Abit like jobs, heroes were quite hard to find in Dublin in the 1980s, writes AIDAN FITZMAURICE. If anyone thinks that the League of Ireland which we have now is less than glamorous, you should have seen things in the 1980s. No floodlights, no Joseph Ndo, no live TV games; just dark, dull Sunday afternoons out in Harold’s Cross.
The passage of time is not always kind. Look back on most of the TV output from that era and you’ll instantly reach for the off button. A lot of the music of the time has not aged well, when Tarzan Boy (check it out on YouTube) was somehow able to define a generation.
So is it just some misplaced nostalgia that makes me pine for those years of 1981-1990, when Jackie wore the Bohs shirt with pride but also with little reward?
Looking back now, I don’t think so. Jackie was probably the first local footballer that I looked up to. On the Big Stage, Frank Stapleton was the one that I admired – in an age when Stapleton’s memory and legacy has been sullied by the caricature on Apres Match, it is hard to remember and fully understand that, at his peak, and in those years, Stapo was one of the best strikers in England, maybe even one of the top ones in Europe.
But back home, away from the relative glitz and glamour of Manchester United and Ireland, I had Jackie. I grew up just five minutes’ walk away from Dalymount Park and went to primary school in St Peter’s, behind the School End, so it seems like Jackie was always around, to the extent that I can’t remember the first time I saw him play, he was always there, that skinny frame and that bald head.
But as the decade wore on and Jackie edged further into greatness, he implanted himself into my teenage thinking. One game sticks out, a bog-standard League of Ireland game between Bohemians and Galway United, on a dull Sunday afternoon in Dalymount Park. In the pre-MNS era League of Ireland football was a rarity on the telly and when RTE decided to show games, how they showed them as the rest of the weekend action was ignored as extended highlights of the Bohs-Galway game were shown.
The memory is a bit hazy – I am into my 40s now – but from what I can recall, Bohs scored five times and Jackie scored two of them. I remember hearing a story that scouts from Dutch side FC Haarlem were in Dublin that day to see former Ireland man Paul ‘Ski’ McGee but were blown away by the man called Jameson and tried to sign him.
But the home bird that was Jameson could not be lured away from Dublin, so he stayed put and McGee went to Holland instead.
There were some great tragedies in Irish football in that era: the loss of Flower Lodge and Milltown, the callous axing of Liam Touhy from his FAI role and many, many more, but to me it remains a great pity that Jackie never got to play on a bigger, more deserving stage.
The English league scene of the mid 80s may not have suited him but he would have loved it, and been loved, in a country like Holland or France. And no doubt about it, but Jameson was good enough to have played there – if George O’Boyle was good enough to play for Bordeaux in the 80s then JJ should have played for Paris St Germain.
The European matches are ones that stick in the memory, those battles with Rangers, Dundee United and Aberdeen when I, as a young Dubliner, was just proud that Jackie was one of ours.
Like so many things in Irish society, the end – when it came – was harsh. There was no fanfare, no throwing of jerseys into the crowd when Jackie left Bohs in 1990. Someone said that he was going on to play for someone else – maybe Newbridge Town – but despite scanning the junior soccer pages in the Herald, his name never appeared again. Until his very sad passing in 2002.
I think it was one of the Byrnes – we soldiered together on Bohs duty throughout the 80s and never saw Bohs win anything – who put in a quiet, worried phone call to me in October 2002, saying he’d heard that Jackie had died and did I know any more. A phone call to Billy Young confirmed the news and I was deeply saddened as one of my real, honest-to-God heroes, was gone.
Of course things weren’t always better in the old days. League of Ireland football in the 1980s was often dull, of poor standard, played on rubbish pitches in horrible stadiums.
But against that backdrop, Jackie Jameson shone.
Maybe it was because the rest were so average that Jackie looked so good.
Maybe his lack of success in terms of medals – none – made him appear like a personal incarnation of that old Irish feature, the Moral Victory.
Whatever it was, 10 years since he passed I still think of Jackie and thank him for the good times.
In Part 1, BohsTV’s ANDY DONLAN speaks to lifelong fans who relive their memories of watching Jameson play.
In Part 2, Evening Herald journalist AIDAN FITZMAURICE steps back in time as he recalls growing up when The Great Man was at his best.
In Part 3, lifetime supporter DAVID HALL poses a soul-searching question: Could we have done more for Jackie?