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1981 European Cup Winners Cup – Tottenham Hotspur

Another contender for the most historic night in Dundalk Football Club’s 75 years in senior football. As usual, Dundalk were portrayed as lambs heading for slaughter. Instead the Dundalk team gave a fine display that gave them a fully deserved 1-1 draw. There was nothing lucky or fluky about it, Dundalk matched the Londoners for the whole 90 minutes. Dundalk did not let Tottenham settle for a moment. Everybody in the side ran themselves ragged preventing Hoddle and Co. from exploiting any possession they had. The success of this holding policy gave Dundalk more confidence to attack themselves as the match went on and Spurs were happy to escape Oriel Park with a draw.

Dundalk nearly took a sensational lead in the first few moments. A poor back pass by Graham Roberts went wide of Clemence. Hilary Carlyle ran in and tried to score from an impossible angle. The ball went right across the face of the goal. Dundalk had the Spurs defence worried in the early stages and seemed quite nervous. Fairclough nearly scored when he headed on a Kehoe corner only to see Hughton clear the ball off the line. Near the end of the first half a few slips by the Dundalk defence almost let Spurs in. A slip by Lawlor let in Steve Archibald but Blackmore saved at his near post and the keeper also had to be alert following a mistake by Man of the Match Tommy McConville.

Spurs started brightly in the second half. Micky Hazard went very close with a shot that went just over the bar. Dundalk came back and Brian Duff forced Clemence into conceding a corner with a powerful shot. Then in 63rd minute Dundalk were caught out by a defence splitting pass from Glenn Hoddle. Garth Crooks picked up the pass and rounded Blackmore to score. That seemed to be the end of Dundalk. As Spurs tried to extend their lead, Dundalk refused to let the goal affect their concentration.

With 9 minutes remaining, while Dundalk were under pressure from a Tottenham side believing that their hosts were about to crack, Martin Lawlor launched the ball from the defence into the Spurs half. Graham Roberts was the covering defender but he misjudged the bounce and suddenly Mick Fairclough found himself in the clear. Ray Clemence came out to narrow the angle but Fairclough showed remarkable composure to shoot under his body to the Tottenham net. The whole of Dundalk would have been shaken by the roars of celebration.

After the goal Dundalk struggled to keep Tottenham at bay. But the defence stood firm and with McConville playing a starring role Spurs could not make the breakthrough. In the end it was Dundalk who very nearly stole the victory. A 20 yard low effort by Sean Byrne seemed destined for the Tottenham net but went inches wide.

The Dundalk team received a standing ovation fit for heroes at the final whistle. But surely their would be a slaughter in the second leg match in White Hart Lane…

The teams that night were:


Blackmore, Gregg, McConville, Dunning, Lawlor, Byrne, Flanagan, Kehoe, Fairclough, Carlyle, Duff.

Sub: Archibold for Duff

Tottenham Hotspur

Clemence, Hughton, Miller, Roberts, Hazard, Perryman, Ardiles, Archibald, Galvin, Hoddle, Crooks.

Sub: Smith for Galvin

2nd Leg

The large contingent of Dundalk supporters who made the trip to north London will remember this game as another superb European display. Another drubbing was predicted but as in the 1st Leg Dundalk made Tottenham, who had comfortably eliminated Ajax Amsterdam in the previous round, sweat right to the end. After the match Tottenham boss, Keith Burkinshaw, admitted that he was a relieved man: “I am pleased that we are through. The crowd think you can go out and score 5 or 6 but it was not like that. I was very worried and relieved to just get through. Their level of fitness surprised us. We thought our superior fitness would help us more than it did”. Jim McLaughlin was delighted with his team: “I am extremely proud of them. Our big fear was being shown up but the players did a tremendous job. We were never over-awed and as time went on we were hoping for a break”.

With Tottenham’s fine new stand not yet ready, 33,500 people crammed into three sections of the ground. Spurs started with a frenetic pace and forced a seemingly endless series of corners. A combination of poor finishing and brilliant defending meant that Dundalk survived the opening onslaught. on 4 minutes Blackmore produced a great save to deny Archibald. Despite the pressure and the chances being squandered Ritchie was not called upon to save Dundalk again until just before half time when he produced a stunning save to deny Chris Hughton. It was not all just Tottenham in the first half and Dundalk very nearly took the lead after 20 minutes. This was when Mick Fairclough’s flick on deceived Clemence and the ball was frantically cleared off the line for a corner. Despite Ardiles and Galvin having great games for Spurs Dundalk somehow managed to hold on till half time.

Spurs again started making incessant attacks on the Dundalk goal at the start of the second half. But after 10 minutes or so Dundalk upped their game. Barry Kehoe in particular was playing with great confidence. But then in the 63rd minute Dundalk conceded a very soft goal. Tommy McConville, who played another superb match, lost his footing while attempting to clear a Hoddle corner. The ball fell at the feet of Garth Crooks whose shot seemed to be covered by Blackmore but took a deflection of the despairing challenge of Paddy Dunning and went into the net. After all the good work it was hard to believe that Spurs could score from such a scrappy goal.

Dundalk tried their best to get back into the game and Mick Fairclough came closest when he headed a Martin Lawlor cross just wide of the goal. Dundalk though by the end were hanging on. Steve Archibald hit the underside of the bar and Blackmore made a good save from Glen Hoddle.

To say that it was a gallant effort does not do justice to Dundalk’s performances over the two legs. At the end of the match the Dundalk team received a standing ovation not just from the travelling support but also from the Tottenham fans who knew that they had been in a real battle to get through.

Tottenham Hotspur:

Clemence, Hughton, Miller, Roberts, Hazard, Perryman, Ardiles, Archibald, Galvin, Hoddle, Crooks.


Blackmore, Gregg, Lawlor, Dunning, McConville, Flanagan, Byrne, Kehoe, Duff, Fairclough, Carlyle.

Subs: Archibold for Duff, Reilly for Carlyle.