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28 May 2022

The Commentary Box: New Away jersey bringing back great memories of past glories

Tom McNulty at 2022 jersey launch

Former Dundalk player Tom McNulty with some of the current day squad at the launch of the club's new third choice strip. (Pic: Sportsfile)

Dundalk boss Stephen O’Donnell continued to strengthen his squad this week with the signing of a second Welsh midfielder Joe Adams from Brentford. Joe has graduated from the Bee’s B team to march forward into the League of Ireland.

He arrived at Oriel with the news that a third Welsh National is due to arrive in Oriel this week. Dan Williams is believed to have agreed terms with Dundalk and will arrive on loan from Swansea.

Last week Brentford B team keeper Nathan Shepperd arrived at Oriel. He is expected to be the number one keeper.

But he will be pushed all the way by Dundalk veteran keeper Peter Cherrie, who last season made a huge contribution towards the end of the season in keeping the Lilywhites in the top flight of Irish soccer.

It was a huge week at Oriel as Dundalk unveiled their new 2022 third jersey, based on the red away strip Dundalk used in 1991 when the club dramatically won the league down in Cork on the last day of the season.

Tom McNulty’s goal in Turners Cross in front of a crowd of 11,000 people saw the Lilywhites win the title. McNulty cut through the Cork midfield and central defence to place the ball in the centre of the net.

Cork was ahead by a point of Dundalk going into that game and only a win would do. I was there on that great day and was privileged to see that great goal by Tom McNulty which brought Dundalk their ninth league title.

Eamonn Hinney

Then Dundalk Chairman Eamonn Hinney was there to celebrate with his team. Eamonn was only 42 at the time. He himself had personally financed much of the costs of that great team. He did the same for the other great Dundalk team of 1987/88 that won the League and Cup double.

Eamon tragically died in a road accident outside Collon on the N2 on a dour Saturday afternoon at the end of January 1996. Eamonn Hiney’s work at Oriel has slipped quietly into the bowels of history among some quarters.

He was a quiet spoken man. He was a gentleman. Eamonn was a successful businessman in his own right. He owned a chain of vegetable outlets in the region. He also owned the iconic Centre Travel business that continues to exist today.

He was also a major shareholder in LMFM radio when it opened in 1989 and which was an instant hit with the people of the region.

When Eamonn died in 1996 the club acquired a new training field at the back of Oriel. It was rightly named Hiney Park as a tribute to the great man from Mayo, as if he had not financed the club during his time here, Dundalk would never have had the success it was to have between 1985 to 1995.

Manager Turlough O’Connor’s friendship with Eamonn Hiney was the main plank and the reason for the success the club had. O’Connor was the club’s third most successful ever manager behind Jim McLoughlin and Stephen Kenny.

Sadly, the coop which took over the club at the end of the nineties at a time when it was in crisis had to sell Hiney Park to Gerry Mathews in a bid to clear its debts. That was in the early 2000’s. The training field was valued at €700,000 and it was a substantial amount of money that Mr Mathews paid.

Gerry not only bought Hiney Park, but he also took over the club itself as the Coop were unable financially to continue. Gerry Mathews saved Dundalk football club. Without him the club would have gone out of business.

Hiney Park continued to function as the club’s training ground and was a fantastic facility. But when the economic crash hit, it slipped out of the hands of club owner Gerry Mathews.

Gerry departed Dundalk in mid-2012 with the club being taken over by two more hero’s Andy Connolly and Paul Brown. The two boys dug deep into their pockets and saved the club from going out of business.

Sadly, as they grappled with the saving of the club in their first few months of ownership, Hiney Park was put up for sale. The new owners had enough on their plates, rather than concentrate on the sale of the club’s former top class training facility. In the early 2000’s the facility cost €700,000. This time in 2012/13 it cost a mere €43,000. 

No blame lies with the then new owners, but the loss of a chance to get the training facility for a knock down price was not only the loss of a valuable asset but also finished any chance of having the facility back in the name of the great Eamonn Hiney.

I think the club should now look again at the possibility of doing something to ensure the memory of a great Chairman is remembered with the respect that it deserves to be.

The 1991 Team

Possibly the best player ever to have played for Dundalk, Joey Donnelly, was at the game In Cork In 1991. Joey has long since passed on. But I remember interviewing the club’s all-time leading scorer in Cork that day.

Joey was so happy. He said he felt so privileged to still be alive to witness Dundalk winning their 8th league title. One of Dundalk’s greatest ever keepers Alan O’Neill was part of Turlough O’Connor’s great 1991 league winning team.

On Saturday Alan said to me in a text that it was a side that was top class. And he was right. Even when they sometimes did not play so well, they managed to grind out the results which is the sign of a top-class team.

Dundalk played 33 league games that season. They lost only three, winning 22 and drawing eight. They scored 52 goals and conceded only 17.

Cork finished just two points behind them, while losing only twice. The Rebels only needed a draw that day. But Dundalk snatched the title from them at the death.

Dave Mackey, now back with Dundalk as part of Stephen O’Donnell’s management team, was the side’s full back that season. He was magnificent.

Roddy Collins, Ronnie Murphy, Mick Shelley, Martin Lawlor, Gino Lawless, Mick Kavanagh, Eamonn Synnott and James Coll also played key roles that season and on that day in Cork, along with the Great Tom McNulty.

James Coll, the teak tough centre half captained Dundalk to another title in 1995. And a Tom McNulty goal against Galway also on the last day of the season in 95, along with Mick Doohan’s goal brought the league to Dundalk again in as dramatic a fashion as had happened in Cork.

The late Tommy Connolly was the Dundalk assistant manager in Cork. He worked so well with Turlough O’Connor. Peter Hanrahan, a young man from Limerick was a prolific striker. His goals tally of 19 league goals that season broke the club’s previous leading score record held by Liam Munroe for decades.

Peter was a top-class player. His brother Joe came to Oriel the following season. Another player who should never be forgotten was the fantastic Gino Lawless. Gino and Tom McNulty were the spine of the team in midfield.

Terry Eviston, a striker come midfielder was magnificent that season in 1991. He was also part of Turlough O’Connor’s double winning side of 1987/88. Terry went on to be Dundalk manager when they played in the First Division for the first time in the club’s history in the late 1990’s.

That great 1991 team were amazingly knocked out of the cup in round one by non-league Ashtown Villa in Oriel Park, the season they won the league in the iconic red jerseys.

Ashtown Villa were managed by Turlough O’Connor’s business partner Tony O’Connell. Tony played on the Dundalk 1966/67 league winning team.

He later went on to become the first ever professional player to sign for Bohemians. That was in 1968. It’s amazing to think Bohs were an all-amateur side until then.

The Sunday that Dundalk won the league in Cork they got the nine o’clock train from Houston station. In those days there was no such thing as clubs travelling down the night before, staying in hotels and running up huge bills.

The team got a meal on the train on the way down. They got another on the way back as they celebrated with the league trophy.

The launch of the 2022 Umbro Ireland third kit saw the great Tom McNulty there for its unveiling.  He was photographed wearing the jersey with a number of members of the new Dundalk squad.

The logo of the official club sponsor Bet Regal is clearly imprinted at the front of the new red shirt. The branding of club partners John McCabe Nissan and Stats Sports is emblazoned on the sleeves and back of the jersey respectively.

LOI TV

The FAI are to cover the cost of League of Ireland TV for the forthcoming season. Every game will be available to subscribers online. The launch will include news on TV deals for the League of Ireland men’s and women’s SSE Airtricity Leagues.

However in a major change from the middle of last season, the FAI rather than the Premier Division Clubs will handle all streaming operations. As was the case in the second half of 2021, all 189 league games will be two camera productions with replays of key incidents.

But while Premier Division clubs arranged and funded their own productions for LOITV last season, the FAI has commissioned one broadcaster to ensure a uniform service. Details such as whether clubs can provide half-time content are being ironed out, as is the price.

Final Thoughts

On Saturday I was in Warrenpoint to see the Irish League’s Premier Division bottom team play mid table Crusaders. Warrenpoint’s first team keeper is out for the rest of the season through an injury he picked up last Tuesday.

Manager Barry Grey decided to put in his third-choice keeper Stephen McMullan rather than the number two keeper. Stephen is from Dundalk. I had never seen him before. He had a magnificent game and for the first time this season Warrenpoint’s defence was much more at ease.

Stephen took off a string of fine saves. Warrenpoint had a number of new players in the team and were much better than normal. The Belfast side piled on the pressure in the second half and Crusaders got a winner near the end.

I made a few enquiries about Stephen over the weekend and understand that cross channel clubs are very much aware of him. Again, it raises a point for me as to why Stephen is not on Dundalk’s books and then let out on loan. I spoke about this in considerable detail last week.

Finally, there are reports that a former top Dundalk Schoolboys League player is on trial with Dundalk this week. The youngster won several underage titles. Hopefully it works out for him.

Next Tuesday January 25th Dundalk will play Bohemians behind closed doors at Oriel. Then on Saturday, January 29th Dundalk takes on Waterford at the RSC in Waterford.

The last of the pre-season friendlies is at Oriel Park on Friday February 11th in the Jim Malone Cup game with Drogheda United, kick off 7.30 pm. This game should attract a good crowd and is always competitive.

The following Friday Dundalk starts their league campaign against Derry City at Oriel. Have a safe week. And please remember to be careful out there.

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