Daniel McDonnell: Legend of Tuohy will forever be synonymous with Irish football
HE may have passed away on Saturday but the legend of Liam Tuohy will live on. It will be impossible to tell the history of Irish football without him.
Future generations will wonder how one man succeeded in fitting so much into his sporting life while somehow managing to fit in a day job and the task of raising a family around it.
Where do you start with the man known by all his friends as ‘Rasher’?
Tuohy was a member of Coad’s Colts, the great Shamrock Rovers side of the 1950s that lived through a golden age at Milltown where full houses were the norm.
After a spell in England as a full-time pro with Newcastle, he came back home and was eventually offered the job as player-manager with Rovers. He was in charge for five of the Hoops’ famous six FAI Cup wins on the trot in the 1960s.
In 1971, he was appointed Ireland manager, a role he juggled with his job in charge of Dundalk and his commitments to HB Ice Cream as an area salesman.
His tenure was brief but significant as he fought to ensure that English-based players were available for international matches; their unavailability caused some early defeats.
Tuohy oversaw the famous Dalymount Park win over France in the 1974 World Cup qualifiers – a first home success in six years – but by then he was back at Rovers and struggling to cope with scouting trips to the UK, presiding over a League of Ireland outfit and his 9-5. He missed the birth of his sixth child because he was at a match in Poland.
The FAI were only paying him £500 a year to manage the country so that went first.
In a 2002 interview with Paul Kimmage in the Sunday Independent he detailed a weekend that emphasised the crazy nature of his schedule. He was in Paris to watch the French play World Cup rivals USSR on a Saturday night. “We couldn’t get back until Sunday,” he explained, “I picked up my car at Dublin Airport, drove to Athlone where Rovers were playing and only got there for the second half.”
He would quit Rovers too but the next phase of his journey would bring him to new heights. The unpaid role of Irish youth team manager was offered in 1981 and, in the space of just five years, he would bring sides to three European Championships and one World Cup. Kerr and Noel O’Reilly served as his assistants; they would later write their own glorious chapter through their achievements in the underage ranks. Kerr describes Tuohy as his mentor.
Regrettably, it seldom ends well for the long term servants and Tuohy chose to depart the scene in the aftermath of Jack Charlton’s unwelcome appearance for a half-time team talk during a game with England at Elland Road in 1986. Home Farm benefited from his guidance and knowledge until he retired in 2002.
At the start of last year, the Soccer Writers Association of Ireland made a ‘Special Merit’ presentation to Tuohy and invited the members of the 1985 World Youth Cup squad in USSR to join him for the occasion.
It was an emotional event with John Giles so moved that he came on stage to deliver his own unplanned tribute to Tuohy.
He was struck by how many people in the room had been influenced by Tuohy as they embarked on their own careers in coaching and management.
There are numerous examples and you don’t look too far in the news pages to find stories that draw Tuohy memories.
On Wednesday, Dundalk host Legia Warsaw in what could prove to be the most significant European club tie ever involving an Irish side.
Tuohy was a part of the first one in 1957, the Rovers trailblazers that took on Manchester United’s Busby Babes on their maiden voyage. His silky skills at Old Trafford created the first ever Irish goal in the competition for Jim ‘Maxie’ McCann.
Ten years later, in his dual role, he nabbed the away goal against Munich that left the Hoops minutes away from what would have been the greatest ever League of Ireland result if they had pulled it off. But Gerd Muller stepped up to notch a dramatic winner for Bayern in a lively Cup Winners Cup tie.
He would surely approve of Stephen Kenny’s achievements with Dundalk and the style of play they have favoured while knocking down the door.
Of course, Kenny was influenced by O’Reilly in his formative days at Belvedere and he was also given a helping hand as U-21 manager at St Patrick’s Athletic by Pat Dolan who, along with his late brother Eamonn, was also part of the class of ‘85.
There will always be a trail back to Tuohy.