The other Ireland or Eire was more fun – 3 teams competed for the title, eventually becoming four. This happened because of some irregularities – the record is laconic, but three matches were not quite right and points were awarded to the other team. Curiously, nothing else was changed – just points changed. Drogheda – Finn Harps 0-1, Thurles Town – Cork Celtic 0-1, and Cork Celtic – Limerick 0-0 – the results stayed, but Cork Celtic had 3 points deducted, Finn Harps – two. Thurles Town had two points added, Drogheda also two, and Limerick one. The only club benefiting from that was Drogheda United – thanks to the extra points, they finished with bronze medals. Without them they were 5th. As for Cork Celtic, they were last no matter what. Along with Galway Rovers, they were the hopeless outsiders during the season, settling right at the bottom of the table. Cork Celtic earned 11 points before they were penalized, Galway finished with 13. The 14th, St.Patrick’s Athletic, had 20. No problems at the bottom of the table.
At the top was much more interesting – Waterford, Bohemians, Dundalk, and to a point Drogheda United, fought for the title. Of course, Drogheda laughed at the end, suddenly getting bronze medals, but the biggest laughs belonged to Dundalk and without awarded points too. They finished 2 points ahead of Bohemians, winning their 5th title. It was great season for Dundalk – they reached the Cup final as well.
Waterford were the other finalist, a rival in the championship as well. Two clubs with a chance to win at least one trophy. One perhaps should be sorry for Waterford – they lost everything… pushed back to 4th place because of the extra points Drogheda got and also lost the Cup the final 0-2.
Happy ending of the Cup final – Dundalk got their 5th Cup. They also won their 5th title. It was a double this year – what could be better? May be the best season ever.
Double winners, double joy. Of course, winners have the best – and so it was: Tommy McConville was considered one of the best Irish players not to have joined an English club.
Cathal Muckian was the player Dundalk paid a club record fee to get from Drogheda – 4000 pounds. He justified the money spent. Innocent days… the sum is laughable now. Finally, the midfielder Leo Flanagan was called to play for the Republic of Ireland. So was Muckian. Neither played much for Eire, but considering that the national team was generally made of England-based professionals, it was a recognition of great form. Dundalk were strong and the success was credited to their manager.
Jim McLaughlin was appointed manager in 1974 and immediately became the most successful manager in the history of the club. Champion in his first year, followed by winning the Cup, and finally a double. Dundalk added new jewels to their proud history – they were the first club outside Dublin to win the championship in 1933, they were the first Irish club to win a game in the European Cup in 1963, when they beat FC Zurich in Switzerland. Now they added a double. Yet, it was success in semi-professional league… not much from outsider’s point of view, but interesting nevertheless. The romantic days of football were ending, yet, compared to today’s game, it was still romantic: the players had other occupations really. The champions were otherwise a butcher, a lorry driver, another driver, clerk, technician, bank official, teacher, store manager, company director… try telling that to the players of today. Of course, the players were often ambitious, but that meant going to England – and going to England meant financial stability of the club: in 1977 Dundalk sold three youngsters to Liverpool. To a point, the transfer translated into a great season and the double. To a point, it was a bitter reality – as every other Irish club, Dundalk had no real hopes of becoming really successful club. The best they could do was supplying British football with young talent. One way street… rarely somebody crossed the sea the other way – in this squad, only the goalkeeper Richie Blackmore, born in England, but unable to make it there and he failed at Bristol City, not some big club.