Sun Oct 23, 1977 – Dundalk 2 Bohs 2
Thirty years ago today Bohs were off to Oriel Park, where Dundalk were struggling to recover from a poor start to the season. Oriel Park in the 1970s was a horrible place to visit for away fans. I say this not in any sense of judgment about the genuine supporters of Dundalk, but more as a reflection of the tendency of a minority of thugs to chase us to and from our buses under a hail of bottles, stones and assorted missiles. This Céad Míle Missiles welcome was often mirrored in the picturesque tourist attractions of Limerick, Waterford, Athlone and Milltown. And, in that era anyway, the traditional response of travelling Bohs fans could usually be summed up in the sensible tactic of ‘run away!’
So far this season, on the field, Dundalk had self-destructed after their Showdown at the Dublin Airport Corral, just before boarding the flight for the away leg of their European Cup Winners Cup tie against Hajduk Split. You may recall that they refused to let two key players travel, after Tony Cavanagh and Tommy McConville had asked the club to reimburse their dole money. Well, they had since effectively sacked both players, citing ‘a serious breach of club discipline’. And club captain Jackie McManus, who had argued for the players at Dublin Airport, had been transferred to Drogheda. So hopefully they would still be in disarray this afternoon.
Leeds had lost to Middlesboro the previous day, but I had no idea how Bohs would do today in the absence of the comforting Law of Leeds and Bohs Having the Same Result Every Weekend. The team was at full strength: 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.
To put it mildly, things did not start well. Early on, Dessie Oakes crossed into the Bohemians area, and Noel King headed the ball on for Terry Flanagan to head past Mick Smyth. Oakes was then injured, and Dundalk manager Jim McLaughlin came on as substitute. Before half-time Padraig O’Connor had given away a penalty, and Jimmy Redfern had put Dundalk two ahead from the spot. Bohemians piled on the pressure in the second half, but somehow could not find the net.
Then, with fifteen minutes to go, Billy Young replaced midfielders Tommy Kelly and John McCormack with Niall Shelly and striker Joey Salmon. The pressure intensified and, within minutes, Turly O’Connor was upended in the box, and the God of Goals scored from the resulting penalty. Then Fran O’Brien got a pass from a short corner, and his shot was deflected into the net of Noel King. 2-2! As the final whistle blew, we had somehow escaped with a point.
The other results were not too bad. Finn Harps were the only team above us to win, and they were now top of the league on 14 points. Drogheda had drawn and Waterford had won, putting both of them joint second on 13 points. And we were in joint fourth place, level on 12 points with Sligo Rovers, Shamrock Rovers and Cork Albert. In a league of this tight, I could live with that. As long as we remained only two points behind the leaders, we could sort them out whenever we played them next.
But the following week was the second-biggest day of the season after the Newcastle game. Next Sunday, Shamrock Rovers visited Dalymount.