Home Farm Drumcondra – A Historic Merger
Our sixth league game of the 1977-78 season was against Home Farm, which was effectively a merger of two of Dublin’s oldest clubs. Drumcondra was founded in 1923, and four years later won the Free State Cup. They joined the league in 1928, the same year that Home Farm was founded as a schoolboy club playing in the Altar Boys league. Both clubs were based about a mile apart on Dublin’s northside, close to where I now went to school, and between them they helped to shape much of the tradition of Irish football history.
Drumcondra, who played in Tolka Park, won the cup again in 1943 and 46, before claiming back-to-back league titles in 1948 and 49. Then Dundalk man Sam Prole bought the club from the Hunter family in 1953, installed floodlights in Tolka Park, and introduced pitch-side ads and half-time Bovril. The big Dublin rivalry quickly became Drums on the north side of the River Liffey versus Shamrock Rovers on the south side. Rovers usually came out on top, but Drums won the FAI Cup in 1954 and 57, and were league of Ireland champions in 1958, 61 and 65. During the first of those three titles, the first-ever all ticket league game between Drums and Rovers had to be abandoned after thousands of ticketless fans forced their way into an already packed Tolka Park.
Meanwhile, Home Farm was becoming legendary for developing schoolboys into senior footballers. When they won the Free State Minor Cup in 1936, their team included Johnny Carey, who was quickly snapped up by Man United and who still acts as a scout for the Old Trafford side. Liam Whelan later made the same journey in 1953, before tragically dying in the Munich air disaster, as did Johnny Giles in 1957, before moving to Leeds United. In the 1960s, Home Farm produced twenty full Internationals, including defender Paddy Mulligan. They also won every schoolboy and junior trophy available, and beat Dundalk to claim the 1964 Leinster Senior Cup. And in 1972 their trustees, Brendan Menton and Don Seery, finally got a chance to field a senior team in the league of Ireland.
Drums were by then regularly propping up the league table, and were £6,000 in debt. After almost 20 years in charge, Sam Prole sold the club to the junior team down the road. Home Farm agreed to keep the famous Drums name alive by playing under the name Home Farm Drumcondra but, after just a year, they infuriated the Prole family by reverting to the name Home Farm. In the five years since, they had not made any impact on the league, but they had caused a major upset in 1975 when, under new manager Dave Bacuzzi, they beat Shels by a single goal to win the FAI Cup. Since then young Martin Murray had become the latest Home Farm player to go abroad, signing for Everton, while Drumcondra had since reformed as an amateur league club.
Now on Sunday we faced Home Farm at Dalymount, in our first game without the services of Fran O’Brien and Gerry Ryan.