Friday 23 March 2018

Back-to-back League of Ireland winners

How hard is it to win back-to-back titles in the League of Ireland? Well, this is only the third group of players in Shamrock Rovers' long history to do so.

Before last night, a total of a dozen teams had achieved the feat since the league was established in 1921.

In three cases, it led to a third title in a row, while it's just Jim McLaughlin's magic Hoops side of the 1980s that claimed four-in-a-row. The current Rovers crop can now dream about following in those footsteps.

Here's a rundown on the sides that managed it...

Shamrock Rovers

(1938 & 1939)

The Hoops boasted the first team to retain their crown. Player-manager Jimmy Dunne came home from a successful career in England, where he was on the fringes of the great Arsenal team of the 1930s, to be a star of this generation.

Cork United

(1941, 1942 &1943)

One of Cork's many entities, United dominated the war years with a fully professional side of players who would have been in England in a different time. Florrie Burke and Bill Hayes were two of the stars.

Cork United

(1945 & 1946)

After a blip in 1944, United returned for another two-in-a-row. Emerging talents like Tommy Moroney (who would join West Ham) and future Man United manager Frank O'Farrell would also get an early taste of success. Alas, the club resigned from the league in 1948.


(1948 & 1949)

Cork's dominance of the game was briefly interrupted by a great Drums side who came to the fore. Free-scoring Kit Lawlor was an integral part in their dual success before he was lured across the water to Doncaster.

Cork Athletic

(1950 & 1951)

Another Cork brand, Athletic incorporated some survivors of the United era to become a growing force and a young Noel Cantwell was coming through the ranks as they wrestled the league down south again.

St Patrick's Athletic

(1955 & 1956)

The Saints were the new kids on the block in the fifties, and the legendary Shay Gibbons was top of the scoring charts in both campaigns. Ginger O'Rourke, who sadly passed away in January of this year, was another iconic member of that team.


(1968, 1969 & 1970)

A golden era for Waterford, who came face to face with European Cup winners, Manchester United, after the first of their three-in-a-row. Flying winger Johnny Matthews and goalkeeper Peter Thomas -- who both hailed from Coventry -- were adopted as local heroes.


(1972 & 1973)

Cork Hibernians interrupted the Waterford dominance in 1971, but they restored the order by picking up another two on the trot. The great Alfie Hale was prolific, cementing his place in the all-time goalscoring record books.

Shamrock Rovers

(1984, 1985, 1986 & 1987)

The machine, led by Jim McLaughlin, recruited the best players from around the league and made an imprint in League of Ireland history. Dermot Keely, Pat Byrne, Noel King, Mick Neville and Noel Larkin were among the leading lights. Alas, the golden period ended with the sale of Milltown.

St Patrick's Athletic

(1998 & 1999)

Inchicore rocked in the late '90s, with Pat Dolan's men enjoying a dramatic success in 1998 as Shels capitulated before Liam Buckley steered the Saints to title joy 12 months later. Paul Osam and Eddie Gormley were central figures, along with 'Malaysia marvels' Trevor Molloy and Colin Hawkins.


(2003 & 2004)

Pat Fenlon (below) got into the habit of winning trophies as a manager by assembling a crop of players who were a game away from the Champions League in 2004. Jason Byrne banged in the goals, Owen Heary was the leader at the back, while a young Wes Hoolahan added the flair.


(2008 & 2009)

After Shels collapsed and a disappointing period at Derry, Fenlon came to Dalymount and created a team that blew everyone away in 2008. It was tighter second time around, with a mix of ex-Shels players like Byrne and Heary and cross-channel bound performers such as Brian Murphy and Gary Deegan finding the right formula.

Irish Independent

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