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Cousins scored the goals by the dozens

“There’s only one Tony Cousins, he scores the goals by the dozens, when you think you’ve lost it, he scores in the last minute, walking in a Cousins wonderland”

On Tuesday night Tony Cousins, the former Shamrock Rovers striker, will bring the Longford Town team he manages to Tallaght Stadium for a pre-season game. Back in 1996 when Cousins joined Shamrock Rovers the club had just announced they would be moving to Tallaght. Cousins would play six years for the club but would never get a chance to pull on the green and white hoops of Rovers in Tallaght. Tonight he gets the chance to manage his team in the Dublin 24 venue.

With a long and successful history, Shamrock Rovers have many players that they can call legends. There is always a healthy debate when fans get together and discuss who is their favourite player and who would make their all time Shamrock Rovers XI. For many fans who watched Rovers during their tenure in Morton Stadium and Tolka Park, Cousins would make their favourite Rovers XI.
Tony Cousin’s legendary status is alluded to in the song sung to the tune of Winter Wonderland. The man that scored late goals when all seemed lost was a fans favourite despite his troubling past i.e. his time at Bohemians!

A former Ireland U21 international, Cousins was on Chelsea’s books as a youth. He returned to Ireland to play for Dundalk before Liverpool paid a £70,000 transfer to secure his services. On a number of occasions he was on the subs bench for the first team but failed to get on the pitch and was hampered with injuries throughout his time at Anfield. He signed for Bohs and played with the Gypsies for three seasons before joining the Hoops. During his six seasons at Rovers he found the back of the net 46 times. It is especially the number of late goals that he is fondly remembered for, particularily in the 1996/97 season when the move to Tallaght was first being mooted.

Last Saturday night, Rovers won 2-0 against Wexford Youths as part of their pre-season preperation ahead of this season’s opener in a few weeks time against Drogheda United. I was reminded by a friend on leaving the ground last Saturday night of Cousins hat-trick from 1996 in a league game against Drogheda. It was a perfect hat-trick that night as Rovers won 3-1. He got one with his left foot, one with his right and one with the head. His opening goal just before half time was probably his best goal as he beat Drogheda’s John Coady to the ball before unleashing an unstoppable shot low into the net.

Many Friday nights in that 1996/97 season, Cousins was staring in his own late late show and was instrumental in pulling Rovers away from the relegation zone that season. In the second part of the season, Cousins hit a rich vein of form that cemented his legendary status. At the end of January he got a late goal to secure all three points in a 2-1 win over Sligo Rovers.

In February he couldn’t stop scoring. He scored both goals to grab a point in a 2-2 draw against Finn Harps. He got a hat trick in a feast of goals when Rovers secured a 6-4 win ‘away’ to Shelbourne in Tolka. Cousins notched up both goals in a 2-2 draw against Saint Patrick’s Athletic and then somehow rescued a point at home to Bray Wanderers when the Hoops trailed by two goals going into the final minutes. His two late goals that night, with his equaliser deep in stoppage time, sparked joyous scenes amongst the home fans that night and were immortalised in song.

He finished top scorer in the League that season with 16 goals in a side that eventually finished 7th in the table. In the intervening time only Gary Twigg has scored more goals for Rovers in a season (with Twigg’s late goals in the first home game against Bohemians being Cousins-like late specials!). In recognition of his goalscoring that season he picked up the Shamrock Rovers Player of the Year award. The following season he scored more goals by the dozens this time netting 15 times. His 46 league goals in 145 appearances puts him 15th in the list of all time Rovers goalscorers.

When he finished playing he worked as Under 21 manager and assistant manager at Shamrock Rovers. He has also had spells as manager at Galway United and at Kildare County but will come to Tallaght as Longford manager. He will be in for a warm welcome from everyone who remembers Cousins from his playing days at the Hoops.

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