Match by Match: 1977 FAI Cup Winners
By 1977, Dundalk had gone 19 years since their last FAI Cup success. 1976 had seen a nine year wait for the return of the league championship trophy and the wait for the FAI Cup came to an end twelve months later.
Dundalk 2-1 Pegasus // FAI Cup 2nd Round // Sunday 13th February 1977, Oriel Park
Dundalk: Blackmore, O’Brien, McLaughlin, McConville, McManus, Braddish, Kavanagh, McDowell, Flanagan, Lawlor, Dainty. Sub: Sheehy for McDowell
Pegasus: Purcell, O’Kelly, Dolan, C Travers, B O’Callaghan, McDermott, Moran, Henry, J O’Callaghan, E Travers
Dundalk’s first opponents in the FAI Cup campaign were reigning Leinster League Champions Pegasus. Formed in 1969, Pegasus were based in Belfield and provided an outlet for footballers who had graduated from UCD. In their team was future Irish International legend Kevin Moran who was playing a starring role in Dublin’s GAA side and had begun to attract interest from Manchester United. They had defeated 1975 FAI Cup winners Home Farm in the first round (Dundalk received a bye). In the lead up to the Dundalk-Pegasus clash, much press attention was given to Moran’s decision to favour playing in the FAI Cup match instead of representing Leinster in a Railway Cup clash against Connacht in Enniscorthy. Dundalk warmed up for the match with a 4-1 Leinster Senior Cup win over Parkvilla and a 1-1 draw with Shelbourne in the league. The prospects of Dundalk retaining their league title had all but gone by February. Pegasus applied for 200 Stand tickets for the match and McLaughlin was treating them with the greatest of respect, “I saw them twice and the first impression I got was what a tall side they are. They are pretty fit and there is no lack of skill in the team”.
He was right to be concerned. Dundalk received the fright of their lives after a lacklustre performance. The Pegasus keeper, Purcell, denied Tony Kavanagh’s volley and a Mick Lawlor header. Purcell was also lucky to deny Tommy McConville’s header after 30 minutes. After those chances, Pegasus, lead superbly by Moran, defended magnificently. After 50 minutes Eamon Travers attempted to chip Blackmore from 25 yards which the Dundalk keeper did very well to tip over the bar. Blackmore also denied Joe McDermott’s low shot. The Oriel natives were becoming increasingly restless until the deadlock was finally broken after 66 minutes. Mick Lawlor and Terry Flanagan teamed up with a 1-2 which resulted with Lawlor to scoring with a close range header. Dundalk’s scarcely deserved lead lasted until the 87th minute. Substitute Pat McGrath received a John O’Callaghan pass and was given the freedom of Oriel to toe-poke past Blackmore.
A replay at Belfield seemed on the cards until the last attack of the game. Flanagan broke free on the right and his shot was parried by Purcell. The rebound fell kindly for Flanagan who shot home for the winner. “Let’s say I am glad to be in the next round” was the terse comment from Jim McLaughlin after the match.
Next up for Dundalk was a tricky tie away to Cork Celtic. Dundalk were eliminated from the 1976 FAI Cup by a Geoff Hurst inspired Cork Celtic at the first round stage. The memories of this match were still fresh in Tommy McConville’s mind in the lead up to the match. “We failed to recover from the early goal. Geoff Hurst pushed the ball through. I slipped and before anybody had a chance to cover my mistake, Brian McSweeney put the ball in the net and Celtic were home”. Revenge was on the cards for Dundalk although McConville was not taking the task lightly. “Nobody ever under estimates a Cork team in Cup football – least of all when they have a class player like Bobby Tambling pulling the strings”.
Cork Celtic 0-1 Dundalk // FAI Cup Quarter Final // Sunday 6 March 1977, Turner’s Cross
Cork Celtic – D O’Mahoney, Brookes, J McCarthy, Murphy, Carroll, Gillen, C McCarthy, Shortt, Tambling, McSweeney, Madden. Subs: Mellerick for Murphy, Neiland for McSweeney.
Dundalk: Blackmore, B McConville, McLaughlin, T McConville, McManus, Braddish, Cavanagh, McDowell, Flanagan, Lawlor, Dainty. Sub: Sheehy for Cavanagh.
This match was not for the feint hearted. A dour midfield battle that boiled over on several occasions and culminated in the referee sending three players off in the late stages. Cork started brightly but the Dundalk defence, without Derek O’Brien, held firm and slowly the visitors took control of the match. Dundalk took the lead after 17 minutes when Mick Lawlor timed his run into the box to perfection to powerfully head home Tony Cavanagh’s cross. Cork keeper, Declan O’Mahony, kept Dundalk at bay with a string of fine saves while at the other end, Blackmore’s uncharacteristic mistake gave Paddy Shortt a great chance but Brian McConville cleared off the line. With Cork running out of time, all hell broke loose in the Cork goalmouth in the 87th minute. A fight broke out between Declan O’Mahony and Jimmy Dainty that soon escalated. In the end, referee John Carpenter showed red cards to O’Mahony, Dainty and Cork striker Paddy Shortt. However, despite the chaos Dundalk qualifed for the semi-finals.
Dundalk 1-1 St Patrick’s Athletic // FAI Cup Semi-Final // Friday 1 April 1977, Tolka Park
Dundalk: Blackmore, B McConville, McLaughlin, T McConville, McManus, Braddish, Cavanagh, McDowell, Dainty, Flanagan, Lawlor.
St Pats: O’Brien, B Martin, Last, Keely, Smith, Munroe, Luke, Flanagan, Byrne, Bridges, N Martin.
Dundalk’s preparations for this semi-final were not helped by the on-off transfer of Seamus McDowell to Hearts. The transfer was due to go through after the victory in Cork but its collapse allowed Jim McLaughlin to select the striker in this semi-final against St Pats. The match was ruined as a spectacle by a gale-force wind. The wind was to play a role in the opening goal for Dundalk after just ten minutes. Jimmy Dainty swung in a vicious cross that was caught by the wind and flew right across the goalline evading O’Brien in the St Pat’s goal. Terry Flanagan was on hand at the back post to head home. It only took St Pats two minutes to level. Future Dundalk star Leo Flanagan crossed superbly to Neil Martin and he headed past a stranded Blackmore. St Pat’s had the best chance to win the match in the second half when Martin mistimed a simple header with the Dundalk defence absent.
Dundalk 1-0 St Patrick’s Athletic // FAI Cup Semi-Final Replay // Wednesday 6th April 1977, Dalymount Park
Dundalk: Blackmore, McManus, T McConville, McLaughlin, B McConville, Braddish, McDowell, Cavanagh, Dainty, Lawlor, Flanagan
St Pats: O’Brien, B Martin, Keely, Doyle, Smith, Munroe, Luke, Flanagan, Byrne, Bridges, N Martin
A certain Mr Dermot Keely had announced on the eve of this match that he was quitting St Pat’s at the end of the season to emigrate to Australia. He was also optimistic about St Pat’s chances of upsetting Dundalk. “Individually, there is a lot of class in the Dundalk side but I doubt if the team, as a unit, work as hard as we do. And ultimately, Cup football is all about the willingness of players to work and graft until the last minute.”
The first half passed without serious incident. Dundalk increased the tempo in the second half with Tony Cavanagh and Seamus McDowell dominating the midfield. Cavanagh produced two splendid long range efforts while O’Brien saved brilliantly from McDowell’s 20 yard effort. However, Dundalk’s dominance disappeared and St Pat’s had two opportunities to steal a place in the final. First McDowell’s ill-advised back pass was intercepted by Byrne but he shot over the bar from just 5 yards. Then in the 89th minute a similar incident almost spelled disaster. Brian McConville’s back pass was intercepted by St Pat’s player-manager Bridges. However, Blackmore came off his line quickly and made an excellent save with McManus completing the clearance.
The winner came in the second minute of extra time. McDowell floated in a tantalising deep cross into the box. Dermot Keely headed clearance fell to 18 year old Synan Braddish 25 yards out and he crashed a powerful volley low into the corner of the net. Blackmore came to Dundalk’s rescue in the 115th minute when he managed to tip over a wayward cross from Doyle.
FAI CUP FINAL 1977 // The Build Up
In the week leading up to the Cup Final, Jim McLaughlin spent much of his time explaining why his side had faltered in the league campaign yet had now gone 13 games undefeated. According to Jim, there were two main reasons. Richie Blackmore recovering from a back injury resolved the problem of poor goals being conceded in the early part of the league campaign. “Have you seen a better save all season than the one Blackmore pulled off from Leo Flanagan in Tolka Park in the semi final? That was the stamp of a man at the top of his form and if Limerick are to score on Sunday, they are going to have to do it the hard way.”
The other factor was the return to top form of Mick Lawlor. Lawlor was once the darling of Milltown and had picked up two FAI Cup winning medals in 1968 an 1969. He had progressed to the point that he won five international caps during Liam Tuohy’s term as manager. However, Rovers faced a decline in the early 1970s and Lawlor’s own form suffered. He eventually moved to Shelbourne and then, at the start of the 76/77 season, moved to Oriel Park. This new start failed to pay dividends in the first six months. Then McLaughlin decided to change Lawlor’s role in the team. “We were playing Parkvilla in the Leinster Cup in January and I decided to move Lawlor from midfield into the front line. Call it a hunch if you like, but I somehow had the feeling it would pay off. And it did. I can say it now that there were times in the first half of the season that Mick Lawlor gave me some of the biggest problems I have experienced in football. It took character on Mick’s part to overcome his problems but he stuck with it. I am thrilled for his sake as much as the team.”
McLaughlin believed that his Dundalk side were the best footballing side in the country despite being effectively out of the championship race by January. “Many times we dropped points in games the opposing manager came to me afterwards and told me we should have won by three or four goals. But my brief then, as now, was to entertain as well as win games and it is possible that in attempting this, we may have fallen between two stools. I am still convinced that we are playing better football than any other team in the country. The difference now being that we have come to terms with many of our early season problems. ”
DUNDALK 2-0 LIMERICK // FAI CUP FINAL // 1st MAY 1977, DALYMOUNT PARK
Dundalk: Blackmore, B McConville, McLaughlin, McManus, T McConville, Braddish, McDowell, Cavanagh, Dainty, Flanagan, Lawlor
Limerick: Fitzpatrick, Nolan, O’Mahoney, Fitzgerald, Herrick, Deacy, Meaney, Walsh, Duggan, Kennedy, Kirby. Sub: Lymer for Walsh
Terry Flanagan proved to be Dundalk’s hero as his two goal blast gave Dundalk their first FAI Cup since 1958. Limerick began the game quickly and came close to opening the deadlock after 6 minutes. A long throw by Herrick was headed on by Kennedy for Kirby at the back post who was unlucky to see his header crash off the crossbar. Kennedy then caused more mayhem in the Dundalk penalty area when he capitalised on a mistake by Blackmore to head goalwards. Thankfully Synan Braddish was on hand to clear off the line.
Dundalk took the lead after 34 minutes. Jim McLaughlin, in a rare excursion deep into enemy territory, played a 1-2 with Mick Lawlor and burst into the box. His low diagonal cross was swept home superbly by Flanagan. The closest Limerick came to equalising came on 66 minutes when Blackmore saved brilliantly from Lymer’s long range effort and then the keeper reacted well to smother Kirby’s low shot from the rebound. With three minutes remaining, Flanagan scored his second and wrapped up the cup victory. Flanagan rose highest in the box to meet a McDowell corner and headed the ball almost out of the keeper’s hands into the top corner. “It was one of those situations in which you either score or got a bunch of knuckles in your face”.
Player-Manager Jim McLaughlin stated after the match, “You could say there we were outgunned in the areas we were expected to control. But our defence was simply unbendable. Frankly, I would like Dundalk to have won in a more positive fashion but after losing so many games we ought to have won the championship it was great to get this one”.