Sun Sep 4, 1977 – Drogheda Utd 1 Bohs 1
Thirty years ago today, there was mayhem at Croke Park as Cork beat Wexford in the All-Ireland hurling final. The match was marred by disputed refereeing decisions, two players requiring stitches for head wounds, and at least one fan being taken away on a stretcher after Cork hooligans fought with bottles and flagpoles on Hill 16. RTE devoted over six hours to covering this game, plus athletics from Dusseldorf, plus sheepdog trials from Cumbria (the infamous One Man and his Dog), but somehow they managed to forget about the second day of the League of Ireland season. This did not deter those of us who made the short trip to Drogheda to see if Bohs could replicate the hammering of Cork Albert. Drogheda United had recently moved to United Park, but were renovating their new ground and had moved temporarily back to Lourdes Stadium.
The County Louth club had first joined the league of Ireland in 1962 under the name Drogheda FC, but the closest they came to winning anything was a cup final defeat against Limerick in 1971. Their fortunes improved after merging with local amateur side Drogheda United in 1975 – they reached the Cup final in 1976 and came third in the league in 1977. I liked the fact that they played in the same claret and blue colours as West Ham United, so I could imagine that I was watching Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst when I was actually watching Ray McGuigan, Damien Byrne and Cathal Muckian. As a bonus, this childish self-delusion made it all the more euphoric when we beat them 1-0 in the 1976 Cup final.
We started with the same line-up that had slaughtered Cork Albert, but the result was never going to be the same, as we went behind to a bizarre early goal. The referee gave an indirect fee kick to Drogheda, inside our penalty area, apparently for something that our goalkeeper Mick Smyth had said. From the free kick, the ball rolled to United defender Ray McGuigan who shot into the net. We equalised in the second half, thanks to an own-goal almost identical to Cork’s one the previous week: a cross from Pat Byrne, aimed at Turly O’Connor, was majestically headed into his own net by Drogheda’s Jimmy Jackson, whose loyalties may have been confused by the fact that he used to play for Bohs.
As we checked the other results, two north-western clubs topped the table on four points. Sligo Rovers put four past Galway Rovers, whose manager Amby Fogarty came on as a second-half sub. And Finn Harps won a seven-goal thriller at Shelbourne, in the shadow of the GAA hurling final. We were on three points, but leading on goal average from Waterford, Home Farm and Shamrock Rovers. We faced Waterford the next Sunday, but I was unable to follow the football cliché of focusing on one game at a time. I was now ten days away from one of my most anticipated matches of the season: Newcastle United were coming to Dalymount for a UEFA Cup tie, and I was planning to make a special banner for the game.