Abandoned!

The Headlines

An article I wrote for Hoops Scene in October 2015.

It’s extremely rare, especially since the move to summer football, that a Rovers game is abandoned. But it does happen, and Hoops Scene has some strange tales for you.

Shamrock Rovers v Bohemians at Milltown 28/02/1937.
After about 12 minutes play the high wind and heavy snowfall caused this Dublin Derby to be abandoned. The pitch was quickly covered and with the lines almost obliterated, the referee consulted the captains and assistant officials before making his decision. Bohs were winning 1-0; the re-fixed game was played on 14th April when the Hoops won 3-0. It was one of only four seasons that neither club occupied the top six of the table – the others were 1949-50, 1998-99 and 2006.

Shamrock Rovers v St James’s Gate at Milltown 19/08/1940.
Rovers and St James’s Gate were drawing one-all in the L.F.A. President’s Cup final when midway through the first half a spectator collapsed and died on the reserve side of the ground at Glenmalure Park, who was soon discovered to be the father of Gate player George Jackson. The match was stopped and Mary Jane Cunningham went on to the field and informed Jackson of the tragedy. The final was not replayed until the end of the season, this time at Shelbourne Park, and Rovers won 2-1.

Shamrock Rovers v Shelbourne at Dalymount Park 26/12/1945.
Paddy Coad gave the Hoops the lead in the Leinster Senior Cup final against Shelbourne but then the game was called off shortly after the interval due to heavy rain. The Phibsboro pitch had become unplayable with players sliding yards on the mud when they fell. Whether or not it should ever have been started is another question and a section of the crowd staged a demonstration asking for their money back. The Leinster Council re-fixed the game for mid-January, which Shels won 4-0!

Shamrock Rovers v Drumcondra at Dalymount Park 05/09/1956.
Rovers and Drums were level on goals and corners in the first period of extra-time, before Alf Bond, the one-armed London referee, decided to abandon this Dublin City Cup final because of failing light. Mr. Bond, who officiated the FA Cup final between Manchester City and Birmingham that year, had lost his right arm at the age of 19 when working in a rubber factory. W. P. Murphy in the Irish Independent said that his actions earned the universal approval of the public, for “it would have been a pity to see such a magnificent struggle decided by a fluky goal in the dark or a corner kick”. The following week it was, in fact, their superiority of 8 corners to 7 that gave the Hoops the trophy.

Shamrock Rovers v Drumcondra at Tolka Park 26/01/1958.
There was mayhem at a jam-packed Tolka Park as fists flew, boots were raised, and the referee, Sergeant Tommy Cannon, had to clear the railings at the entrance to the pavilion like a Grand National candidate. Although the official attendance, in what had been the League of Ireland’s first all-ticket game, was 12,053 the fact was that many others made their way in over the walls and the crowd was so vast that fans were sitting on the ground right along the sidelines. An incident in the Drumcondra goalmouth sparked off the invasion and it was clear that a resumption of the remaining 25 minutes was out of the question. The result, 2-1 to Rovers, was later allowed to stand.

Sligo Rovers v Shamrock Rovers at the Showgrounds 17/01/1965.
After a half an hour of the most futile endeavour to combat atrocious conditions, referee Willie Butler blew a long whistle and very correctly abandoned the whole thing in Sligo. Rain, hail and sleet – we had the lot – the players floundered and slithered about on a hopelessly muddy pitch while Butler was blinded by those intense showers. The Hoops were beaten when the two sides met again in March and for Pat Courtney, it was a doubly unhappy occasion, as his right knee was ripped and required five stitches at the local hospital, his first injury of any consequence in four years.

Shamrock Rovers v Manchester United at Dalymount Park 14/10/1973.
Rovers hosted the George Best assisted Manchester United in an exhibition game but due to crowd encroachment which threatened to turn the occasion into a farce the referee had no other choice but to rescue the match ball and call it a day. When hundreds of kids stormed the field 10 minutes from the end, Best took one amused look and showed his smartest turn of speed of the night to find safety in the dressing rooms. Roughly 20,000 people attended the game, providing the Hoops with some much needed finance to bring Donal Murphy, Dougie Wood and Bobby Collins to Milltown.

Louis Kilcoyne and George Best pictured in October 1973

Limerick v Shamrock Rovers at Markets Field 27/01/1974.
Bad weather caused the cancellation of two League of Ireland fixtures – Cork Celtic v Waterford at Turner’s Cross (34 minutes) and Limerick v Shamrock Rovers (50 minutes) at the Markets Field. It was a miracle that either game started in the first place but the gale force winds and lashing rain made it impossible to play football for the respective teams in Munster. Mick Meagan was making his debut for Rovers that day; Limerick won the replay 1-0 a couple of months later.

Finn Harps v Shamrock Rovers at Ballybofey 06/12/1981.
The referee saw the light, or rather he didn’t, with 15 minutes to go in the game between Harps and Rovers. Even as the second half commenced, it was obvious that the fading light was going to cause problems and it was no surprise when goalkeeper Alan O’Neill indicated to John Carpenter that he was having difficulty judging the flight of the ball. O’Neill had kept a clean sheet up to then, as had his counterpart Charlie McDermott, who pulled off several tremendous saves. The Dublin side had to make the long journey to Ballybofey again in April 1982, when they came away with a 2-0 victory.

Shamrock Rovers v Waterford United at Tolka Park 18/05/2007.
During a home game against Waterford in the Tolka days a floodlight pylon on the Drumcondra Road end of the ground appeared to be unstable as it swayed loosely in the strong wind. Seven minutes into the second half, under Garda advice, Declan Hanney called a halt to proceedings. It was 1-1 at that stage and Rovers chairman Jonathan Roche accepted the decision: “The safety of the players, officials and supporters is paramount and there was no option other than to abandon the game.” Rescheduled for July, late goals from Ger Rowe and Tadhg Purcell earned all three points.

As a side note, in Pat Fenlon’s first match in charge of Hibs, in December 2011, his team were winning 1-0 against Motherwell but one of the Fir Park floodlights caught fire to bring the game to a premature end. Richie Towell was an unused substitute…he’d only have fanned the flames.

Tolka Park in May 2007

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