Home > Shamrock Rovers Programme General Articles > The Kings of the FAI Cup – 50 years on from the Shamrock Rovers six-in-a-row

The Kings of the FAI Cup – 50 years on from the Shamrock Rovers six-in-a-row

Published in Hoops Scene 6/2019

2019 is the 50th anniversary of the Hoops winning six successive FAI Cup and Macdara Ferris looks back at that crowning achievement by speaking with four members of the 1969 FAI Cup winning team – Damien Richardson, Frank O’Neill, Paddy Mulligan and Mick Leech.

50 years ago Shamrock Rovers completed their sensational FAI Cup six-in-a-row by defeating Cork Celtic in the FAI Cup Final replay at Dalymount Park.

“The cup was very very special for Shamrock Rovers,” said Damien Richardson when he recalled those six-in-a-row days. “As pro footballers the bonus for winning the cup was 50 quid if I remember correctly so that was important to us!

“We were single-minded about it. We wanted to win the cup final. I was injured for the first game on the Sunday. We didn’t play well and on the day we were lucky.”

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Cork Celtic had taken a 27th minute lead before the Hoops were handed a lifeline with a penalty kick soon after. However Celtic ‘keeper Tommy Taylor saved Frank O’Neill’s spot kick and it looked like Rovers’ record run was coming to an especially as the Hoops trailed going into the final ten minutes of the match.

“You need luck to win six in a row and I missed a penalty in that final,” said Frank O’Neill who was a central part to the Rovers cup success that decade. Not only did he pick up a medal in each of those wins, he was also part of the Rovers team that had won the cup in 1962.

If the luck wasn’t with O’Neill from 12 yards, it came to the Hoops through a goal line clearance and an equaliser nine minutes from time when a former Rovers captain turned the ball into his own net to hand the Hoops an equaliser and a replay.

“Christy Cananvan had cleared one off the line which would have put Cork two up and we would have been dead and buried,” recalled Paddy Mulligan. “We came back. We had that resilience and never say die attitude.

“John Keogh was credited with the late goal that came from a corner kick from the left at the Phibsborough end of Dalymount Park. Frank O’Neill took it and I had made the run and got on the end of the cross but John Keogh then got the top of his head to it and he was credited with the goal. John had soldiered with us for so long and he was unfortunate to head it on into his own net. I thought at the time it should have been my goal as it was heading into the goal anyway!”

‘Rovers live to fight on – Celtic’s brave bid thwarted’ read the headline in the Irish Press the next day. Having come so close to losing in the first match, the Hoops made no mistake second time around and dominated the replay. Mick Leech scored twice in the first half and Damien Richardson, who had missed the first game due to injury, wrapped up the victory with the final goal in the 4-1 win.

“I was fit for the replay and I played upfront with Mick Leech,” said Richardson. “I had good game that night and between myself and Mick we caused them a lot of problems.

“I flicked one on to Mick who went on to get the opening goal. Once we scored that was the game almost decided because in Cork Celtic’s mind Rovers never lost a replay. It was almost as if the Celtic players went ‘ah that’s it’ after we got the first goal.”

For O’Neill, it was the culmination of an incredible period in the FAI Cup at Shamrock Rovers. “We won it seven years out of eight. The cup run just went on and on,” said O’Neill.

“In 1964 we won it after the replay. We won it the next year and the next year and once again. After that there was the five in a row to equal the previous record that was also held by Shamrock Rovers from back in the 1930s. And then the six in a row but we never talked about it. It was just another cup final that you went out, played in and won.”
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It was Shamrock Rovers’ 32nd consecutive game in the FAI Cup where they had avoided defeat and the win saw them lift the trophy for the 20th time. In a twist of fate, the six-in-a-row began and ended with the Hoops defeating Cork Celtic in a replay after the initial final finished 1-1 after 90 minutes.

There would be no seventh successive FAI Cup win though and while there would be a three-in-row of league and cup doubles in the 1980s for the Hoops, it seems the FAI Cup has brought nothing but misery for Rovers since leaving Milltown!

“To think that the next time they won it was 1978 when Giles was there is incredible,” said Leech. “That was a 10 years spell before they won it and then it was the 1980s before the next FAI Cup win. I can’t believe that the last time Rovers won the cup was in the 1980s when they were playing in Milltown. That was over 30 years ago. For it to go that way is incredible but maybe there is better days ahead.”

‘Rovers get record’ read the headline in the Irish Independent after that 1969 FAI Cup Final replay win. ‘Shamrock Rovers have done it! At Dalymount Park the Hoops established a record that will probably never be equalled.’ That sentence still remains true today 50 years on from that amazing crowning glory of the six-in-row.

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