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Fyffes Fans’ Favourites | Frank Ryan

// 18 May 2020

In the latest instalment of our Fyffes Fans’ Favourites series, we caught up with 87-year-old supporter Frank Ryan from Malahide in Dublin who has been supporting the Lilywhites for over 70 years.

After falling in love with the Lilywhites in 1945, Frank spent much of the sixties and seventies following the club in Europe and he was happy to share some wonderful memories with DundalkFC.com.

DFC: You were born and raised in Dublin so how did you end up supporting Dundalk?
FR: My father Sean was the president of the GAA from 1928-1932 and I grew up beside Dalymount Park in Phibsborough. In those days, the ban was in existence and every Sunday I would go down to Croke Park but I never went to Dalymount Park. I walked past it every day but the ban was there and my father was very interested in GAA. One Saturday, a pal of mine at school asked me if I wanted to go to Dalymount. I said I wouldn’t be allowed because that’s the way things where back then but we went anyway. My pal said ‘they’re my team’. I asked who they were? ‘Bohemians’, he said. Now bear in mind I lived yards from Dalymount Park and I didn’t even know who the team was! He said. ‘you can have the other team. They’re Dundalk’. I’ve followed them ever since!

DFC: When did you start going to Oriel Park on a regular basis?
FR: A pal of mine had a car before I did and we used to go up and down to Oriel Park for various cup matches and so forth. I got a little Morris Minor and I used to go up myself. I used to park down by the Friary Church where Fr Maguire was the priest. Unfortunately, I came unwell about six or seven years ago and haven’t been able to get up but I keep in contact with Terry Dillon and Paddy Malone from Dundalk. I miss going up. I have wonderful memories of supporting the club.

Dundalk goalkeeper Walter Durkan retrieves the ball – even though it clearly crossed the line – in the FAI Cup tie with St Patrick’s Athletic at Oriel Park in 1952

DFC: Any stand out memories from the games you’ve seen at Oriel?
I was at the famous match in 1952 when the Walter Durkan ‘goal’ took place against St Patrick’s. The referee deemed that the ball didn’t go over the line but there were pictures in the paper the following day that showed it had! To the best of my knowledge, Pat’s kicked up shit about it! In those days, they used to bring in English referees to do the matches and he got a bollocking at the end. I don’t think he was beaten up but he was certainly harangued and abused!

DFC: Tell us about Europe. Dundalk has taken you to various different places over the years.
FR: Yes, I’ve been all over Europe following the club. I was in Switzerland when we beat Zurich in our first-ever away game, I was in Budapest when Vasas beat us 9-0, I was at Anfield for the 10-0 against Liverpool, I was at White Hart Lane for the game against Tottenham in 1981, I was at Ibrox, I was in Holland, I’ve been everywhere! I had a wonderful time.

DFC: Which of those trips sticks in the memory?
The Swiss trip was the best one ever because it was our first away game in Europe and we won the game. There must have been about 80 people who went to Zurich! It was marvellous. Fr Maguire was on that trip as a guest of the club and he used to say mass for us every morning as was the case in those days!

The Dundalk FC 1949 FAI Cup-winning side

DFC: You mentioned Budapest four years later….
FR: Yes, Vasas beat us 9-0 but it was a marvellous trip. The game was actually a double-header in the famous Népstadion in Budapest and there were 80 or 90,000 people at the game. The Vasas Dundalk game was actually the feature match! At half-time, there was a draw for a bicycle and some fella up at the back of the stand won it. The spotlight zoomed in on him and followed him all the way down to the pitch. He was presented with the bike and went on to ride around the stadium four or five times waving at the crowd! I still have a Russian flag which I swiped off the table of the hotel we were staying in. Both of the visiting teams who played in the double-header stayed in the same hotel and when you came down in the morning, they had an Irish flag and a Russian flag on the tables just to make the teams feel welcome. I stole the Russian flag. Just don’t tell the Hungarian police!!

DFC: Finally, you’ve witnessed plenty of highs over the past seven decades but what was the best team you’ve seen at Oriel?
FR: The team that beat Shelbourne 3-0 in the FAI Cup final in 1949. Charlie Haughey’s brother, Sean, played at full-back for Shels in the final.  There were five Scottish players in the side: Alex Anderson, Mick Skevington, Danny McElhinney, Ronnie Henderson and Edward Hamilton. Peadar Walsh and Jackie Walsh were sensational and Johnny Matthews and Johnny Fearon were brilliant. To me, that was the best Dundalk team of all time. It was a great side.