1976 League Champions
Monday 4th April marks the 40th anniversary of Dundalk’s first trophy achieved under Jim McLaughlin. Dundalk defeated Cork Hibernians 1-0 on 4th April 1976 to win their first league championship in nine years. Here we look back over some of the most important games on the way to the title success.
Jimmy Dainty in action against Athlone. 5th October 1975,
5th October 1975 St Mel’s Park Athlone Town 0-1 Dundalk
The first match of the 75/76 season saw Dundalk travel to Athlone Town who were celebrating qualifying for the 2nd Round of the UEFA Cup after beating Valerengen. Next up in Europe for them would be AC Milan! Dundalk FC’s players lined up to clap their hosts on to the pitch in view of their achievement.
Dundalk had a lucky escape after 32 minutes when Tommy McConville tripped Carl Humphries in the box but Eugene Davis failed to beat Richie Blackmore from the penalty spot (pictured above). The only goal of the game arrived after 41 minutes when Sean Sheehy’s shot was deflected into the path of Jimmy Dainty who scored from eight yards.
Athlone Town: O’Brien, Duffy, Smith, Healy, Stephenson, Larkin, Minnock, Humphries, Martin, Davis, Daly. Sub: Wood for Martin.
Dundalk: Blackmore, McManus, J McLoughlin, T McConville, B McConville, Davey, S McLoughlin, Nicholl, Sheehy, McDowell, Dainty.
9th November 1975 Oriel Park Dundalk 1-1 Finn Harps
A superb match at Oriel Park against the league leaders and Dundalk’s biggest rivals for the title. Brendan Bradley’s goal for Finn Harps was his 150th goal for the club. However, despite an excellent performance Dundalk still fail to register their first home win of the season. After 16 minutes, Finn Harps took the lead against the run of play when Bradley ran on to a pass from Hilary Carlyle to slip the ball past the advancing Blackmore. After 31 minutes came the game’s controversial moment. Sean Sheehy finished a great run into the box with a fine finish past Murray. However, the crowd’s loud celebrations were cut short by an off-side decision given against Jimmy Dainty. Jim McLaughlin ran the length of the pitch to protest against the decision.
Action from the match with Finn Harps in November 1975.
Soon afterwards, Blackmore made the first of several great saves when he tips over Ferry’s powerful header which was followed by an even better save by when he pushed a blistering shot by Hilary Carlyle against the post. In the 68th minute, Dundalk get the goal their second half performance deserved when Brian McConville crossed from the left touchline for Dainty to glance a header just out of Murray’s reach.
Dundalk: Blackmore, McManus, J McLaughlin, T McConville, B McConville, S McLoughlin, Kavanagh, Bailey, Sheehy, McDowell, Dainty. Sub: Davey for Bailey.
Finn Harps: Murray, McDowell, D O’Doherty, T O’Doherty, Sheridan, Ferry, Mahon, Logan, Bradley, Harkin, Carlyle, Sub: McGranahan for Ferry.
16th November 1975 Dalymount Park Bohemians 1-1 Dundalk
Dundalk were thankful again to Richie Blackmore for saving a Turlough O’Connor penalty as Dundalk kept within touching distance of the leaders with a good point at Dalymount Park. Dundalk were grateful for a goal by Sean Sheehy who was playing as a makeshift striker. O’Connor’s penalty miss occurred in the 44th minute but Bohs did make the breakthrough after 61 minutes when Padraig O’Connor put Con Martin away with a fine pass and Martin produced a great finish to shoot past the advancing Blackmore. After Bohs winger Gerry Ryan has a goal ruled out for offside (“It looked a great goal to me,” conceded Jim McLaughlin after the game) Dundalk came more into the game. In the 80th minute Tommy McConville let fly from 30 yards that forced Mick Smyth into a fine save. From the resulting corner, Tony Cavanagh floated the ball in for Sean Sheehy to rise high and head home.
Bohemians: Blackmore, McManus, J McLaughlin, T McConville, B McConville, S McLoughlin, Cavanagh, Davey, Sheehy, McDowell, Dainty. Sub: Bailey for McLoughlin.
23rd November 1975 Oriel Park Dundalk 4-1 Shelbourne
Dundalk finally win their first home game of the season and gave a debut to Terry Flanagan who was signed three days earlier from Bohemians. It took just 30 minutes for Flanagan to score his first goal when he got on the end of an excellent Tony Cavanagh cross to make it 1-0. After 33 minutes, Flanagan was involved again when he sent Dainty away down the wing for the winger to cross for Sean Sheehy to head home. Jackie McManus scored from the spot to make it 3-0 shortly afterwards. Future Dundalk player Liam Devine pulled one back for Shels but with ten minutes remaining Con Davey and Jackie McManus combined to set up a goal for Seanie McLoughlin.
Dundalk: Blackmore, McManus, J McLaughlin, T McConville, B McConville, McDowell, Cavanagh, Davey, Sheehy, Flanagan, Dainty. Sub: S McLoughlin for Flanagan.
Shelbourne: Byrne, Gannon, Dunning, McKenna, McDowell, Mangan, Donovan, Shields, Roche, Devine, Cervi.
30th November 1975 Kilcohan Park Waterford United 0-2 Dundalk
Dundalk go up to second place as Jim McLaughlin’s team find some momentum. John McSeveney’s Waterford side were left wondering how they failed to score with Mick Leech, in particular, missing four good chances in the first half. Dundalk took an early lead when a mis-kick by Dunphy was pounced on by Terry Flanagan and he had little difficulty in beating Peter Thomas from close range. Dundalk sealed the points when, with Waterford dominant, Dundalk catch them on the break when McDowell burst forward with pace and slipped the ball inside to Flanagan who smashed the ball past Thomas for his second.
Waterford: Thomas, Hall, Dunphy, Finucane, Parkes, Madigan, O’Neill, McGeough, Leech, Wallace, Matthews. Sub: Power for Matthews.
Dundalk: Blackmore, McManus, B McConville, T McConville, J McLaughlin, S McLoughlin, McDowell, Cavanagh, Dainty, Sheehy, Flanagan.
14th December 1975 Oriel Park Dundalk 5-2 Shamrock Rovers
Dundalk eventually got to grips with Rovers in this match but were given a scare when the floodlights failed with ten minutes to go. Luckily, after a lengthy delay, the match continued. In the early stages Shamrock Rovers had already missed two great opportunities to score in before Bobby Cooke eventually scored after a cross from McDermott. Dundalk had dominated since the goal but only got their equaliser five minutes from the break. Sean McLoughlin’s pass was collected by McDowell who blasted past Pat Dunne from 30 yards.
However, after 52 minutes, Dundalk were shocked when Le Gros crossed for Cooke to score from close range (1-2). Dundalk equalised almost immediately when McManus broke free on the right and set up McDowell to score with a low shot.Dundalk then went ahead when McDowell’s shot was too powerful for Dunne to handle and the ball squirmed over the line to give Dundalk the lead. After 59 minutes, Dundalk scored their third goal in just seven minutes. This time McDowell was the creator when he set up Sean Sheehy to score. After the floodlight failure causes a lengthy delay, McDowell was taken down in the box. He took the penalty himself to score his fourth of the afternoon.
Dundalk: Blackmore, McManus, J McLaughlin, T McConville, B McConville, S McLoughlin, McDowell, Dainty, Sheehy, Flanagan, Cavanagh.
Shamrock Rovers: Dunne, Whelan, Lindsay, Meagan, Burke, Sinnott, McDermott, M Cooke, B Cooke, Le Gros, McGrath.
28th December 1975 Oriel Park Dundalk 3-2 Sligo Rovers
A big crowd turned out in Oriel Park for this Christmas fixture against Sligo Rovers. They got excellent value for money in a dramatic afternoon when Dundalk’s big lead was almost lost in the closing stages. As a result, Dundalk kept hot on the heels of leaders Finn Harps. After 11 minutes, Tony Cavanagh put Jimmy Dainty away on the right wing and the winger’s perfect cross was dispatched to the net by a powerful header by Sean Sheehy.Having gone close on a number of occasions to extending their lead, Dundalk finally went 2-0 up after 28 minutes with a sensational goal by Cavanagh.
He went on a long run, evading numerous tackes, before shooting past Patterson. After 50 minutes, Cavanagh’s corner was punched out by Patterson but only as far as Tommy McConville who headed it back over the keeper into the net to make it 3-0. Sligo started their comeback after 65 minutes when McGee’s shot managed to get through Blackmore with Tommy McConville only able to help the ball over the line in a desperate effort to rescue the situation.
Then after 72 minutes, Mat McManus’s shot from 20 yards is almost saved by Blackmore but the ball enters the net via the post. With five minutes left, there was a huge let-off for Dundalk when Leonard shot wide with the goal at his mercy.
Dundalk: Blackmore, McManus, J McLaughlin, T McConville, B McConville, S McLoughlin, Dainty, McDowell, Sheehy, Flanagan, Cavanagh. Sub: Connellan.
Sligo Rovers: Patterson, Deasy, Fox, McManus, Rutherland, Wood, McGee, Leonard, Stewart, Fagan, Healy. Sub: Pugh for Stewart.
4th January 1976 Oriel Park Dundalk 3-0 Athlone Town
With Finn Harps losing, Dundalk went joint-top of the table with this win over Athlone in Oriel Park. After the match, Jim McLaughlin was very optimistic that his team could go on to challenge for the title. “I now have a team that is good enough to win the league. If I get the same sort of application every week then we are going to take some stopping”. Dundalk did have some luck, thanks to the luckless Andy Stephenson, but also had a great goal by McDowell disallowed plus went close on several occasions. Dundalk took the lead after 8 minutes with Stephenson’s first own goal of the day when his head deflected Tony Cavanagh’s shot past Mahon.
It was 2-0 after 60 minutes when Flanagan’s shot from 16 yards was well saved by Mahon, but Sean Sheehy collected the rebound and played the ball back to Flanagan. This time Flanagan hammered the ball goalwards and Stephenson, again, was unlucky to divert the ball into the net. After 74 minutes Flanagan’s 20 yard run ends with him beating two men before curling another left-footed shot that rocketed into the left corner of the net.
Dundalk: Blackmore, McManus, J McLaughlin, T McConville, B McConville, Dainty, S McLoughlin, McDowell, Sheehy, Flanagan, Cavanagh. Sub: Connellan for Cavanagh.
Athlone: Mahon, Duffy, Fagan, Stephenson, Smith, Humphries, Mooney, Davis, Minnock, Martin, Daly. Sub: Larkin for Humphries.
25th January 1976 Richmond Park St Patricks’ Athletic 2-2 Dundalk
Terry Flanagan, extremely doubtful for this match due to an Achilles tendon injury, declared himself fit at the last minute but made himself available. The injury returned during the first half but Flanagan decided to persevere. “I had mentioned the injury to Jim at half-time and when it got worse in the second half I decided it would be best if I came off. But I gave it a bit longer. How lucky I was to make the right decision”.
Sean Sheehy in action against St Pats (25th January 1976)
Dundalk found themselves behind in the second half and found it very difficult to break down a Pats defence that featured Dermot Keely and, playing in an unusual sweeper position, Alife Hale. However, Flanagan eventually found a way. However, the dropped point allowed Harps to go two points clear.
Pats had taken the lead after 64 minutes through Peter Conway. Flanagan’s first goal arrived in the 79th minute when headed home Cavanagh’s corner. St Pats restored their lead within a minute. A long free-kick into the box by Hale was misjudged by Blackmore and Tommy McConville and the ball broke free for Byrne to set up Conway to score. However, Dundalk hit back immediately when Flanagan scored after a goalmouth scramble.
St Pats: Lally, Smith, Paisley, Keely, Reynolds, Doyle, Cobbe, Hale, Baker, Byrne, Conway.
Dundalk: Blackmore, McManus, J McLaughlin, T McConville, B McConville, S McLoughlin, Cavanagh, McDowell, Sheehy, Flanagan, Dainty.
1st February 1976 Oriel Park Dundalk 3-2 Cork Celtic
Bobby Charlton helped Dundalk get their title charge back on track when he turned in a superb display against Finn Harps for Waterford United at Kilcohan Park. Charlton ran the show in front of 6000 spectators and scored a goal in a 3-1 win for the hosts. This gave Dundalk the opportunity to get back on level terms with Harps at the top of the table. However, much like the Sligo game at Christmas, Dundalk almost threw it away.
After an opening period of incessant pressure, a foul by John McCarthy on Sean Sheehy gave Dundalk a direct free-kick. Sean McLoughlin took aim from 30 yards out and slammed home the free-kick. After 42 minutes, a corner by Cavanagh was punched clear by McCarthy. Flanagan almost got to the rebound but missed it and it rolled out 25 yards from goal to Sean McLoughlin who repeated his earlier trick by rocketing the ball to the net. Dainty added a third just before the break. In the second half, McManus had a penalty saved and them McSweeney scored twice for Celtic to give Dundalk a nervous final ten minutes but they held on for the win.
Dundalk: Blackmore, McManus, J McLaughlin, T McConville, B McConville, S McLoughlin, Cavanagh, McDowell, Sheehy, Flanagan, Dainty. Sub: Connellan.
Cork Celtic: A McCarthy, Carroll, O’Leary, J McCarthy, Brooks, Gillen, Myers, Heery, Shortt, McSweeney, Tambling. Sub: Tobin.
8th February 1976 Finn Park Finn Harps 0-2 Dundalk
This was the big one! Dundalk travelled to Ballybofey to take on Finn Harps who had topped the table from the start of the season. In advance of the match, Jim McLaughlin spoke about how he had “no special plans” for Harps scoring sensation Brendan Bradley despite his incredible 18 goals in 22 games haul. “The only thing I am concerned about is ourselves. We have proved we are a good side, but any time we have started to get over-concerned about the opposition, our game has suffered”. Harps were without stalwart defender Jim Sheridan and also were missing Peter Hutton who broke his ankle in the Waterford defeat.
And so, the scene was set in front of 5000 spectators for what was a tremendous and very controversial match. Both keepers made saves in the early stages but it was first blood to Dundalk after 9 minutes. Brian McConville lofted a free-kick into the box and Flanagan, escaping the attention of his marker, rose to head the ball over Harps keeper McElhinney into the net. While chances were at a premium, Harps kept up the pressure for much of the first half. The McConville brothers produced an outstanding performance while McManus and Jim McLaughlin were also on hand to clear any danger that came their way. At the other end, Dainty, Sheehy and Flanagan fired good efforts wide.
After 75 minutes came the key moment of the game. A long cross by Kevin Mahon was headed on by Terry Harkin for Bradley to score at the far post. The referee instantly disallowed the goal for off-side. This, according to newspaper reports, caused Harkin to charge at the referee. This resulted in Harkin being sent off. Then, to rub salt into the wound, Dundalk scored their second goal with ten minutes to go. Terry Flanagan broke away chasing a long clearance by Sean McLoughlin. McElhinney came off his line to try and smother the ball at his feet. Flanagan appeared to have accepted that the keeper would have full control of the ball but McElhinney allowed the ball to slip from his grasp and Flanagan was in to chip the ball into the corner of the net.
Finn Harps: McElhinney, McGranaghan, Ferry, T O’Doherty, D McDowell, D O’Doherty, Mahon, Harkin, Bradley, Carlyle, Healy. Sub: McLoughlin for Ferry
Dundalk: Blackmore, McManus, J McLaughlin, T McConville, B McConville, S McLoughlin, Cavanagh, Sheehy, McDowell, Flanagan, Dainty. Sub: Connellan.
29th February 1976 Harold’s Cross Shelbourne 1-2 Dundalk
Dundalk had signed former Preston North-End midfielder Alan Spavin for this game and he took the place of Sean McLoughlin for this game. It turned out that Spavin’s clearance had not come through yet and Dundalk were to be fined £50 for playing him without the correct registration. Dundalk managed to win this game with a late goal to keep Jim McLaughlin’s team two points ahead of Finn Harps with five games to play. “That was a certainly a good two points to get, although there is still a lot of hard work to be done” said McLaughlin after the game.
After 19 minutes Jimmy Dainty got on the end of a great cross by Tony Cavanagh and steered his shot wide out of the reach of Willie Byrne to make it 1-0. The Shels equaliser was a disaster for Jim McLaughlin! His attempted pass back to Blackmore was intercepted by Mick Lawlor who cracked a great shot to the net. Dundalk managed to get the win when, after 82 minutes, Spavin chipped a great free-kick into the box that Tommy McConville headed down for Sean Sheehy to score from five yards.
Shelbourne: Byrne, Cervi, McKenna, McDonnell, Dunning, Meehan, Hynes, Shields, Lawlor, Roche, Devine. Sub: Doyle for Shields
Dundalk: Blackmore, McManus, J McLaughlin, T McConville, B McConville, Spavin, Cavanagh, McDowell, Sheehy, Flanagan, Dainty.
21st March 1976 Oriel Park Dundalk 4-1 Drogheda United
A huge step forward for Dundalk. With Finn Harps losing, Dundalk were able to extend their lead to three points in front of their biggest crowd of the season, which paid gate receipts of £1350. After this match, Jim McLaughlin was still remaining cautious: “We are a step nearer but I’ll only start reaching for the champagne when we win the last three games.”
Seamus McDowell in action against Drogheda. (21st March 1976).
After 13 minutes, Dundalk open the scoring with a beautiful goal. Flanagan controlled Blackmore’s long kick with great skill and passed to Sheehy. He, in turn, put McDowell through and he converted brilliantly into the far corner of the goal.
After 34 minutes, McDowell was the creator as Dundalk went two goals ahead when he supplied Dainty with the pass that allowed him to find the space to beat Byrne from a narrow angle. Before half-time, the Drogheda fans silenced the Oriel majority when they pulled a goal back. Donnelly rose high to head Stephen’s corner to the net. With eight minutes left Sean Sheehy relieved the anxiety of the Dundalk supporters when he profited from the rebound after Jackie McManus’ 25 yard free-kick rebounded off the bottom of the crossbar with Sheehy on hand to convert. Then, on 89 minutes, Alan Spavin’s 25 yard free-kick was deflected by the head of Drogheda centre-half Willy Roche giving Byrne no chance.
Dundalk: Blackmore, McManus, J McLaughlin, T McConville, B McConville, Spavin, Cavanagh, McDowell, Sheehy, Flanagan, Dainty. Sub: S McLoughlin for Flanagan.
Drogheda: L Byrne, Campbell, McGuigan, Donnelly, Roche, O’Halloran, Clarke, Tilly, D Byrne, Brunton, Muckian. Sub: Stephens.
28th March 1976 Milltown Shamrock Rovers 0-3 Dundalk
Terry Flanagan scores in Miltown (28th March 1976).
With Terry Eviston scoring for Home Farm to keep Finn Harps to a 1-1 draw at Tolka Park, Dundalk needed just one more point after this easy win over Shamrock Rovers in Milltown. In a rather drab encounter, there was little doubt how this game against the league’s bottom club would finish. Dundalk got off to a great start when an error by Pat Dunne gave Dundalk an early lead. McManus, in an advanced position, found himself in acres of space 20 yards out.
His shot should have been saved easily but it squeezed through at Dunne’s near post. After 30 minutes, Brian McConville works a one-two with Flanagan before passing to Tony Cavanagh who has no trouble slipping the ball past Dunne. The final goal came in the 44th minute when Flanagan weaves his way through the Rovers defence to finish past Dunne via the far post.
Shamrock Rovers: Dunne, Lindsay, Miller, Burke, Synnott, M Cooke, Meagan, Conway, R Cooke, Kearns, Magee. Sub: Lyons
Dundalk: Blackmore, McManus, J McLaughlin, T McConville, B McConville, Spavin, Cavanagh, Flanagan, Dainty, McDowell, Sheehy. Sub: S McLoughlin.
Terry Flanagan scores the goal that brings the title to Oriel.
4th April 1976 Oriel Park Dundalk 1-0 Cork Hibernian
The title returns to Oriel for the first time in nine years! 5000 supporters turned up to see if Dundalk could get the point they needed. There was so much tension in the ground that it even affected Jim McLaughlin – who received a red card after an off the ball incident. However, there was also a celebratory atmosphere with a showband playing from the back of a lorry and Jimmy Dainty being presented with the Player of the Year trophy.
Terry Flanagan in action v Cork Hibs, 4th April 1976.
Dundalk were on top throughout but had to wait until the 65th minute before getting the goal that sealed the title. Terry Flanagan was the player who scored the vital goal but it was largely the work of Alan Spavin. In his last appearance for the club before leaving for the United States, Spavin struck a fierce shot that looked like it was going wide before Flanagan had the presence of mind to divert the ball goalwards with a header that flashed into the net.
Dundalk: Blackmore, McManus, J McLaughlin, T McConville, B McConville, Spavin, Cavanagh, McDowell, Sheehy, Flanagan, Dainty.
Cork Hibs: Spillane, O’Mahony, Brohan, Sheehan, Trainor, Kirby, D Lawson, Kirby, Murphy, Finnegan, Wiggington.