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Retrospective: FAI Cup Final 1988

// 1 May 2013

This article first appeared on Dundalkfc.com on 1st May 2013 – the 25th anniversary of the 1988 FAI Cup Final.

If you are from a certain generation, dundalkfc.com would like to apologise for making you feel very old today…It was 25 years ago today that a John Cleary penalty against Derry City in Dalymount Park secured the League & FAI Cup double for Dundalk!

1988 FAI Cup Final Programme

Despite securing the league title on April 21st, Derry City were seen by many to be the favourites for the match.

The brilliant South African Owen De Gama was the centre of press attention in the lead up to the game. The FAI Cup final was receiving big coverage back in South Africa thanks to De Gama’s explots. It was to be his last game for Derry City as he had joined Spanish Second Division club, Figeuras, in the lead up to the game.

Dundalk v Derry City - FAI Cup Final 1988

Jim McLaughlin stated before the match of the need to strike first as it would be an “enormous challenge” to retrieve the match if Dundalk went ahead. These words proved to be prophetic. Derry came under attack within 40 seconds of the kick-off. Stuart Roberts was required to go down at the feet of Dessie Gorman. After four minutes, Terry Eviston failed to convert with a header from a cross by Gino Lawless. Derry came back into the match and Barry Kehoe came to his sides rescue by clearing a Calvin Plummer header off the line. Martin Bayley tested Alan O’Neill with a 25 yard drive.


The “clear” penalty decision!

In the 19th minute, a foul on Bayley by Eviston went unnoticed and required Roberts to make a fine save to deny Gino Lawless. Within 45 seconds of that incident came one of the most controversial incidents in the history of the FAI Cup Final. Larry Wyse burst into the box and Martin Bayley “pushed” the Dundalk midfielder in the back with both hands. Contact was not strong enough to either a) make Wyse go down b) make Wyse stop to protest or c) cause any protest from any player or any supporter! However, Wyse’s honesty in staying on his feet should not hide the fact that it was a foul, even it was a soft one, and the decision was correct. Probably.

Dundalk v Derry City - FAI Cup Final 1988

The coolest man in Dalymount Park at this point was John Cleary. He held his nerve to dispatch the spot kick past Roberts. While Cleary made the right decision when placing the ball low past Roberts, his decision to seek the acclamation of the Derry City fans behind the goal was probably not the wisest move of his career. That section of the 14,000 Derry fans present were kind enough to re-direct the Penalty King to a more appropriate section of Dalymount Park.

FAI Cuop Final 1988

Turlough O’Connor’s decision to change from his normal 4-4-2 to a futuristic 3-5-2 formation appeared to catch the Derry team out as they failed to find any serious rhythm to their play. Alan O’Neill enjoyed a relatively trouble free afternoon. Cleary and Harry McCue marked De Gama and Jonathan Speake out of the game. Martin Lawlor, the only survivor from the 1979 double winning team, was outstanding.

Dundalk v Derry City - FAI Cup Final 1988

At the other end, future Dundalk captain Paul Curran and Stuart Gauld had exceptional games against Gorman and Eviston. Gauld was to provide Derry’s finest moment when his shot beat O’Neill but struck the crossbar and rebounded to safety. Martin Murray and Larry Wyse won the battle in the centre of midfield against Felix Healy and the newcomer to the Derry set up Calvin Plummer.

Mickey Fox 1988

There was a huge roar from Mr Spillane to level things up when they claimed Malone had stopped Speake’s shot with his arm. Derry’s final chance came in the 84th minute when Murray made a timely interception to deny Speake.

Unlike the unsavoury scenes of the 1987 FAI Cup Final, the supporters of both club’s made it an unforgettable experience. The 21,000 in attendance made it one of the most colourful Cup Finals in years. The Derry fans generously gave Dundalk a round of applause as they performed their lap of honour.

Jim McLaughlin was sporting afterwards but clearly upset over the penalty decision: “This was an awful way to lose a game. I’m shattered. In my mind the goal that decided it was no penalty. But that’s football. We must be gracious in defeat and I give Dundalk full credit for bringing off the double. Dundalk are the best team in the League of Ireland scene and congratulations to them on the double”.

Crocodile Dundalk

Turlough O’Connor said: “This is a marvellous end to a fantastic season. You have to admire the players who had put so much effort into the League and then came out and showed  that sort of character. I was never really worried at any time. I felt by playing John Cleary in the middle of the back alongside Harry and Joey would mean that whatever Derry produced up front would be met with the stiffest of resistance.”

Joey Malone said: “I suppose the penalty decision was a bit harsh. I have seen worse fouls being ignored. But once in front I knew we were going to do it.”

Dundalk: O’Neill, Lawless, Cleary, McCue, Malone, Lawlor, Wyse, Murray, Kehoe, Gorman, Eviston. Sub: O’Connor for Wyse

Derry: Roberts, Vaudequin, Curran, Gauld, McGuinness, Carlyle, Bayly, Healy, Plummer, De Gama, Speake. Sub: Cunningham for Healy.