Whatever happened to Dundalk?

From the Inter Milan semi-final of 1965 to that famous night in Istanbul in 2005, Liverpool have been part of some historic European occasions down the decades. But there’s also been some memorable matches against the continent’s lesser lights. From KR Reykjavik to Petrolul, and Oulo Palloseura to Spartak Vladikavkaz, we uncover the names who may have faded with the passage of time and bring them to life in every matchday programme on Anfield European nights.

Next up is a team of Irish part-timers who ruffled a few feathers in recent decades…


UNTIL tonight’s Europa League group game Utrecht had never played a direct part in the varied European history of LFC.
The Dutch side, where Dirk Kuyt was resident between 1998 and 2003, had featured in Dundalk’s long list of continental opponents though. 
Back in 1968 the Irish team, which evolved from the works side of the Great North Railway Company (GNR), overcame Utrecht 3-2 on aggregate to progress to the second round of the Intercities Fairs Cup.
The following season Bill Shankly’s men were drawn against the team based roughly midway between Dublin and Belfast in the same competition. 
Prior to the first leg at Anfield Liam Touhy, the Irish side’s manager and also the Irish side’s manager at the time, suggested there was a 10-goal difference between the clubs. Unfortunately for him he was exactly right. 
With just 59 seconds on the clock Alun Evans headed in an Ian Callaghan corner. By the end of the evening Evans had added another, with Bobby Graham and Tommy Smith also getting braces. They were joined on the scoresheet by Chris Lawler, Alec Lindsay, Peter Thompson and Callaghan, to make it 10-0.

Amongst the 32,656 that night was future Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier.
"I suppose going to the game with Patrice (Bergues) that day was a touch of destiny,” the Frenchman recalled years later. “Patrice had come over to spend a few days with me because I was here on my own, and so we decided to go and see Liverpool play Dundalk. 
“What impressed me first of all was the atmosphere inside the stadium. We were on the Kop, and it was fantastic to see the unconditioned support of the fans. I was also impressed by the energy which was shown in the game, and the stamina of the players. I think 15 minutes before the end of the match the score was 8-0 and still Liverpool went looking for goals. In fact the score at half-time was 5-0. In France, if you are 5-0 up at half-time the game is over in the sense that you don't bother trying to increase your score. It's not like that in England."

In the visitors’ dugout the spectacle obviously wasn’t viewed so fondly, although Tuohy felt the comprehensive scoreline might actually attract more spectators to the second leg.
“By scoring ten, Liverpool have saved the gate in Dundalk,” he reasoned. “Now the fans over there will come along because they want to see just what sort of a side it must be that can beat us by such a score. Had it been a few less they would have stayed away.”

Despite the tie obviously being over Shankly promised his counterpart that he would play his strongest eleven at Oriel Park two weeks later.
“They will be happy if they get a 10,000 gate – they’ve asked us to make sure we take our first team, and we intend to do this,” the Scot said.
Five thousand people turned up on the night, with Tuohy stating his side would attack as “playing defensively at Anfield didn’t seem to help us much there.” The reward for that approach from the part-timers was a respectable 4-0 loss, Thompson’s brace being accompanied by second half efforts from Graham and Callaghan.
Going the other way the hosts did threaten, with Turlough O’Connor (a future Dundalk manager) bringing some fine saves from Ray Clemence, who was making only his third appearance since joining the club in 1967.

Liverpool exited the competition at the next stage, going out on away goals after a 3-3 aggregate draw with Portuguese side Vitoria Setubal. 
It would be 1982 before the Merseysiders were paired with Dundalk again, this time in the European Cup. In the intervening period the Irishmen had become regulars on the European scene. 
They faced some of the continent’s most famous names, including PSV, Hadjuk Split, Celtic, Porto and Spurs. They were able to trouble the majority of those teams too, as a six year unbeaten home run in European action soundly demonstrated. “I think teams were scared of the place. They just didn’t like playing there; you could see that on their faces when they came out,” defender Dermot Keely remembered.

In 1981 the FA Cup holders Spurs, including Clemence, Ossie Ardiles and Glenn Hoddle, had only just earned a 1-1 draw in Ireland before managing a narrow 1-0 win in London to progress.
12 months later Liverpool made the short trip across the Irish Sea, with the Dundalk Democrat newspaper declaring the fixture as “the zenith of the club’s historic sojourn in the European scene.” The publication also warned that: “We may call this a David and Goliath contest but remember – the giant did not win that one.”
16,500 supporters, paying £68,000 in gate receipts, headed to the County Louth town to see if the reigning European champions could be toppled. 
Jim McLaughlin, a legendary figure in the Irish game and one of LFC’s scouts there, was now in charge of the part-timers. It was he who had recommended a Dubliner by the name of Ronnie Whelan to the Reds, and he must have rued that advice. 
Whelan scored twice in the first half before Ian Rush and David Hodgson added to the tally after the break. Those goals had already ended the tie before the home supporters had a moment to savour. Bruce Grobbelaar was penalised for taking too many steps with the ball in his hand and Leo Flanagan converted from the resulting free-kick. “We have played Spurs and Celtic among others in recent years but we have never experienced anything like this,” McLaughlin said afterwards. 

Overturning a 4-1 deficit was never really a possibility when Dundalk made the return journey to play in front of the Kop. Even McLaughlin knew that as he joked: “Perhaps you could lend us a carpenter or two to erect a barrier in the goalmouth – but even if you did that I think they would find a way through!” 
As a result there were plenty of empty seats around Anfield for what was Terry McDermott’s last game in a red shirt. Apart from the Kirkby native, it was Whelan who again made the headlines, the midfielder netting the only goal of the evening nine minutes from the end to pierce the visitors’ resolute defence. 

The man who would go on to skipper the Reds to the 1989 FA Cup triumph was not the only player to make the journey from Ireland to Merseyside around that time. Three of Dundalk’s most promising individuals were also noticed by Paisley’s talent spotters.
Derek Carroll, Synan Braddish and Brian Duff were all signed in 1978 for a combined fee of £50,000, plus the promise of the Reds visiting Dundalk for a friendly.
The signings came as part of the club’s efforts to deliberately target Ireland – north and south – for emerging talent. Paisley had announced this initiative by saying: “Our scouting net is as wide as ever but we have decided to intensify our efforts in Ireland. Although we have not made any offers for players in Scotland, we know that Scottish clubs are asking the earth for ordinary players. When the reverse happens, they want you to give away players for next to nothing.
“There’s plenty of inflation going on in Scotland so stepping up our scouting in Ireland could counter that.”

None of the Dundalk trio played a competitive game for the club, although Duff was included in a squad who travelled to Jeddah for a match with the Saudi Arabia national team.
The trio had gone in the opposite direction as Harry Beadles who was a member of the Liverpool side that claimed the title in 1921/22 before finishing his career as a player and coach at Dundalk.
A few years after Carroll, Braddish and Duff had returned back home another youngster moved from Dundalk to Liverpool. Aged just 17, Steve Staunton had been in the youth team and reserves at Oriel Park and had featured for Ireland U15s. 
He cost £20,000 and would go on to enjoy two spells as a Red, making a total of 148 appearances, winning the league and the FA Cup. When he left Anfield to join Aston Villa some clever negotiating by the Irish club years earlier was enough to earn them a cut of the transfer fee, rumoured to be around £50,000. 

Copyright - John Hynes

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