Archive for August, 2007
Thirty years ago today, the first day of the 1977-78 season had finally arrived, and I had butterflies (or was it fizzle sticks?) in my stomach as I got on the 19A to Phibsboro. In fairness, we should be able to hammer Cork Albert. They had only been in the league for one season, and they finished second last, ahead of only Home Farm. Okay, they had signed Gerry Finnegan from Shelbourne, who should strengthen their midfield. And they did have the legendary Alec Ludzic in goal. But I was in an unrealistically optimistic mood, as any normal football fan always is on the first day of a new season (no matter how good or bad their team is), so I would have been surprised if we didn’t win by at least five. Particularly given that Leeds had beaten Birmingham the day before, so a Bohs win today would make this the first Perfect Weekend of the season. (more…)
On the first day of the 1977-78 season, Bohs faced Cork Albert, the latest in the fascinating kaleidoscope of Cork clubs. In 1924, the Ford Motor Company fielded Cork’s first league of Ireland team. They named it after the Fordson, the world’s first mass produced tractor. Like Cork football clubs generally, the early Fordson tractors were hard to get going (farmers would sometimes light fires underneath them before cranking), were awkward to operate, and had a tendency to tip over backwards with sometimes fatal consequences. The early Fordsons footballers were a respectable league of Ireland side, who won the cup in 1926. By the early 1930s, Ford had moved its tractor production to Dagenham in England, and the football club had become simply Cork FC. (more…)
By the time I was sixteen years old, I was more of a Bohs fan than a Leeds fan. I regularly brought home-made banners to games. My mother helped me make two; I cut out white letters which she stitched onto black and red sheets. One read simply ‘Bionic Bohs’ (the bionic man was a popular television character) and the other, made for a UEFA Cup game against Newcastle, read ‘Gypsies Eat Magpies’ (the nicknames of both teams). I hand-painted another longer banner, rather than have my mother stitch so many letters. It read ‘Thor-lough O’Connor: God of Goals.’ That one used to get a few odd looks by people unfamiliar with the ranks of the Norse deities, who would helpfully inform me ‘that’s not how you spell Turlough.’ And Denis Maher, a friend I met on the terraces who is now a director at Bohs, had a very nice ‘Ah, That’s Bohs’ banner – a play on the ‘Ah, That’s Bass’ slogan of one of the League of Ireland sponsors of the 1970s. (more…)
To give a flavour of the type of players who wore the red and black of Bohs in the decade of glam rock, disco and punk, here is a team of 1970s Bohemians who represented Ireland. Between them they accumulated 185 full caps, and scored 24 international goals: Gerry Daly 13; Mick Martin four; Turly O’Connor and Mick Leech two; Gerry Ryan, Ashley Grimes and Johnny Fullam one. Their manager is Seán Thomas, who led Bohs from 1964-73, apart from a brief spell with Boston Shamrocks. In June 1973, between the reigns of Liam Tuohy and John Giles, Seán also managed Ireland to a 1-1 draw in Norway. Their trainer is Mick Byrne, who went on to be physio for the Irish team under several managers. Arguably, he could claim to be an Irish manager himself, as Jack Charlton says that Mick picked the team for Jack’s first game against Wales in ’86! (more…)
Once I started watching Bohs I was quickly hooked, not only on the football and the atmosphere (‘De Bow-ez, clap-clap-clap; De Bow-ez, clap-clap-clap!’) but also on the elusive concept of the Perfect Weekend, in which Leeds won on the Saturday and Bohs won on the Sunday. That would set me up for an idyllic week, in which it did not matter how many times we were slapped by Christian Brothers with leather straps known as Excalibur. And, while I could not have known it at the time, 1974 was the perfect time to start following Bohs. Below the radar of my early childhood support for Leeds, Brazil and Ireland, my new local heroes had steadily transformed themselves from an amateur club that had last won the league in 1936, to a part-time professional club that had won the cup in 1970 and had finished the next four league seasons in fourth, third, third and second. (more…)
This where I should employ artistic license, and describe how momentous an experience my first Bohs match was. The raw passion of the crowd, the taste of the half-time Bovril, the thump of boot on leather, the smell of the freshly-cut grass, my first view of the hallowed pitch as I walked up the steps onto the Phibsboro end corner of the Connacht Street terrace. But the truth is, I don’t remember much about the game, other than it was raining and Hamburg scored a last-minute winner to knock Bohs out of the UEFA Cup. Why did I go? A mixture of reasons. I had got a taste for live football from watching two Ireland matches. Leeds were playing the same night in the European Cup, and I obviously couldn’t go to that, but I hoped I could get the same buzz by watching Bohs. And I did. It didn’t matter that it was raining, or that the crowd was much smaller than at Ireland matches, or even that Bohs lost. I returned the following Sunday for the first league game of the season, and saw Turly O’Connor intercepting a back-pass to score the winning goal against Saint Pats. That was enough to immediately propel Turly alongside Johnny Giles in my pantheon of childhood heroes. (more…)
I faced a major dilemma as I turned thirteen: should I support Brazil or Holland in the 1974 World Cup? Brazil were, well, Brazil: my heroes for the past four years, and still footballing magic in action. But Holland had Johann Neeskins and the new ‘world’s best player’, Johan Cruyff. Their ‘total football’ was a flowing experience where every player could play in any position. Plus, I really liked ‘Eye Level’, the theme tune of Dutch TV detective Van Der Valk.