End of Season Mix

“I can’t remember the last league side that has won the championship that haven’t had a centre-forward notching 16, 17, 18 goals, the likes of a Twigg or Jason Byrne”, said Tony McDonnell. The RTE pundit was speaking after St. Patrick’s Athletic sealed the League of Ireland title with a 2-0 victory over Sligo Rovers.

Well, the top scorer of the previous two title winners, Danny North and Gary Twigg, scored 15 goals, but let’s really look at the point Tony is trying to make and say less than 10 goals. Anto Flood would have fallen into this category if not for a speculative effort against Derry the following week which meant that Flood finished the season with a total of 10 goals while Conan Byrne and Chris Forrester had 9.

How many top flight champions have there been where nobody in their squad reached double figures? Not many; in fact, only two in the modern era. Shelbourne striker Stephen Geoghegan (pictured) scored 9 in 2001/02 as did Dundalk’s Stephen Kelly in 1994/95. The Lilywhites are the lowest scoring Premier Division champions with just 41 goals and their next highest scorer was a defender, Mick Doohan on 5.

Dave Wigginton for Cork Hibernians (1970/71), Johnny Kingston for Drumcondra (1964/65), Jimmy Hasty for Dundalk (1962/63) and John C. Lawlor for Drumcondra (1948/49) all scored nine in their title winning sides and the all-time lowest scorers were Noel Mitten of Bohemians (1974/75) and Mick McCluskey of Shelbourne (1943/44) with eight.

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Stoke City goalkeeper Asmir Begovic scored a goal from his own penalty area a couple of weeks ago, something that has happened in Ireland on several occasions. Finn Harps captain John Young scored in a 3-2 defeat to Waterford in atrocious conditions at Kilcohan Park on 21 December 1969. Alec Ludzic was man of the match as he scored from a kick out in Cork Alberts’ 3-1 win over Dundalk at Oriel Park on 9 October 1977.

Sligo Rovers keeper Colin Oakley found the net after just six minutes played in a 2-1 defeat to Home Farm at Tolka Park on 15 April 1984. In a League Cup tie on 14 August 1988, it required a bizarre goal by Dave Henderson to break Home Farm’s resistance in a 3-0 victory for St. Pat’s.

Shelbourne had the last laugh in a comedy of errors at Gortakeegan on 3 October 1993. Jody Byrne’s wind-assisted clearance put the visitors four up after 32 minutes but Monaghan pulled all four goals back by the 73rd minute only to fall behind again and lose the game 5-4. A freak goal from Limerick’s Eddie Hickey helped his side to a 2-1 win over Galway United at Terryland Park on 26 October 1996.

The twenty-two year old lofted a long kick-out in the fourth minute and the wind took it all the way into the Galway box where it bounced over the poorly positioned opposing goalkeeper, Eddie van Boxtel, for a freak opening goal. Finally, in another First Division game on 22 February 2002, Dublin City recorded a 2-1 victory over Athlone Town at St. Mel’s Park but the incident that would have football fans talking for many years to come was when Gary Connaughton (pictured) put Athlone in front.

Connaughton’s goal kick sailed over the head of his Vikings counterpart and into the net, thanks to a little help from the gale force winds that blew throughout the game.

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Drogheda United were beaten 3-2 by Sligo Rovers in an exhilarating FAI Cup final at the Aviva Stadium to complete a miserable hat-trick for the Louth club. Drogheda also lost in the Setanta Cup final and League Cup final to Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght but perhaps the unluckiest team ever was Drumcondra in 1957/58.

Drumcondra lost FOUR cup finals that season – the Dublin City Cup, Leinster Senior Cup, President’s Cup and Top Four Cup – and all of them to Shamrock Rovers. The four finals were held at Dalymount Park although the Leinster Senior Cup final replay took place at Tolka Park. The President’s Cup final also needed a replay and extra time to separate the sides.

Rovers and Drumcondra met nine times in that campaign, the Hoops remaining unbeaten throughout, but it wasn’t all bad for Drums as they pipped their great rivals to the league title.

Three other clubs since then have experienced treble heartbreak starting with Rovers (Dublin City Cup, Top Four Cup and Blaxnit Cup) in 1968/69. Waterford were Shield, Dublin City Cup and Munster Senior Cup runners-up in 1969/70 and Rovers lost three finals in 1978/79, in the League Cup, President’s Cup and Leinster Senior Cup.

Shelbourne know what it’s like to contribute so much to a season and get so little back as they failed on the final day in each of the three major trophies in 1997/98. They finished just a point behind St. Pat’s in the Premier Division, lost over two legs to Sligo Rovers in the League Cup final and went down 1-0 to Cork City in the FAI Cup final replay at Dalymount Park.

Damien Richardson’s side had been beaten by Bohs in the President’s Cup at the start of the season too. By the way, Drogheda defender Derek Prendergast is the only player in history to be sent off in a FAI Cup and League Cup final.

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Owen Heary made his last competitive appearance in League of Ireland football in Bohemians’ 1-0 defeat to Drogheda when he replaced Ryan McEvoy with ten minutes left at Hunky Dorys Park. The veteran defender made his debut in a First Division game on 21 November 1993, as the Irish Times reported:

“Kilkenny threw away two points as they dominated Bray Wanderers at the Carlisle Grounds, missing a penalty and then giving away a last minute equaliser. Paul Ennis hit a post with a 41st minute spot kick after he had been taken down by Gavin Teehan. Jimmy Donnelly then also hit a post on 61 minutes before Kilkenny’s superiority transferred itself to a goal in the 77th minute. Ennis redeemed himself somewhat when providing the pass for John Kelly to scramble the ball home, injuring himself in the process. But Bray stole a point with another scrappy goal from Conor Best a minute from the end. Kilkenny goalkeeper Declan Campbell could only parry Brian Honan’s shot and Best was on hand to finish”.

Heary came on for the Black Cats goalscorer John Kelly in the 82nd minute and went on to make over 500 league appearances in a phenomenal twenty year career. Heary’s Tribute Match will be held at Dalymount Park tonight as the Shels European team of 2004 take on the Bohs title winning side of 2009, managed by Pat Fenlon.

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