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“In my book we should be ahead” July 31, 2012

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Uncategorized.

A 1975 documentary about Shelbourne FC, which was first broadcast in the run-up to the team playing Home Farm in the Final of the FAI Cup. Was broadcast again recently on RTE as part of the TV50 series.

On April 21 1975, the veteran Shelbourne Football Club faced new comers Home Farm in a do-or-die Cup final. Shelbourne lost 1.0. Earlier that week, Shelbourne had featured in a ‘no holds barred’ documentary made by Brian MacLochlainn called ‘In my book you should be ahead!’ which captured the depth and passion of this clubs commitment to soccer and to its great tradition as a local team.

Shelbourne Rovers was founded in 1888 and had many years at the top of the soccer world in Ireland. We meet the team when its fortunes are low. Indeed, this era sees the beginning of a slide which only came to an end in 1992 when Shelbourne won the FAI Championship.

In the words of Con Houlihan who wrote the publicity article for the programme in the RTE Guide 1975: ‘Shelburne Football Club were for generations as taken for granted as the tides; now in a world of cumulative change their existence is insecure. They are without a ground of their own; their following is small; they are low in the League. But footballers have a strange mad pride that makes misfortune seem irrelevant –Shelbourne’s displays this season have lacked nothing in spirit. Brian MacLochlainn has made a film about this club and among its many effects is the dispelling of the myth that Irish soccer is dying.

The electronic eye and ear take you into a world where players are more than numbers in permutations. You see how playing affect their lives; you see how deeply defeat depresses them; you are present at their fiercely honest self appraisals. And you meet the amazing Gerry Doyle: the film’s title is a statement of his approach to every game-‘In my book you should be ahead’. He is their veteran manager. He talks about football and its tactical truths with the excitement of a Newton or an Einstein on the brink of a great discovery.

After seeing this simple and sensitive film you will never again be able to be dismissive about soccer players. And you will understand more deeply the world of those involved in the coming Cup Final meeting of Shelbourne and Home farm’

The RTE Player Link (should the youtube clip be taken down)


1. eamonncork - July 31, 2012

Ah IEL, with this League of Ireland nostalgia you are really spoiling us.
Great documentary. The first FAI Cup final I remember seeing on telly. Home Farm had the 17 year old Martin Murray in midfield, coveted by nearly every club in England. My memory is that he was great that day and went to Everton where things didn’t work out for him. Remember seeing him playing with Drogheda United in the eighties. I recall a newspaper article in the Evening Press perhaps contrasting him with Eric Barber for Shels who was a veteran and had played all over the place. Farm were managed by Dave Bacuzzi, the mention of whose name can still cause older fans in Cork to get all misty eyed about his time with the late lamented Hibs.
The TV50 series has been excellent and has had the inadvertent result of showing up how utterly impoverished and trivial RTE’s current output now. If they made a doc about a League of Ireland club now, you’d have Diarmuid Gavin making paella for them or Eddie Hobbs discovering they were genetically related to the Vikings.


irishelectionliterature - July 31, 2012

Yes love all that old stuff myself. My late Father swore he never saw anyone as good as Rosie Henderson in his heyday at Drums.
Some good stuff on TV50 alright as for what they’d do as a LOI documentary now there’s good material in what happened a number of clubs here. Rovers , Bohs, Drogs and so on .


2. Joe - July 31, 2012

Nice one IEL. I was at that Cup Final. I spent a couple of years in the seventies as a Home Farm fan going to Tolka Park every second Sunday. I remember John Cervi as an outstanding skilful winger/ midfielder for the Farm at that time. He went on to Rovers and never looked half the player with them – a mix of playing with better players and not looking so good and playing a different system/position which didn’t suit him. I also remember reading about 16 year old Ronnie Whelan and how he was off to Liverpool. I’d watch him each Sunday and couldn’t see anything extra special there (apart from the fact that he was 16 and easily holding his own among the adults!). Then one day he got the ball in midfield and the centre forward was racing into space at the edge of the box. The whole team and the whole crowd (all 189 of us) were roaring for Ronnie to pass to him. While every player on the pitch moved to anticipate the obvious pass, Ronnie cooly held possession, turned and went the opposite way into acres of space himself. And I said “Ah, that’s what they mean”. Years later I was in Hannover for his wonder shin to the top corner. And then I met him on the way into the Italy game in Poznan. Asked him for a photo with the young lad. He was in a rush, said he was late for some TV work. Then he stopped and his mate held the camera while me and the young lad posed with Ronnie. And Ronnie says to me: “Sorry I was a bit short, it’s just I’m a bit late for this TV job.” I said: “Ronnie, I was in Hannover, you can say anything you like to me”. And he said: “Let’s hope we get another one like that tonight.” I agreed: “One goal, that’s all we want.”
As for Shels, I think Bohs and Shels should amalgamagte and Rovers and Pats the same so we would have a clear northside/southside rivalry, two big Dublin clubs that could compete in the Europa etc. Except of course Shels are southsiders.


Mark P - July 31, 2012

I don’t think that those mergers will ever fly, Joe. There are four clubs in Dublin with a solid, if small, support base and realistically that’s what has to be built on. What’s more, having just two Dublin clubs would seriously screw up the league – where would we get enough competitive clubs?

I also think that chasing European success is a chimera. There isn’t the fan base to pay the wages to sustain it. And trying to get to that sort of level without the fans to sustain it can kill clubs. The sort of Irish football “fans” who support teams in England or Scotland will always tell you that they’d support the LoI if standards were higher, but they are lying. Standards got higher during the boom, clubs went full time, some modest European success was enjoyed. And Shels still won the league, with a side with five internationals in it, in front of 2,000 people the year they were relegated.

What’s needed is for all four of them to be playing in municipal stadiums – Rovers in Tallaght, Shels in the North suburbs, Pats in the South city and Bohs in the North city. Then get the two hold outs under fan ownership. Do the same in Cork, Limerick, Sligo, Galway, etc.

I’d take a zero tolerance policy towards businessmen trying to get new clubs established in Dublin, (as has been done a few times now) with no possibility of establishing a support base and I don’t like UCD being allowed into the top division for the same reason.


irishelectionliterature - July 31, 2012

Great stuff there Joe.
Have to agree with Mark P about the Dublin clubs. Its funny I thought Rovers might have continued and had another modicum of European Success but Stephen Kenny put paid to that.
At this stage though getting through a round or two in Europe can be worth far more than winning the league or cup financially.


3. eamonncork - August 1, 2012

All good points. I particularly agree with Mark P on this guff about people not supporting the league because of its standard. What people who say that mean is that they wish they had a Premier League team to support. Given the extent to which the league here is in the shadow of the richest league in the world, one which is less than an hour’s flight away and gets saturation TV coverage here, it’s a wonder it’s survived at all. And it’s no coincidence that its decline dates from the arrival of Match of the Day and the like on these shores.
I’ve seen many many tremendously exciting games over the years and almost every game I’ve seen was preferable to staying at home on the couch or being in the pub. The situation of the relative standard of what you’re watching compared to a top class professional league should only really arise if the two games are taking place on the same street at the same time and you have to make a choice.
The odd thing about the League is the extent to which so many so called football fans don’t just ignore it but seem to actively wish for its demise.
As for restructuring I think Pats, Bohs, Shamrock Rovers and Shels have organic fan bases and traditions which will always make them viable entities. Sligo Rovers, Derry and Cork will always be powerhouses while Drogheda and Dundalk, if run properly, should have a place in the league. Limerick and Waterford have suffered from being out of the top flight but have potential while it beggars belief that Galway is in the state it’s in, given its huge strength at under-age level and population base. I think one good 14 team league would be a better idea than the two division system which is imploding anyway. The FAI should pick the teams and stick with them for a few years.
Perhaps the idea of an All-Ireland league has merit but last time it was mooted it came with the idea that domestic soccer should be handed over to a sports promition company run by that ubiquitous Tiger figure Fintan Drury and that there was a ‘Big Five’ down here who should make the running. The Big Five, I seem to recall, included Galway United and excluded Sligo and Shamrock Rovers. Needless to say the idea was hailed as visionary by journalists who in their heart of hearts think that what you really need is a mainly Dublin based league with teams spared those annoying trips down the country.
Anyway, it looks like there’ll be a thrilling climax to the league season and anyone who does go along to the games will be thoroughly entertained as usual.


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