Friday 15 December 2017

Hero McLoughlin departs Oriel Park

Jim celebrating another success with the team.
Jim celebrating another success with the team.

THE Oriel Park that Jim McLoughlin left in June 1983 was a radically different place than the one he had joined from Swansea in the winter of 1974.

June, 1983

The pitch had been re-laid with its new watering and drainage system; the terracing, spectator accommodation and social amenities were all dramatically improved; and, most importantly, the trophy sideboard was creaking with the trophies (13) that the most successful manager in the history of the club brought to the town.

The club's finances had also been improved considerably. In Jim McLaughlin's last season in charge the club turned in a profit of £8,008, and the surpluses for the previous four seasons read, £5,001, £5,780, £7,829, totally £26,000 over the four years.

The Derryman took over at Oriel Park in November, 1974.

Like many before him, he had an impressive CV and a host of recommendations from top quality players and managers. He played in the English League for 13 seasons, with three clubs, playing a total of 456 games, scoring 126 goals in the process.

He joined Dundalk from Swansea where he coached for a time and had a stint as secretary with the cash-starved club.

When Jim McLaughlin joined Dundalk they were on their knees, but little did anyone predict that he would transform the club in the manner that he did.

In addition, over the 25 years that he remained in football in Ireland he established himself as the most successful manager in the history of the domestic game.

Over his eight years with Dundalk he delivered undreamed glories, winning trophies at every level, and bringing the most memorable of European nights not just to Dundalk but to Irish football.

Jim's first game in charge was on November, 14, 1974 an away game against Home Farm which the club won 2-0.

Over that season, 1974-1975, he pushed Dundalk to runners-up spot in the League. Over the close season the manager began to assemble the pieces of his first championship-winning team, getting Seamus McDowell from Sligo for £150, persuading Brian McConville to return to Oriel and managing to find the money to secure Brian's brother, Tommy from Shamrock Rovers.

McLaughlin played himself in almost every game as the team clinched the League title in the 1975-76 season, and the 5,000 supporters who gathered for the presentation of the Bass League of Ireland trophy knew that the new Messiah had arrived at Oriel Park.

The following season the FAI Cup was added to the trophy cabinet, and a season later the club's finances were transformed when three players, Synan Braddish, Derek Carroll and Brian Duff who had progressed through the ranks were signed by Liverpool for £50,000.

Another memorable season followed (1978-79) when Dundalk won the double, League and Cup, under Jim McLaughlin's astute management, and with the League title came qualification for the European Cup (now Champions League) the following season. After a night to forget against Linfield at Oriel Park, and a win over Hibernians of Malta, Dundalk were paired against the mighty Glasgow Celtic.

Celtic won the first leg in Glasgow 3-2, and before a crowd of anything between 17,000 and 21,000 that paid £38,000 they were just edged out by Celtic after a 0-0 draw, with Dundalk missing a golden opportunity to knock out the former holders.

The following season Dundalk added the FAI Cup to their trophy cabinet as well as the League Cup and Presidents Cup, with the Cup win qualifying the team for the European Cup Winners Cup the following season.

After disposing of Iceland's Fran Rekjavik in the first round, Dundalk were drawn against Tottenham Hotspur, leading to yet another memorable European night at Oriel with Spurs thankful to go away with a 1-1 draw from the first leg, and winning the tie 1-0 in White Hart Lane.

The League title was again won in the 1981-82 season, making it the third title won by the club during the golden era of Jim McLaughlin.

In total he brought three League titles, three FAI Cups, two League Cups, two Leinster Cups and four Presidents Cups to the club.

He was in charge for 332 domestic fixtures, winning 187, drawing 73, losing 72, and scoring 588 goals in the process.

He took charge of the club in 18 European ties winning 4, drawing 5, and losing 9.

Mick Fairclough was his highest scorer over the eight seasons, with 58 goals, and goalkeeper Richie Blackmore played the most games (330) under Jim McLaughlin, just eight more than Tommy McConville.

When it came to the parting of the ways in June 1983, there was no bitterness, the club had tried to persuade Jim to remain, but he felt the challenge of pastures new and went on to make his mark with Shamrock Rovers and his native Derry while still continuing to live in Dundalk where thankfully he still resides.

The Argus

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