Sun Oct 16, 1977 – Bohs 3 Cork Celtic 1
Thirty years ago today, an immutable law of nature was changed. For the first seven weekends of this League of Ireland season, Leeds and Bohs both won, both drew, both won, both drew, both drew, both won, and both lost. So when Liverpool beat Leeds this Saturday, I was in a predictably despondent mood as I boarded the 19A bus to Dalymount the next day. Our inevitable defeat would mean that, if Drogheda or Cork Albert won today, they would go four points clear of us, which would take at least three weeks of good results to claw back. Skeptical friends told me I was just being superstitious, but having been reared on the belief system of Don Revie at Leeds, I knew how the football world worked.
The FAI had relented on their ruling that had prevented Fran O’Brien from returning to Bohemians, so the red and black Light Brigade that faced their doom that day were Mick Smyth in goal; Eamon Gregg, Padraig O’Connor, Joe Burke and Fran O’Brien in defence; Pat Byrne, Tommy Kelly, John McCormack and Tony Dixon in midfield; Turly O’Connor and Eddie Byrne up front.
Sure enough, after twenty minutes, Brian McSweeny put Cork Celtic ahead. To pile on the misery, news came through that Sligo Rovers had also gone one up in their game. Then something quite inexplicable happened. Eamon Gregg put Pat Byrne clear on the right wing, and he crossed for Eddie Byrne to head home an equalizer. Then the laws of nature were somehow turned upside down. Pat Byrne shot us into the lead, and while I waited for Celtic to equalise, Pat Byrne crossed again for Eddie Byrne to put us 3-1 ahead with just minutes to go.
The other results come through, and I could not believe how close the league was. First placed Drogheda had played a scoreless draw with Dundalk, as had second placed Cork Albert with Shamrock Rovers. Finn Harps had hammered Thurles Town, and Waterford had beaten Shelbourne. So the top six teams had just one point between them: Drogheda, Harps and Cork Albert were on 12 points each, while Bohs, Shamrock Rovers and Waterford were all on 11 points. And reigning champions were in seventh place on 10 points.
That was two points, or just one win, separating the top seven teams out of sixteen. I could not remember a closer title race.