Sun Sep 11, 1977 – Waterford 0 Bohs 3
Thirty years ago today, I was preparing for my second Perfect Weekend of the season, following on from Leeds 2-1 victory against Ipswich on the Saturday. And I was constantly humming Magic Fly by the French group Space (see video below), an early synthpop instrumental that had knocked the recently deceased Elvis Presley from the Number One spot.
However, we faced the strongest Waterford side since their title-winning squads of the late 1960s and early 1970s. They were now level on points with us, having beaten Drogheda and drawn with Shamrock Rovers. And we had not won at Kilkohan Park for the past five seasons. It was the first match this season that I was in any way worried about. As it turned out, I had no need to be.
Waterford should have been much better. Manager John McSeveney had signed former England international Bobby Tambling from Cork Celtic, to boost a striking force that already included Johnny Matthews and the upcoming Vinnie Wallace. They had one of the best goalkeepers in the league in Peter Thomas. And we were missing centre-half Joe Burke. Bizarrely, his injury was that he had scalded his foot at work with tea. So our line-up was: Mick Smyth in goal; Eamon Gregg, John McCormack, Padraig O’Connor and Fran O’Brien in defence; Pat Byrne, Niall Shelly, Tommy Kelly and Gerry Ryan in midfield; Turly O’Connor and Eddie Byrne up front.
We started the first half with a very strong wind behind us. Gerry Ryan was in sparkling form, and he put us ahead within the first few minutes after completing a one-two with Niall Shelly. Tommy Kelly outplayed Bobby tambling in midfield, and Eamon Gregg closed out Johnny Matthews so effectively that Matthews was subbed. We almost conceded an equaliser when Sydney Wallace headed narrowly wide in the second half but, unsurprisingly, Turly O’Connor put us further ahead having been put through by Pat Byrne for a trademark one-on-one goal – his 140th goal in the League of Ireland. And Tommy Kelly scored a late third, slotting home a free-kick from the magnificent Pat Byrne.
Unfortunately, Sligo Rovers and Finn Harps also kept their hundred per cent records, so we were still stuck in third place, a point behind them. Sligo had a scare at Tolka Park, where Home Farm pulled them back to 2-2 after being two behind, but Paul McGee scored a late winner for the Rovers. And Finn Harps beat Saint Pats by a comfortable 2-0 at home. But only Shamrock Rovers were now level with us on five points, compared to the four other teams who were level with us on three points last week. The top four clubs were starting to pull away. I hoped.
But more excitingly, we were three days away from facing Newcastle United in the UEFA Cup. This tie, along with the home and away clashes with Shamrock Rovers, were my most anticipated games of the season. And I was delighted to hear manager Billy Young shared the same optimism – he said of the win against Waterford that it was ‘as good a display as we have produced since I took charge of the team, and it reinforces my opinion that we can give Newcastle plenty of trouble on Wednesday.’