Sun Oct 30, 1977 – Bohs 3 Shamrock Rovers 0
Thirty years ago today, carrying my ‘Thor-lough O’Connor: God of Goals’ banner into Dalymount, I was giddy with anticipation for the second-biggest game of the season. The crowd was not as big as it was against Newcastle, but I knew it would be at least as passionate, and at least some of those present might be as violent. Rovers fans in those days had an annoying tendency to try to ‘take the shed’ and, unlike at away games, Bohs fans were less likely to run away from the duty of defending this fiefdom. Meanwhile, on the pitch, things could hardly have been tighter between the two sides. We were in joint fourth place, level on twelve points from nine games. We had the better goal difference, but Ray Treacy was two goals ahead of Turly O’Connor in the scorers chart.
As the players ran out, it was clear that John Giles was slowly reshaping Rovers into the team that he wanted, the classically clichéd mix of youth and experience. They lined out with young Alan O’Neill in goal, who had ousted veteran Pat Dunne. The back four was Denis Burnet, who had played with Milwall and Brighton, Ireland international Eoin Hand, former Bohemians captain Johnny Fullam and young apprentice Pierce O’Leary.
The Rovers midfield combined two Ireland internationals, Eamon Dunphy and Giles himself, with another young apprentice, Mark Meagan. Their front three was young Steve Lynex, who later played for Leicester City and West Brom; Ireland international Ray Treacy; and David Irving, a striker from Fort Lauderdale who had previously played for Everton, Sheffield United and Oldham.
Apart from the midfield trio of Dunphy, Giles and Meagan, only two others had lined out in Rovers opening game of the season – Johnny Fullam in defence and Ray Treacy up front. But the biggest surprise in their line-up came when the tannoy announcer mistakenly told us that Jimmy Magee would be substitute for Shamrock Rovers. It was, in fact, Paul Magee, a son of the RTE memory man Jimmy.
The contrast with Bohs was immense; despite the sale of Gerry Ryan to Derby, Billy Young had already shaped a confident, settled side. And we were again at full strength: Mick Smyth in goal; Eamon Gregg, Joe Burke, John McCormack and Fran O’Brien in defence; Pat Byrne, Tommy Kelly, Padraig O’Connor and Tony Dixon in midfield; Turly O’Connor and Eddie Byrne up front.
The shed was in fine voice, with the usual chants even louder than usual: ‘B-O; B-O-H; B-O-H-S; Bow-ez!’ ‘I’d walk a million miles for one of your goals, oh Tuuuurleeee!’ And we hadn’t long to wait for the God of Goals to deliver. An early Rovers kick-out fell to Pat Byrne, who put Turly through. Instead of his trademark one-on-one dribble up to the keeper, Turly almost passed the ball into the net from a considerable distance out. One nil!
On the half hour, we got a free just outside the Rovers penalty area. As GypsyDownUnder has already commented earlier in this blog, such a free kick always posed the conundrum for Bohs fans: would we see a ‘Turly Curly’ or a ‘Joe Toe’? Well, this time it was a ‘Turly Curly’, with the ball swerving past the Rovers wall and into the top corner of the net, scored with all the style but none of the theatrics of Victoria Beckham’s husband. And before the interval, we celebrated a third goal, this time by Tony Dixon, before it was disallowed for reasons that none of us could fathom other than the illegitimacy of the referee.
Soon after the restart, Dixon had again put the ball in the net, after Eddie Byrne had dribbled past seven million Rovers defenders. This time the goal stood, and the shed erupted in footballing orgasms. It didn’t get much better than this: we were three nil ahead against Shamrock Rovers, we were all over them in every position on the field, and we still had over half an hour of enjoyment to come!
And so the pleasure continued. Another free kick on the edge of the area; this time we saw a ‘Joe Toe’, as Stony Burke hammered the ball through the Rovers wall and past the helpless Alan O’Neill, only to see it rebound off a crossbar that is probably still reverberating today. And Turly was cruelly denied a hat-trick when a late goal was disallowed for offside.
Instead of taking the bus, we instead walked a good bit of the way home with the ‘Thor-lough O’Connor: God of Goals’ banner held high. I’m sure most of the passers-by between Phibsboro and somewhere around Mobhi Road (where we finally caved in and flagged down a passing bus) must have wondered who we were, and who ‘Thor-lough O’Connor’ was. But we knew, and that was what mattered.
Most of the rest of the day’s results were kind to us. Down the road at Tolka Park, Finn Harps beat Home Farm, and they stayed top on sixteen points. But second-placed Drogheda only drew and third-placed Waterford were beaten. So we were now one of four teams on fourteen points each, along with Sligo Rovers, Drogheda and Cork Albert.
Surely, at some stage, some of these teams would have to drop off the pace?