The Dublin City Cup was, despite its name, a competition that involved all League clubs and began in 1934/35. It was played as either a knockout tournament or as a one-round league type competition. Like the Shield it was discontinued in 1973 though it was revived on a limited basis in 1975/76 and 1983/84.
The Dublin City Cup was traditionally seen as the fourth most important competition for League of Ireland sides but in 1983 neither the League and League Cup champions (Athlone Town) nor FAI Cup holders (Sligo Rovers) took part as the six Dublin clubs (Bohemians, Shamrock Rovers, Shelbourne, St Patrick’s Athletic, UCD and Home Farm), plus Dundalk and Drogheda United went into two groups.
The arrangements for the City Cup would be a blitz affair. It was wrapped up before the start of the League Cup campaign, with experimental rules and a shortened playing time, beginning with a double-header at Tolka Park on Thursday, September 1st.
There was only half an hour each way in every game except for the final. They introduced a rule banning back passes to the goalkeeper and charged just £1.50 per head to the stands for two matches in the hope of enticing more spectators but sadly their plan back fired.
By negating the back pass, it was the League’s intent to encourage a positive approach from the players. However, the response was negligible and scrappy and uninteresting football was the order of the night for the crowd who provided a moderate gate of £1000.
Drogheda defender Noel Greenhalgh came closest to transgressing the new back pass rule. Back pedaling rapidly with the ball at his feet he looked towards keeper Brendan Flynn, but, with his backswing half completed, suddenly remembered that a back pass was not on and scrambled the ball into touch.
Apart from this and a similar hesitation from Bohemians full back Barry Murphy the “American style rules” were adhered to, noted the Irish Press, but the Drogheda-Home Farm game was “so bad it would have taken ice hockey to liven it up”. After a dismal, scoreless 60 minutes, Matt Bradley’s penalty miss for the Boynesiders got the biggest cheer of the night, while new English centre-forward Benny Laryea was the inspiration of Dundalk’s 3-2 win over Bohs.
On Friday, the rain came down with a vengeance at Milltown. Dermot Keely’s UCD adapted rapidly to the increased pace brought about by the back pass rules, beating St Pat’s 2-0. Keely was in his first managerial job but he ended up moving to Shamrock Rovers as a player just a couple of months later.
Rovers joined the Students as the other Group 1 semi-finalist thanks to Alan Campbell’s header against Shelbourne. With the new rules to cope with neither team was happy on the pitch. All eight teams were in action again on the Sunday.
At Harold’s Cross, a first half free kick from Liam O’Brien saw Rovers beat UCD 1-0 and Pat’s impressed in a 2-0 victory over Shels. Both ties at United Park went to penalties. Dundalk were fortunate to oust Home Farm and advance to the final after a 1-1 draw while there no goals between Drogheda and Bohs, with Drogs claiming joint third place on spot-kicks.
The final was staged at Dalymount Park the following Wednesday and although the back-passing ban was maintained, the duration of the proceedings was restored to the normal ninety minutes.
Jim McLaughlin’s reign as manager of Shamrock Rovers got the best possible start when his side lifted the Cup by beating his old Dundalk after the third scoreless draw and fourth penalty shootout in less than a week. There was no disguising the delight on the face of the new Rovers boss as they were presented with the trophy, the first of many in his tenure at Milltown.
Ironically what practically decided it was when Paul McLaughlin, Jim’s son, had his effort brilliantly saved by Jodi Byrne. In 1988, the Dublin Millennium Committee approached the League to stage the Dublin City Cup of old to heard in the new season but nothing came of it. The back-pass rule as we know it today was introduced by FIFA in 1992, and extended to include throw-ins in 1997.
1983-84 Dublin City Cup
1 Sep – Home Farm 0-0 Drogheda United at Tolka Park (Home Farm won on pens)
1 Sep – Dundalk 3-2 Bohemians at Tolka Park
2 Sep – UCD 2-0 St. Patrick’s Athletic at Milltown
2 Sep – Shamrock Rovers 1-0 Shelbourne at Milltown
4 Sep – Shamrock Rovers 1-0 UCD at Harold’s Cross
4 Sep – Dundalk 1-1 Home Farm at United Park (Dundalk won on pens)
4 Sep – St. Patrick’s Athletic 2-0 Shelbourne at Harold’s Cross
4 Sep – Drogheda United 0-0 Bohemians at United Park (Drogheda won on pens)
7 Sep – Shamrock Rovers 0-0 Dundalk at Dalymount Park (Rovers won on pens)