Rovers battle tide of history
Irish clubs' poor record against English neighbours highlights task ahead
HISTORY emphasises the scale of the task facing Shamrock Rovers at White Hart Lane tonight.
Their showdown with Tottenham will be the first competitive meeting between an Irish and English club in 27 years.
The last such meeting was UCD's Cup Winners' Cup tie with Everton in 1984, where the Students were close to a famous upset. It was a welcome contrast from the norm when sides from the neighbouring countries collide.
Of course, this week's clash is different, for it is a league encounter rather than a two-legged knockout scenario. Back in the days when UEFA had less member countries and an open draw, it was possible for Irish teams to meet famous outfits from across the water at the first hurdle.
They rubbed shoulders with some great teams, but often came out on the wrong side of a heavy defeat. English clubs have progressed from all 11 ties with Irish opposition. No League of Ireland club has managed a 90 minute win from 22 attempts, scoring just eight goals and conceding 89 in the process. Yet behind that grim statistic lie great stories.
1957 -- EUROPEAN CUP
SHAMROCK ROVERS v MANCHESTER UNITED
(0-6 Dublin, 3-2 Manchester -- Manchester Utd win 9-2 on aggregate)
The Busby Babes came to Dalymount and showed no mercy, banging in six without reply. Local hero Liam Whelan scored a brace, while the great Duncan Edwards led from the back. Rovers restored pride in the return leg. Two rounds later, the Munich air disaster resulted in the deaths of Whelan, Edwards and six other players returning home from a quarter-final success over Red Star Belgrade. Time has immortalised their achievements.
1968 -- EUROPEAN CUP
WATERFORD UNITED v MANCHESTER UNITED
(1-3 Dublin, 7-1 Manchester -- Manchester United win 10-2 on aggregate)
Eleven years later, Matt Busby came to Ireland with his European Cup winning team. A Denis Law hat-trick secured victory in the first leg at Lansdowne Road, with Waterford performing manfully. But they were turned over in the return, with Law scoring four, Bobby Charlton grabbing a brace against a club he would go on to play for, and George Best prominent throughout. AC Milan would end their defence at the semi-final stage.
1969 -- inter city/fairs cup
dundalk v liverpool
(10-0 Liverpool, 0-4 Dundalk -- Liverpool win 14-0 on aggregate)
A tie to forget for Dundalk. Liverpool were unstoppable at Anfield, setting a new record win at that point in their history.
The 'Liverpool Echo' said: "It wasn't so much a football match as an exhibition of torture."Alun Evans, Tommy Smith and Bobby Graham all grabbed a brace in a 10-goal rout. Bill Shankly's men arrived in Co Louth to score four more.
1976 -- uefa CUP
finn harps v derby county
(12-0 Derby, 1-4 Ballybofey -- Derby win 16-1 on aggregate)
A horrific experience for the Donegal men at the Baseball Ground, with the Dave Mackay-managed Rams racking up a dozen. Three years after the departure of Brian Clough, there was still quality in the Midlanders' ranks although a defeat to AEK Athens in the next round spelled the end for Mackay.
1977 -- uefa CUP
bohemians v newcastle
(0-0 Dublin, 4-0 Newcastle -- Newcastle win 4-0 on aggregate)
Newcastle manager Richard Dinnis was under serious pressure coming into this tie and a 0-0 draw in the first leg in Ireland built up the weight of evidence that culminated in his sacking. Still, he managed to preside over a comfortable second leg victory, with Billy Young's Bohs running out of steam. They went on to become League of Ireland champions.
1978 -- uefa CUP
finn harps v everton
(0-5 Ballybofey, 5-0 Liverpool -- Everton win 10-0 on aggregate)
Another humbling experience for Harps, who again found themselves to be completely outclassed in this sphere. They knew it would be tough and chairman Fran Fields convinced Everton to switch the order of the tie with the first leg taking place in Donegal; the Derby thrashing had removed the sense of occasion from their home European bow two years earlier.
1981 -- cup winners' cup
dundalk v spurs
(1-1 Dundalk, 1-0 London -- Spurs win 2-1 on aggregate)
Jim McLaughlin organised his team to give Spurs a fright. Ricky Villa's Wembley heroics had booked their place in the Cup Winners' Cup and with Glenn Hoddle, Ossie Ardiles and Steve Archibald, they were expected to coast. But the Louthmen had other ideas, with Mick Fairclough's equaliser securing a draw in Oriel Park.
A 63rd minute deflected effort from Garth Crooks was the only goal in the decider, with McLaughlin's men given a standing ovation by the White Hart Lane faithful.
1981 -- uefa CUP
limerick united v southampton
(0-3 Limerick, 1-1 Southampton -- Southampton win 4-1 on aggregate)
A Southampton team featuring Kevin Keegan, Mick Channon and Alan Ball progressed, although it wasn't as easy as the aggregate scoreline might suggest.
Lawrie McMenemy's troops did the hard work in Ireland, but toiled at The Dell with Limerick squandering a glorious chance at the death to snatch a victory on the night. Irish Independent columnist and rugby star Tony Ward was part of the Shannonsiders' selection.
1982 -- european CUP
dundalk v liverpool
(1-4 Dundalk, 1-0 Liverpool -- Liverpool win 5-1 on aggregate)
Thirteen years after humiliation at the hands of Liverpool, this Dundalk group were far better equipped to give a better account of themselves. Bob Paisley's charges were still dominant, however, with Ronnie Whelan (2), Ian Rush and David Hodgson on target in Oriel Park.
Nevertheless, the Anfield leg was tight, with Whelan delivering the only goal of the evening just nine minutes from time.
1983 -- uefa CUP
drogheda v spurs
(0-6 Drogheda, 8-0 London -- Spurs win 14-0 on aggregate)
Two years after their Louth rivals gave the Londoners a hard time, it was all too easy for Spurs.
Clinically, they struck six times on Irish soil, before continuing the target practice on their own turf where they managed to strike on eight occasions. Still, there was some consolation for Drogheda when Spurs went on to lift the trophy.
1984 -- cup winners' CUP
ucd v everton
(0-0 Dublin, 1-0 Liverpool -- Everton win 1-0 on aggregate)
Once again, an Irish team would be knocked out by the eventual winners. UCD had already upset the odds by winning the FAI Cup, but almost defied logic in a serious tussle with Everton. After a 0-0 draw at Tolka Park, the students went to Goodison Park with hopes alive.
Graeme Sharp broke the deadlock, but if Joe Hanrahan's late shot had dipped an inch or two low rather than skimming the crossbar, the English giants would have lost on away goals. Peter Reid later described it as the hardest tie in their successful run.