Sun Sep 18, 1977 – Bohs 0 Thurles Town 0
Thirty years ago today, the crowd of 25,000 who packed Dalymount for the game against Newcastle must all have had something else to do on this beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon. A pitifully small crowd turned up to see Bohs face Thurles Town, who had been surprisingly elected to the league ahead of Bray Wanderers. I had a bad feeling as I got on the 19A to Dalymount. After our awesome performance against Newcastle, today should have been Goliath’s angry big brother against David’s pacifist twin. But I was also a Leeds fan. And the last three weekends results were: Leeds and Bohs both won, Leeds and Bohs both drew, Leeds and Bohs both won. Ominously, Leeds had drawn with Derby the previous day, so it looked as if the football Gods had decreed a similar outcome today.
The game illustrated the utter futility of defying the football gods. Thurles had lost all three games so far, and were the only team on zero points. They had conceded three a game, while we had scored three a game. And yet, solely because Leeds had drawn the previous day, we were destined to do the same today. In other circumstances we would have got two penalties, when Jimmy McGeough fouled Turly O’Connor, and when Mick Coughlan injured Eamon Gregg with a vicious tackle. And Thurles might have scored late in the game, when Francis Burns hit the post and Dave Kirby got to the rebound, but Padraig O’Connor cleared Kirby’s shot from the line. Then my acceptance of our fate turned to anticipation as we got a last-minute free-kick. The ball fell to Eddie Byrne, just a few yards out. Yes! The jinx was be shattered! But, of course, he shot over the bar.
In fairness, Thurles were better than their league position indicated. They had won two out of three pre-season friendlies, losing only to English side Stoke City. Manager Jimmy McGeough, the former Waterford wing-back, had signed Dave Kirby from Limerick to augment a mostly local team. They had a good young midfielder in Martin Ryan. And when the final whistle blew, a small piece of football history had been made: Thurles Town had won their first ever league of Ireland point. Pity they couldn’t have done it somewhere else. And we had seen another Bohs player today, with Austin Brady replacing Niall Shelly as substitute.
Luckily, the draw didn’t damage us too badly, as the two teams ahead of us were playing each other. Finn Harps beat Sligo Rovers, thanks to a stunning twenty-yard volley by teenager Jim McGroarty, who luckily for us had just been transferred to Stoke City. And other results conspired to set up the tightest league chase I had seen. The top six teams were now Finn Harps on eight points; Bohs, Sligo Rovers, Cork Alberts and Shamrock Rovers all on six points each; and Drogheda United on five. We also had the away leg to Newcastle coming up. Could we nick an early away goal? And Johnny Giles had called up former Bohs star Ashley Grimes into the Ireland squad for a unique game the following Wednesday – Ireland versus the League of Ireland, at Dalymount Park. That meant two big midweek games, floodlit, in eight days. This was a good month to be a Bohs fan.