Sunday 22 September 2019

The dawning of the Dubs: How 1974 saw a city finally reconnect with its football team

It was a rocky road back to greatness, but the capital finally got back behind the Boysin Blue during that milestone summer of 1974

G.A.A. Dublin v Galway, 22 September 1974. All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Final: Dublin 0-14, Galway 1-6. Pic: Tom Burke
(Part of the National Photgraphic Archives and Independent Newspapers Collection)
G.A.A. Dublin v Galway, 22 September 1974. All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Final: Dublin 0-14, Galway 1-6. Pic: Tom Burke (Part of the National Photgraphic Archives and Independent Newspapers Collection)

Rónán Mac Lochlainn

As landmark years go in terms of the relationship between the Dublin football team and its supporters, 1974 was a remarkable one in terms of the re-connection between both parties.

Without a Leinster title in nine years, indeed without a Leinster final appearance in nine years, Dublin were experiencing one of their bleakest periods ever in terms of success.

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The feel-good factor from the 1950s and the All-Ireland success of 1963 had long since eroded with crowds dwindling to embarrassing levels.

However, from such humble foundations, the Dubs were to enjoy one of their most fruitful years ever as their campaign gained momentum from relatively inauspicious beginnings with Kevin Heffernan's appointment of manager at the end of 1973 the key component in Dublin's revival.

On May 26, 1974, Dublin played Wexford in the first round of the Leinster Championship as the undercard to the replay of the National League Final between Kerry and Roscommon.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the quality on offer was so sub-standard that supporters of both the Kingdom and the Rossies derided the standard of play from both sets of players.

Crucially, the Dubs managed to come through that initial obstacle with two goals from Bobby Doyle and a third by Tony Hanahoe easing them to a 3-9 to 0-6 victory.


The Dubs headed to Páirc Tailteann the following week and gained revenge on Louth for their defeat a year previously as Jimmy Keaveney made his first championship start in three years in Dublin's 2-11 to 1-9 success, kicking six points in the process.

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His return was the spark that the Dublin forward-line required and he continued to impress when chipping in with five points in Dublin's 1-11 to 0-13 provincial quarter-final victory over Offaly in Pearse Park.

Dublin's return to Croke Park saw a healthy increase in terms of support as a goal from Brian Mullins proved pivotal in their 1-13 to 0-10 semi-final win over Kildare.

The sense of anticipation within the capital was growing with each victory and the Dubs duly delivered with their first Leinster title since 1965 when beating Meath by 1-14 to 1-9 in the final.

Keaveney may have scored 1-8 as Dublin regained the Delaney Cup but reporter Aidan McCarthy (The Irish Times) was hardly lavish in his praise as he assessed Dublin's display.

"Dublin's ineptitude in attack, the grossly sub-standard display by Meath, and the preponderance of fouls which had referee Paddy Collins of Westmeath in constant action, all contributed to a less than auspicious game, a fact which could not be disguised by the rapturous acclaim of the success starved Dublin attendance, who gave their team a vociferous allegiance not merited by their performance," he wrote in the next day's report in the paper.

Dublin's confidence continued to grow and it was enhanced even further as they dumped All-Ireland holders Cork out at the semi-final stage. The 2-11 to 1-8 victory was a fair reflection on Dublin's dominance as Brian Mullins and Anton O'Toole netted vital goals.

Their reward was a final spot against Galway and excitement within the county had reached fever pitch by the time September 22 arrived. Galway had lost in two of the previous three finals and were determined not to suffer that same fate as they enjoyed a bright start that yielded a goal from Michael Rooney.

Trailing by 1-4 to 0-5 at the half-time break, Dublin dominated the second-half with Paddy Cullen's superb save from Liam Sammon's penalty the pivotal moment as the Dubs kicked for home thanks to a flurry of late points from Jimmy Keaveney, David Hickey and Brian Mullins.

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