Sun Oct 9, 1977 – Finn Harps 3 Bohs 0
Thirty years ago today, Bohemians faced disaster. Leeds had lost the previous day to Bristol City, whose major contribution to British football was in the field of rhyming slang, and this meant that Bohs were destined to lose today against Finn Harps. I was unlikely to have traveled to Donegal anyway, but I was comforted by the fact that I would be missing a defeat instead of a win. And so I settled down in my living room for a marathon session of watching QPR playing Everton on the Big Match, then listening to radio updates on the Bohs game, then watching Felicity Kendall in the Good Life, Clive Dunn in Dad’s Army, and later on highlights of Shamrock Rovers against Sligo on Sportscene.
Finn Harps had come a long way since they were founded in 1954. They won the FAI Junior Cup in 1968, and a year later they joined the league of Ireland along with fellow newcomers Athlone Town. They started less than auspiciously with a 10-2 defeat by Shamrock Rovers, but two years later notched up their own record win, hammering Athlone by 8-1. In the past few years, thanks largely to the goals of their prolific striker Brendan Bradley, Harps had become regular league challengers. And in 1974 they won their first major trophy, beating Saint Pat’s 3-1 in the FAI Cup final.
Today they faced a Bohs team that that was thrown into administrative chaos because of the Fran O’Brien saga. The FAI had told Bohs that, because O’Brien had left the League of Ireland for a dew days, he could not play again in the League for eight weeks. And so, having already played against Athlone in midweek, he was left out of the team against Harps. The rest of the team remained unchanged: Mick Smyth in goal; Eamon Gregg, Padraig O’Connor, Joe Burke and Austin Brady in defence; Pat Byrne, Tommy Kelly, John McCormack and Tony Dixon in midfield; Turly O’Connor and Eddie Byrne up front.
Harps were in control of the game from the start. Brendan Bradley scored two goals with shots from inside the penalty area, and had another two goals disallowed. His strike partner Hilary Carlyle, who had returned to Donegal after a term playing summer football in Hawaii, scored a third with minutes to go. The only damage done to the Finn Harps goal had nothing to do with Bohemians strike force: the home goalkeeper, Eddie Mahon, literally pulled the goalposts down when trying to reach a cross, and the match was held up until a man with a stool could hammer it back together again.
Today’s other results were devastating. Not only Finn Harps but also three other teams had overtaken us. Drogheda hammered Cork Celtic 4-1, Cork Albert continued their unexpected good form by putting three past Dundalk, and a late header by Ray Treacy gave Shamrock Rovers a 2-1 win against Sligo Rovers before a large crowd of over 8,000 fans at Milltown. We had dropped from first to fifth, and were now level on nine points with Waterford, a point behind Sligo Rovers and Shamrock Rovers, and two points behind Drogheda and Cork Albert. Luckily, we were playing Cork Celtic next week, who were on a bad run of form.
But before that we had another big midweek game to look forward to: the World Cup qualifier between Ireland against Bulgaria on Wednesday.