Pre-Season 1977 – Bionic Bohs
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.
I generally went to all of the home games, standing behind whichever goal Bohs were attacking in each half. It was literally like the old joke ‘How can you tell an Irish football match? The crowd changes ends at half time’. Sometimes I went with local friends; other times with people I had met on the terraces such as Denis Maher. I always wore a plain red and black scarf, which I still have, and a denim jacket with numerous Leeds patches sewn on to the back, which I annoyingly lost. And I usually went to the Dublin away games, as well as some ventures beyond the pale. Away games were often unpleasant for a sixteen-year-old, particularly at Shamrock Rovers, Waterford, Limerick and Dundalk. The English football hooligan craze was at its peak, and these clubs in particular had their share of wannabe idiots who were best avoided.
1977-78 was a very important season for me. Neither Leeds nor Bohs had won a major trophy in the previous season; the first time this had happened since 1973. And Leeds had pretty much collapsed, so Bohs really had to win something this year, or else my world would surely come to an end.
Also, my footballing schizophrenia had returned with a vengeance: my childhood hero Johnny Giles had taken over as player manager of Shamrock Rovers, and was planning to dominate Irish football from Milltown for the foreseeable future. He was bringing with him Ray Treacey and Eamon Dunphy, two experienced players who were also qualified coaches. To complicate matters further, I was doing my leaving cert this year. I would have to focus somewhat on studying, no doubt to the detriment of my footballing duties.
Most of the rest of this blog will be a diary of that season, encompassing some of the history and tradition of the teams that we faced, together with a little bit of the flavour of being a sixteen-year-old Dublin schoolboy in the late 1970s.