete in the Amsterdam International Tournament along with Go Ahead (now Go Ahead Eagles), Belgian side Cercle Bruges and Ajax. There are some tenuous connections between the sides; former Bohemians striker Dominic Foley ended up at Cercle Bruges in 2009 and helped them to a Belgian Cup final. With Ajax there was an early Bohs link, the first professional manager of Ajax in 1910 was Jack Kirwan an ex Irish international who had lined out for Everton and Tottenham Hotspur where he was part of the 1901 FA Cup winning side.

Kirwan took over an Ajax side in 1910 that were struggling in the 2nd tier of Dutch football but won the second division in his debut season which saw Ajax promoted to the top flight for the first time. It is even said that Kirwan was responsible for choosing the distinctive Ajax strip with its prominent central red stripe so as not to clash with the jersey of Sparta Rotterdam. With the outbreak of war on the horizon Kirwan returned to Dublin in 1914 and later became involved in coaching Bohemians before setting off again to coach Livorno in Italy in the 1920’s.

The trip to Holland wasn’t as successful as previous European outings to Belgium and France. The opening game against Go Ahead took place on 1st April 1934 and Bohs were made to look the fools, losing 6-2 against the side from Deventer. There was however a chance to improve the record the following day when Bohs faced Bruges. A comfortable 4-1 win in front of 13,000 fans in Amsterdam followed, with two goals from Billy Dennis and one each from Ray Rogers and Billy Jordan. In a somewhat unusual format, despite only having won one game each Ajax played Go Ahead in the tournament final with Ajax winning 2-0. Ajax never faced Bohemians in the tournament that they hosted.

Bohemians Netherlands
The Bohemians team on their tour to the Netherlands

There was one final match as part of Bohs tour, a friendly match in the Hague against a combined XI selected from the city’s clubs.  Bohs secured a 1-1 draw with Billy Dennis on the score-sheet for the third game in a row. This game was also a historic moment for Bohemians since it was the first game the club ever played under floodlights. In three games Bohs had a win, a loss and a draw and Mick Morgan had played 90 minutes in every game. That final match against the Hague XI had taken place on April 4th and most of the Bohs team would then have headed back to Dublin although Billy Jordan and Fred Horlacher remained behind on international duty.

The Netherlands had a World Cup qualifying fixture against Ireland in Amsterdam on the 8th of April and Jordan and Horlacher had been selected as part of the squad. Those with a more cynical view might suggest that the invitation to Bohemians was in fact a bit of a scouting exercise by the Dutch? Bohs were league champions and players like Paddy O’Kane, Paddy Andrews, Fred Horlacher and Billy Jordan were all present or future Irish internationals. Indeed Horlacher had featured for Ireland in 1932 against the Netherlands, a game which Ireland had won 2-0.

The Dutch FA certainly weren’t taking any chances this time around though, going so far as to ask the FAI for photos and fact-files on their main players under the premise of using this information for promotional material ahead of the game. The FAI duly obliged, with photos and details of Ireland’s star striker Paddy Moore appearing in Dutch newspapers ahead of the game. The Dutch had good reason to fear Moore, the Aberdeen player had scored four in the previous game, a 4-4 draw with Belgium and was seen as Ireland’s main attacking threat.

In the game against the Dutch Cork City’s Jim “Fox” Foley kept goal, he had just won the FAI Cup with Cork and was about to make a move to Celtic. Among the Bohs men in the squad Billy Jordan started the game but was injured in the first half and was replaced by his club-mate Horlacher just before half-time. This Bohemian for Bohemian swap meant that Horlacher made history by becoming the first substitute used by the FAI in an international match.

With the sides tied at 1-1 Paddy Moore scored a controversial goal just before the hour mark when he pushed the Dutch keeper Adri van Male over the goal line when he had the ball in his hands. This tactic of barging the keeper was not uncommon in Irish or British football at the time and was something that Mick Morgan and Harry Cannon would have encountered regularly but it was not something the amateur Dutch players had experienced before. The goal was awarded much to the dismay of the record crowd of almost 40,000 packed into the Olympic stadium in Amsterdam. Ireland were now 2-1 up with just over half an hour to play. A win would have sent them to their first ever World Cup.

Holland 1934
A record Dutch crowd at the 5-2 game in 1934. (source )

But it wasn’t to be. The controversial goal spurred the a talented Dutch side into action, they scored four unanswered goals in 23 minutes to claim a 5-2 victory and qualify for the 1934 World Cup. Ireland would just go home.

For Mick Morgan the trip to Holland would prove to be something of a final hurrah for him at Bohemians. The following season (1934-35) Harry Cannon remained firmly Bohemians’ number 1. Morgan’s only first team appearance was in a 3-2 defeat to Drumcondra in the now-defunct Dublin City Cup. Even at the “B” team level his place was under threat from other keepers like Bill Nolan and Austin Norton.

Later life and career

The following season saw Mick keeping goal for the Bohemian “C” team. Slightly later in 1936 he was also tending goal for the Hospitals’ Trust side in the Leinster Senior League and during their successful run to victory in the Metropolitan Cup in May 1936. Around this time he left Bohemians for good as a player and it seems there may have been slightly more to it than just the lack of first team action.

Mick’s son Michael says that around that time things were a bit tight financially for the family, and to help out Mick was gifted some money. Michael says that this was the result of a collection by some concerned team-mates or perhaps another explanation may have been some money paid by Hospitals’ Trust by way of an appearance fee. Somehow the Bohemian board got wind of this and cancelled Mick’s membership, perhaps seeing this as a breach of the club’s strict adherence to it’s amateur ethos? Either way it was a deeply disappointing way for Mick to end his time as a player with Bohemians.

There was a very brief return to League of Ireland action at the beginning of the 1936-37 season when he signed for Shelbourne, however Mick’s time with Shels was brief to say the least, he played a single game in the Shield as Shels lost 4-1 to Dundalk.

Mick had always previously played as an amateur prior to his spell with Shels, his day job was with CIE. As a fifteen year-old he had apprenticed as a tinsmith with CIE for a period of five years before eventually he ended up as an engineer at the works at the Broadstone depot. He also grew to be a prominent individual within the trade union movement where he became treasurer of the Irish Sheet Metal Workers Union. According to his grandson, yet another Michael, he felt uncomfortable being paid as a semi-professional at Shels and decided such a role wasn’t for him and quickly left the club. In August of 1936 he had also gotten married to Mary Flynn from East Wall and soon afterward Mick and Mary became parents, these changes in life and the greater responsibility due to his position in the union would have also placed greater demands on Mick’s time, perhaps to the detriment of his sporting career?

It wasn’t to be his last involvement with the sport however, he continued to appear for the Hospitals’ Trust in the late 1930’s before lining out for Jacob’s F.C. in the Leinster Senior League. There was a family connection, Mick’s in-laws had previously worked in the Jacob’s factory off Bishop Street and their works team were competing at a good standard. He continued to line out in goal for the Biscuitment until the early 1940’s and on one occasion at least was even selected to represent a Leinster Senior League XI.

Leinster XI 1940
Mick Morgan keeping goal for a Leinster Senior League XI in 1940

In later years Mick Morgan also ran the line at League of Ireland matches and was even linesman during some prestige friendly matches, such as the occasion in 1952 when a Bohemians XI took on Glasgow Celtic in Dalymount Park. When asked by his son what was favourite memory from his time in football, he recalled not his trips to France or the Netherlands but rather the occasion when he saved a penalty taken by Shamrock Rovers defender and Irish international William “Sacky” Glen. That precious type of moment when the ‘keeper stands apart from others and can bask in rare glory.

In his personal life Mick and Mary moved to Drimnagh shortly after their wedding (perhaps another reason for representing Jacob’s?) but couldn’t settle in the newly built, south-side suburb, and then moved back to the northside settling in St. Eithne Road in Cabra, staying in close proximity to Mick’s beloved Dalymount. Whatever the nature of his departure, from the club he had remained good friends with several of his former Bohs team-mates, especially the likes of Billy Dennis and Plev Ellis with whom he had surely whiled away hours of boredom on those boat crossings to the Continent. Mick maintained a keen interest in football generally and Bohemians in particular, he regularly attended matches in Dalymount (standing on the Connaught Street side where he had watched Bohs train as an aspiring  goalkeeper) and introduced his grandson Michael to the club as a boy. The younger Michael followed in his grandfather’s footsteps lining out as a goalkeeper for the likes of Home Farm and Tolka Rovers, he also remains a Bohs supporter to this day and was the source for much of the information and excellent photos in this article.

Mick Morgan passed away suddenly in 1979 aged just 69. In a relatively short life he had seen and achieved a great deal. His life was buffeted by the ebbs and flows of wider social change, as a young child his family had been directly affected by the deprivations caused by the 1913 lock-out, had this perhaps informed Mick’s later career for the state-owned CIE and his own activism as a trade union official?

He had encountered first-hand the sporting exclusion of the GAA “ban” as a teenage hurler in the early years of the State, an experience which soured him towards Gaelic Games but perhaps ensured his focus remained on football. It was through football that he had opportunities to travel that were not afforded to many young men of his generation, to play in France and the Netherlands with and against players of international calibre in front of tens of thousands. Even under floodlights decades before the Dalymount pylons would help define the Dublin skyline. Though in all he made barely fifty first team appearances for Bohemians it is through this small sporting prism that we can view a life lived during decades of upheaval in a period that straddles the foundation of the State, exposing the issues of nationalism, worker’s rights and the day to day challenges that ordinary people faced when times were tough and life was too often cut short.

Mick’s story is one that opens a window into the life of an ordinary man in the Dublin of the 20’s and 30’s but one who had little bit more of a Bohemian, unconventional life.

With special thanks to Michael Kielty and his family for sharing their stories, photos and memories of Mick Morgan and as is often the case to Bohemian F.C. historian Stephen Burke.

Playing football with a battleship

In February 1937 Seán Lester, the noted Irish diplomat became Deputy Secretary of the League of Nations, a forerunner organisation to the modern-day United Nations. As a result of his promotion he left his role as High Commissioner in the Free City of Danzig (modern day Gdansk in Poland) and moved to the Swiss city of Geneva where the League’s headquarters were based.

His time living in Danzig had been fraught, he had witnessed first hand the rise of Nazi Germany and clearly understood the threat it could pose to the independent port city of Danzig and to wider Europe in general. When speaking about his biography of Lester, his son in law Douglas Gageby described him as “the first western diplomat to receive the full force of Hitler’s hatred” due to his opposition to the Nazi regime. Lester spent the remainder of his time before and during the War trying to stop the League of Nations falling under the the control of the Axis powers. The efforts of this brave Irishman seem to have gone virtually unnoticed by Irish football’s governing body (and many others) however, just months before the outbreak of War the Irish national team played the German national side (which now included players from post-Anschluss Austria) in Bremen and performed a Nazi salute prior to the game in an infamous moment in Irish sport.

Perhaps less well-known is another game that took place in Dublin just two months after Lester’s departure from Gdansk. It was a match between Bohemian F.C. and the crew of the German battleship, Schleswig-Holstein. This was this same battleship that in September 1939 sailed to Gdansk under the pretext of a diplomatic engagement before firing the first shots of the Second World War, attacking the city that Lester had known so well, as German marines over-ran the once Free port city.

This is a brief account of the visit of the Battleship Schleswig-Holstein (pictured above) to the port of Dun Laoghaire in April 1937 and the huge popular reception they received from the Irish people. Among the film-screenings, dinners, tours and parties that were undertaken to welcome the ship to Dublin there was even time for that game of football.

The battleship itself was launched in 1906 as an early part of Kaiser
Wilhelm II’s plan to develop and modernise the German navy and make the nation a  world naval power. By the time of the ships’ completion the German navy had already seen further technological development as they had begun the roll out of the German dreadnought class of even larger battleships. However the Schleswig-Holstein still saw action during World War I, taking part in the Battle of Jutland where it was damaged and had three of its men killed after being struck by a British shell.

After the First World War the Schleswig-Holstein was one of the ships that the German navy sought to retain under the terms of their disarmament agreements and when Hitler came to power and began to redevelop the German military machine the Holstein became a training vessel for the many new German cadets recruited for a growing Navy. As part of one of these training missions the ship went on a seven month voyage into the Caribbean and south Atlantic calling at ports in Brazil, Venezuela, Costa Rica and Bermuda among others. Their stop at Dun Laoghaire was their first stop-off back in Europe before their return to the naval base at Wilhelmshaven. On board were 31 officers and 785 petty officers and crew which included over 170 naval cadets.

The Schleswig-Holstein arrived into Dun Laoghaire on the 9th April 1937. Due to heavy fog the ship was two hours late in arriving but was still greeted by a 21 gun salute from an artillery battery near Dun Laoghaire’s East Pier. The battleship returned the salute by blazing its cannon in reply and soon after hoisted the Irish tricolour from its mast-head where it fluttered next to the German standard emblazoned with the Nazi swastika at its centre. Several hundred people were gathered at the harbour to see the ship berth, including a sizable contingent from the German legation in Ireland, there to welcome their fellow countrymen. Among them was Erich Schroetter, the head German diplomat in Ireland. Schroetter later fell foul of the influential Dublin-based, Nazi Adolf Mahr and would be replaced within months of the ship’s visit by Eduard Hempel. Mahr, as well as being the Director of the National Museum of Ireland was also head of the Nazi party in Ireland. He was represented on Dun Laoghaire pier that day by his Dutch wife Maria.

This welcoming party was only the first in a cavalcade of social engagements for the ship’s officers and crew. On the afternoon of their landing a deputation from the Schleswig-Holstein, along with members of the German legation visited with the Irish Army Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Michael Brennan and the Minister for Defence, Frank Aiken in Army Headquarters before stopping off at the Mansion House to drop in on the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Alfie Byrne. The Lord Mayor would pay a return visit to see the German battleship in Dun Laoghaire before the end of their stay and even Taoiseach Eamon De Valera took time out on the Saturday after the battleship’s arrival to meet it’s Captain Günther Krause along with the aforementioned Erich Schroetter.

During their brief stay the crew were not left short for entertainment. While members of the Dublin public were allowed to take tours around the battleship the German sailors quickly became a common sight in both Dun Laoghaire and Dublin City Centre. During the week of their visit they were invited to the Pavillion Theatre in Dun Laoghaire for a special showing of a German film production of the popular opera The Gipsy Princess. Afterwards there was a screening of an Irish tourism short, painfully entitled Top of the Morning. They visited Portobello Barracks (now Cathal Brugha Barracks) where they were introduced to the Irish Army’s own German officer, Friedrich Wilhelm “Fritz” Brase. “Fritz” was the head of music for the Irish Defence Forces and had also briefly been Chairman of the Nazi party in Ireland until advised to step down by his Irish military superiors, at which point he was replaced by Mahr.

Apart from their musical engagements there were excursions arranged for crew members to Dublin’s most prominent tourist attractions, many would still be on most tourists’ itinerary today, namely, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Trinity College and the Guinness brewery.

Other excursions meant travelling slightly further from the city which allowed Adolf Mahr to indulge his passion for ancient Irish history. He lectured the visiting Germans on monastic Ireland at Glendalough and also provided guided tours to Newgrange and the historic ruins of Monasterboice. Several of the ship’s compliment even climbed the 168 steps up the column of that British naval hero Horatio Nelson to get a better view of O’Connell Street from the top of the pillar.

Somehow among this myriad of social engagements, tours, parties and public concerts by the ship’s band, a selection of the crew also got to squeeze in a football match against Bohemian F.C. in Dalymount Park. There was a good sized crowd in the ground for a Tuesday afternoon as Bohs fielded a fairly strong side against the visiting Germans. Some 120 of the German officers and sailors attended the game among thousands more local spectators. When one considers that contemporary reports stated that over 10,000 locals visited the battleship at berth in Dun Laoghaire it is no exaggeration to say that perhaps more than 20,000 Dubliners must have been to see the German’s either aboard ship or at another event such as the football match during the six days of their visit.

Despite the fact that Bohemians had a league fixture against Shamrock Rovers the following day they named a competitive side including some veterans and “B” team players. Among the starting XI were Irish internationals like Harry Cannon (who was a Captain in the Irish Army and who would work through “The Emergency”), Kevin O’Flanagan and Fred Horlacher (himself the Irish-born son of German immigrants).  Despite the pedigree of the Bohs side the German XI put on a good display and only lost by the odd goal in three. Their goal was scored by their midfielder Bischaf while a Barry Hooper goal and a header from Kevin O’Flanagan had given Bohs the victory. The match had been refereed by Johnny McMahon, a former Bohemian player and a member of An Garda Siochána.

After the game the Germans put on a display of “field ball” which by photographs and reports seems like an 11-a-side version of Olympic handball played with a full sized football. It was reported to be a sport favoured by the German armed forces as a way of keeping fit and developing muscle mass.

German sailors photo
Image and caption from The Irish Times

The teams on the day were as follows: Bohemian F.C. – Capt. Harry Cannon, Kevin Kerr, Jack McCarthy, Barry Hooper, Ivor Hooper, Fred Horlacher, Kevin O’Flanagan, Billy Dennis, Paddy Ennis, Tommy Fitzpatrick, Joe Mullen

Schleswig-Holstein XI: Haas, Gobel, Grosser, Bischaf, Lux, Kaiser, Nowack, Hinneberg, Brix, Gronert, Bucker

Four of that side (Kerr, Barry Hooper, O’Flanagan and Horlacher) would play against Rovers the following day and, perhaps not unexpectedly given the circumstances, lost 3-0.

The Germans left for their home port of Wilhemshaven on the Thursday after the game. Large crowds gathered to see off the German battleship from port and  “Deutschland uber alles” was played followed by the Irish national anthem, which were both greeted by cheers from the quayside. The previous afternoon Captain Krause had entertained several guests at a farewell lunch aboard ship. Along with members of the German legation in Ireland were Free State Government Ministers, Frank Aiken and Seán Murphy. The coverage of the battleship’s visit was overwhelmingly positive. Captain Krause praised the hospitality of the Irish and he and his crew seem to have been viewed as minor celebrities during their week in Dublin.

Captain Krause upon returning to Germany was replaced in command of the Schleswig Holstein by Captain Gustav Kleikamp, and Krause was soon rising up the naval command chain. Krause had always seem blessed with his timing, he had been a U-boat commander during the First World War and had twice been awarded the Iron Cross. During his period in command of the submarine UB-41 in 1917 he had sunk eight enemy ships but less than a month after his transfer the submarine was sunk by a mine with the loss of all hands. The Captain who had so charmed the Dublin public would end the Second World War as a Vice Admiral in the Kriegsmarine and survived the War unscathed, living to the grand old age of 93. He was well departed from the Schleswig-Holstein by the time its crew had to scuttle it in the waters of the Baltic sea in 1945 in order to stop it from falling into the hands of the advancing Soviet Armies.

This couldn’t save the ship from its ultimate ignominious fate however. Once a flagship of the German Navy, the Schleswig-Holstein that so impressed the crowds who had gathered to see her in Dun Laoghaire was raised by the Soviet Navy in 1946 and spent the next two decades off the coast of Estonia being used for Soviet target practice. What became of the eleven sailors who played a match in Dalymount, or their colleagues who climbed Nelson’s pillar to gain a bird’s eye view of Dublin we don’t yet know.

During their Dublin visit criticism of the sailors or of the violently repressive Nazi regime and military that they represented was non-existent in the press reports of the major papers. This is interesting to note as on the same pages that gave over considerable column inches to photos and articles about the German sailors there were also articles detailing the escalating tensions between Nazi Germany and other nations including the United States and the Vatican. The Irish people could not realistically claim complete ignorance of such matters. But such issues do not seem to have bothered the general public who flocked to see what by naval standards was already an old and somewhat obsolete battleship, or the newspapers (particularly The Irish Times and Irish Press) who lavished coverage on the German visitors.

Perhaps the only nod to any controversy or discomfort surrounding the emergence of the Nazi state was when one columnist in The Irish Times noted that whatever-

“views the citizens of Saorstát Eireann may have upon the political philosophy of contemporary Germany – and we do not think that there is much doubt on that score- they demonstrated in the clearest possible way that politics are not permitted to interfere with the cordial – even enthusiastic – reception of our German guests.”

The only other qualm that seems to be expressed in relation to the German visit was that O’Connell Street was a trifle too dirty and that the visiting sailors may have been unimpressed with the levels of litter in Dublin City Centre.

By the close of August 1939, just two years after her Dublin visit, the Schleswig-Holstein sailed to Danzig under the pretext of a courtesy visit, but this one was very unlike the one she had enjoyed at Dun Laoghaire. On September 1st at 4.45am she began to shell the Polish garrison at Westerplatte with its 15cm cannon from near point-blank range as the shock troops hidden in her hold spilled forth to attack the Polish garrison.  World War II had begun.

As often is the case, thanks again must go to Bohemian F.C. historian Stephen Burke for his assistance in identification of several players involved for Bohs on the day of the match. For more on Adolf Mahr it’s worth checking out Gerry Mullins’ biography of him entitled “Dublin Nazi Number 1”.

The Lost Clubs – St. James’s Gate

A city can often be known simply by an architectural or geographic feature but it’s not often that a city is known for its smell. However, on certain days, depending on how the wind is blowing there is an aroma that is quintessentially Dublin as the rich, sweet smell of roasting hops wafts down the Liffey in testament to the presence of Europe’s largest brewery, St. James’s Gate. The Gate is home to Guinness, the product, for better or worse, that is most associated with Ireland.

The brewery is situated on an early monastic site and those monks used the fresh water resources of the district for their own brewing, perhaps as far back as the 13th Century. The name of the brewery references it’s history as a site for pilgrim voyages back as far as medieval times when devout Dubliners would set off in pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain to venerate the relics of St. James. When the Guinness family signed the famous 9,000 year lease on the brewery site in the 18th Century they quickly grew from being just one of a number of breweries in the city to becoming one of the country’s largest industries. In the years after independence the economy of Dublin was often derogatorily referred to as one of “beer and biscuits” as Guinness and Jacobs were among the dominant large manufacturers in an economically deprived city.

Unsurprisingly both of these large employers followed a trend common with many large manufacturers in Britain and formed sporting and social clubs for their staff. Guinness had long had a reputation as a “good employer” and offered a rare example a decent,  well-paid and steady work in a city where such employment was a scarce commodity. The Guinness family had generally demonstrated a strong paternalism towards their staff as well as to the wider city in terms of the construction of public baths, social housing and the donation of St. Stephen’s Green park as a gift to the city. Such paternalism and munificence motivated the establishment of the St. James’s Gate Football Club in 1902.

A fair share of the credit for these developments must rest with Dr. John Lumsden, chief medical officer with Guinness at this time and a tireless campaigner who made countless improvements to the lives and health of Guinness workers and their families. Born in Drogheda, the son of a Scottish banker, Lumsden was a man of many passions and talents. As a medical doctor as well as his work with Guinness he was a physician at Mercer’s Hospital, he was a hugely active member of the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade, tending to the injured on all sides during the 1916 Rising, and can also lay claim to involvement in the foundation of the Irish Red Cross and what would eventually become the Irish Blood Transfusion Service.

As the medical officer he visited over 1,700 homes of Guinness workers to assess the quality of their accommodation, he set up cookery classes to ensure families of employees knew how to cook nutritious meals, he successfully lobbied to have public baths included in the Iveagh Trust housing developments and he also clearly saw the benefit of sports and exercise to the Guinness workforce. He also had a keen personal interest in sport and helped establish one of Dublin’s first golf clubs.

The St. James’s Gate football club was just one of several works teams that emerged in Ireland around this period, others such as Dundalk, Linfield, or Jacob’s had similar beginnings in other industries (railways, linen and biscuits respectively), but the Gate also had something in common with a continental European model of a wider multi-sports club. As well as playing football the Guinness employees pursued athletics and cycling and later tennis, cricket and rugby. They had access to gymnasiums and swimming baths, and eventually had their own designated sports complex at the Iveagh grounds. All of which gave them an advantage over many other clubs.

Dr. Lumsden who was instrumental in the creation of St. James’s Gate F.C. in 1902 also played an important role in finding the club a permanent home. In their first decades they played their home matches in Inchicore and later in Dolphin’s Barn but by 1928 Lumsden and the club members had secured the purchase and development of the Iveagh Sports Grounds in Crumlin. These were bought, developed and donated to the Guinness Athletic Union by their patron Edmund Guinness, the 1st Earl of Iveagh after whom the grounds are named.

Those early decades were the most successful for the football club, in the 1919-20 season the Gate won both the Leinster Senior Cup and also the Irish Intermediate Cup against Dunmurray. Recreation F.C. Given this success it was no surprise that St. James’s Gate were one of the of the sides who formed the inaugural season of the Free State League of Ireland after the split from the IFA in 1921.

That debut league season was an all-Dublin affair and featured only eight teams in total. While Shelbourne and Bohemians may have been the bigger names, having previously been Irish Cup winners and regular competitors in the earlier, Irish League it was to be a season dominated by the men from the Gate. Not only did they win the title but they added the FAI Cup and Leinster Senior Cup for good measure.

It was a turbulent time in Irish society,, the Gate’s FAI Cup final win against Shamrock Rovers took place just months before the outbreak of the Civil War and the game was marred by a pitch invasion from irate Rovers fans and a standoff in the Dalymount dressing rooms between the Gate’s Charlie Dowdall and Shamrock Rovers’ Bob Fullam. This was only ended when Dowdall’s brother John pulling a gun and Fullam and Co. sensibly backed off.

Several of that successful James’s Gate side would go on to represent Ireland at the Paris Olympics in 1924, among them Charlie Dowdall and team-mates like Ernie McKay and Paddy “Dirty” Duncan. It was Duncan who would get the first goal in an international competition for the Irish Free State, grabbing the only score in a 1-0 victory over Bulgaria in the sparsely populated Stade Olympique de Colombes.

Ultimately there would be five St. James’s Gate players in that Olympic squad. The Olympics at the time was an amateur competition in keeping with a certain Corinthian spirit of the time. The James’s Gate players were nominally amateurs but even by the time of the Cup final they were not necessarily all Guinness employees. There was a quota of a maximum four non-Guinness players allowed play for the club.

Among those not employed by Guinness included Ernie McKay, the son of a Scottish soldier, Ernie worked for at the GPO for decades while also remaining involved with James’s Gate as a player and administrator well into the 1940’s. His team-mate at inside-left, Charlie Dowdall who had worked for Guinness briefly but spent most of his career working at the Inchicore railway works.

The Olympics of 1924 wasn’t the only time that James’s Gate players would pull on the green of Ireland either. Joe O’Reilly, one of Ireland’s most prominent inter-war internationals and team captain on numerous occasions finished his league and international career while a Gate player. Alf Rigby, a centre-forward who twice finished top scorer in the League of Ireland won his three international caps while a St. James’s Gate player though he failed to find the net.

One player who didn’t have that problem was Paddy Bradshaw. Top scorer in the 1939-40 season as St. James’s Gate clinched their second ever league title Bradshaw had a somewhat unusual route to football stardom. A dock worker for much of his life he played at Leinster Senior League level until he was 26 before making an immediate impact upon signing for the Gate in 1938. He would win five international caps, scoring four goals. His first came only 20 seconds into his debut game against Switzerland in a match that ended as a 4-0 victory for Ireland. He grabbed a second in that game as well as scoring against both Hungary and Germany. The outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 brought a premature end to his brief but successful international career.

That short era of the late 1930’s was a period of triumph for the Gate as they won not only the title in 1939-40 but also the FAI Cup in the 1937-38 season, defeating Dundalk 2-1 in front of a crowd of 30,000 in Dalymount Park. A penalty scored by Irish international Peadar Gaskins proving to be the decisive goal.

While players like Bradshaw were coming to the fore in this era perhaps the most famous player to play for the club also got to make his fleeting impression as a Gate player around this time. Despite a first team career at the Iveagh Grounds that last just a matter of months St. James’s Gate have every right to be incredibly proud of the achievements of Johnny Carey. The young Dubliner debuted for the Gate aged just 17 in the 1936-37 season and quickly began to turn heads. He was spotted playing for the Gate in a match against Bohemians by Billy Behan, a one time Manchester United goalkeeper who now acted as a scout for the club in Dublin. With him at that game was Louis Rocca, United’s chief scout who had come to run the rule over Bohs’ forward Benny Gaughran. Rocca was disappointed to learn that Gaughran had already agreed to join Celtic but Behan convinced him that the teenage Carey was worth a closer look.

Ultimately Carey was signed by United for a fee of £250, a reported record for a League of Ireland footballer. By the age of 18 he was starting at inside-left for Manchester United and helping them win promotion from the Second Division. When he left United 16 years later he had captained them to victory to both the FA Cup and a League title while  becoming the first Irish player to be named Football Writers Player of the Year. He’d also won 29 caps for Ireland and captained a European XI in a challenge match against a combined Great Britain side.

Despite recruiting top quality players in the late 30’s and enjoying success in both the league and cup within a couple of years of these triumphs St. James’s Gate would be bottom of the league. That misfortune came to pass in the 1943-44 season and the club were not re-elected to the league for the following season; their spot being taken by another Dublin club, Brideville who had moved between the Leinster Senior League and the League of Ireland on a number of occasions. This, however, wasn’t quite the last experience the Gate had at League of Ireland level.

Forty-six years after failing to be re-elected St. James’s Gate returned to the League of Ireland, rejoining as a First Division side in 1990. During their second spell in the League they never finished higher than 5th in the First Division and even finished bottom on two occasions. The club withdrew from the League before the beginning of the 1996-97 season with their place (albeit briefly) being allotted to St. Francis.

St. James’s Gate continue to this day as a football club, playing in the Leinster Senior League, perhaps one of their most famous recent players was Irish international Katie Taylor who achieved greater international fame in the boxing ring rather than on the football field.

In 2017 St. James’s Gate F.C. celebrated their 115th anniversary, that same year the sale of the Iveagh Sports Grounds to Trinity College Dublin was agreed. As a result the grounds will now be home to the various sports teams associated with the College though it is likely that the Gate will continue to play there for future seasons. As  Guinness advertisements regularly note, they are only a short time into the 9,000 year lease on the St. James’s Gate brewery site, you’d hope that the famous football club had plans for similar longevity.

This article originally featured for the SSE Airtricity League website