Jimmy Dainty is regarded is one of the most exciting players ever to play for Dundalk Football Club. Having previously had spells with West Bromwich Albion and Walsall, Dainty played over 220 games for the Lilywhites between September 1973 and April 1980. In this time he won every honour that was possible for a League of Ireland player to win. Dainty also played a major role in Dundalk’s European exploits and represented the League of Ireland team on twelve occasions. Jimmy was the kind of player that certain parts of the local media and supporters would immediately turn on if Dundalk suffered a bad result, but would cry out for his return if missing from the starting line-up for a few games. More than anything he will be remembered as being part of arguably the greatest Dundalk side ever.
In May 1973 John Smith was appointed player-manager of Dundalk FC and commenced signing players that he felt would play an attractive attacking style of football. In came ex-Rangers striker Willie Penman, ex-Northern Ireland international Peter Watson, John Coyne from Walsall, Con Davey from Glenavon and Dougie Devlin from Walsall. Jimmy followed Devlin from Walsall in early September and made his debut in a 4-3 League Cup defeat against Rovers in Milltown a few days later. “I had the choice of joining Wimbledon, who were not in the football league yet, or Dundalk who had John Smith, Willie Penman and Dougie Devlin. Those guys had been at Walsall with me”.
On 20th September 1973, Jimmy scored his first goals for Dundalk when he hit a brace against St Pats in a 4-0 League Cup win in Oriel. While success evaded John Smith in his 16 month reign, some Dundalk fans maintain that they witnessed some of the best football seen in Oriel Park during this spell. “It may have been better that what the town was used to but we were nowhere near the team of the late seventies” states Dainty.
After Smith left the club in October 1974, Jim McLaughlin arrived as player-manager and set about rebuilding the squad. Dainty was one of the few survivors along with captain Jackie McManus. Jimmy has good memories of McLaughlin’s arrival. “Jim was hard working, honest and a great motivator. You wanted to play your heart out for him and he did not ask you to do anything and not try to do it himself!”
Just before McLaughlin arrived, Jimmy was instrumental in the deal that brought Ritchie Blackmore to Dundalk. Jimmy, was is Ritchie’s cousin, was able to tip off Dundalk director Charlie McCann on his availability. “Richard was on a free transfer from Birmingham City and I advised Dundalk that we was available before anybody else found out”.
Jimmy was rarely out of the first team and scored eight goals in thirty appearances in the 1974/75 season. With McLaughlin having re-shaped the team, the 1975/76 also witnessed the return of Tommy McConville to the ranks along with the signing of Flanagan, McDowell and Braddish. Jimmy missed only two games and scored eight goals as Dundalk brought the League title back to Oriel Park for the first time in nine seasons.
Jimmy was ever present in the following two seasons and played in the PSV Eindhoven and Hadjuk Split European ties. He played a major role in the 1977 FAI Cup success against Limerick and the penalty shoot out victory over Cork Alberts in the 1978 League Cup Final. But the best was yet to come. The 1978/79 season was Jimmy’s finest in his Dundalk career. He played in over 40 matches as Dundalk won the league with a 3-0 win away to Cork Celtic and then completed the Double win a 2-0 win over Waterford United. Having played through these great times, Jimmy obviously finds it difficult to single out a favourite memory. “Although playing against the likes of Torino three times including players like Graziani, Sala, Zaccerlii and Pecci, PSV with the likes of the Van Der Kerkhof brothers, the best memory is probably the Glasgow Celtic European Cup game as we should have beaten them! Also my family came to Scotland to watch all had a great time”. The most bizarre incident occurred in Bosnia at the Hadjuk Split match. “We were staying in a massive hotel with about six different bars. A number of the boozing brigade settled for a night in the American bars within the hotel complex and at around 10pm the bar man just said “Goodnight” and left us on our own! We were the only people left in the bar and it took us around 5 minutes to realise that he had left everything open except the till. We all had a great time on both sides of the bar that night and crawled to bed at about 3am!”
In the close season after the Double win, Jimmy decided to leave Dundalk and return to England in order to take up a new job but was soon tempted back when Dundalk sent out an SOS on the eve of the Parkhead European tie. “I decided to leave because we had won everything around and the team was starting to break up. I felt that I needed a new challenge and maybe get into the English league as I really thought I was good enough. I returned out of loyalty to the club. And of course I enjoyed it!”
Jimmy played his part in that memorable occasion but returned to England in early December. He returned in March to help transform a rare trophy-less season and scored in his final match for Dundalk, a 3-2 win over Sligo Rovers on the 13th April 1980. After he left for England, Jimmy went on trial at Birmingham City. “The manager, Jim Smyth, told me that Dundalk wanted £25,000 to release my registration. I got injured around that time and just stopped training.”
In total Jimmy played approximately 220 games and scored almost 50 goals.