The split between the footballing associations of the FAI and the IFA has had many consequences for football on our island, many hours have been whiled away with “what if” scenarios with barflies imagining an Irish side of the 60’s featuring the likes of John Giles and George Best. Another less discussed consequence of the split between the two associations was for many the loss of any sense of identity with the all Ireland side that had competed from the 1880’s through to 1921. Any connection with the history of this 32 county team has for most football fans in the Republic, (and indeed some in the North) been severed and there is little sense of identification with the players and their achievements pre-1921.

I for one think that this is a great pity, it ignores the history of the sport and the rich and interesting personal stories of those involved. It also means modern fans in the Republic often feel little pride or connection to the victory by a truly representative Irish team in the Home Nations Championship of 1914. At the time the Home Nations Championship was viewed, in the British Isles at least, as the foremost International football competition in the world with the winners rating themselves as the best international side in the world. While this is obviously an isolated and arrogant viewpoint it is reasonable to say that the winners could legitimately claim to be among the very best international sides in the world.


Bohemians and World Beaters. Image by Simon Alcock


Aselection of Glasnevin Cemetery graves connected to Bohemian FC from the recent tour conducted by Brian Trench as part of series of events to mark the club’s 125th anniversary.


Glasnevin Tour

The 1945 Inter-City Cup: War, Goals, Controversy and death by corner kicks

As you go for a pint in the members bar you may on occasion glance upward and notice the Bohemian F.C. honours list spelt out handsomely in gilt on a dark red background. It makes for impressive reading and is testament to the proud history of our club. Right in the middle of the bar, between the list of League Titles and FAI Cups is a sign that reads “Setanta Cup Champions 2010”. The Setanta Cup is, at the time of writing, our most recent honour. Few of us will forget Anto Murphy’s goal versus Pats in Tallaght Stadium, and it added a little extra relish that Bohs had managed to win a trophy in the enemy’s back- yard so to speak. It is worth noting, however, that though the Setanta Cup is the latest All Ireland soccer competition, it was by no means the first, nor was it the first such competition where Bohemians emerged victorious. To learn about this other, much earlier victory we must go back 70 years, to a time when the most violent conflict in human history still raged, to the first cross border competition since partition; the Inter-City Cup.

The Inter-City Cup, or to give it its full title, the Dublin and Belfast Inter-City Cup was conceived as a way to provide much needed income during the turbulent years of the Second World War. When the First World War had broken out in 1914, the general and oft-repeated assumption was that the war would be over by Christmas, so the sporting calendar continued on much as it had done in peace time. Bohemians and Shelbourne, the only two clubs from outside the six counties, continued to play in an pre-partition league season into 1914-15, but the growing realisation that the war was going to drag out meant that the Football League in Britain was suspended, while the Irish League was reduced to a “Belfast and District League” of only six teams with no room for Bohs and Shels. Many players, especially in Britain came in for heavy criticism for playing on into 1915. Some viewed it as a dereliction of patriotic duty that fit and healthy young men should stay at home and be paid to play football rather than volunteer to fight at the front. This led to the formations of “Football battalions” where prominent footballers were used as promotional tools for enlistment. Some football fans joining up were encouraged by the fact that they would have the chance of serving with their sporting idols.

When the Second World War broke out, the mistakes of the past were avoided. The league season was suspended immediately in Britain while Northern Ireland completed the 1939-40 season (Belfast Celtic won their 13th title) before suspending the Irish League and playing on with a diminished Northern District League. The League of Ireland, being in a neutral country, continued on as usual during the War years. It would prove to be a particularly successful era for Cork United, who would win five titles between 1939 and 1946.
However, gone from the fixture calendar were lucrative games against touring British sides. The lack of income was obviously a significant concern for the clubs north of the border, robbed as they were of regular gates and a full league programme which ultimately led to the creation of the Inter-City Cup. The tournament would run for eight seasons between 1941-42 and 1948-49, and despite the name, did include clubs from outside of Dublin such as Limerick, Cork United, Dundalk and Derry City. While matches were spread around various grounds in Belfast, all games south of the border were to take place in Dalymount. Another interesting feature of the tournament was the significance of corners. If two sides were tied on aggregate in the final, the side who had won the most corners were deemed to be the winner. Bohs learned this to their cost during the 1942-43 competition when they lost the final on corners to Shamrock Rovers having drawn 2-2!

Despite that setback Bohs, would eventually triumph in the competition. The 1944-45 season would be one of highs and lows for Bohemians, but it did at least end in some silverware. Bohs’ league form during the War years was poor; a third place finish in 1940-41 being the sides’ best placing and the 44-45 season would see Bohs finish bottom of the eight team league but would also see them reach two cup finals. An epic, three game semi-final win over Team of the decade, Cork United, would get Bohs into an FAI Cup final against Shamrock Rovers, where in front of the biggest ever Cup Final crowd of almost 45,000 they would lose out to a Podge Gregg winner. Gregg, a native of Ringsend had just returned to Dublin after a spell with Glentoran where he had won the Inter-City cup the previous year.

Bottom of the league, having lost a final to Shamrock Rovers, its fairly obvious that Bohs’ season needed a pick-me-up, and the Inter-City Cup could provide it. So as not to clash too much with regular games, the Inter-City competition was held around April and May each season when most games were coming to an end. In that particular year, Bohs lost the FAI Cup final to Rovers on the 22nd of April, but less than a week later were in action in round one of the Inter-City.

The first round game saw them drawn against fellow amateurs Cliftonville in Solitude on the 28th of April, with a return leg in Dalymount a week later. A 3-2 victory in Belfast with two penalties from full-back Frank Glennon and a Pat Waters goal gave Bohs too commanding a lead for the return leg, which ended as a 1-1 draw. The following round would see them matched with Glentoran; competition winners the previous year, Glentoran had been beaten on corners in the previous round by Limerick and only qualified as the best loser, their luck was out again as the tie finished 3-3 on aggregate so Bohs advanced as winners on corners 10-9 and thanks to an excellent performance by Collins in goal. Victory over Glentoran meant a meeting with Distillery, now based in Lisburn but then firmly ensconced in Grosvenor Park, West Belfast. Bohs would comfortably beat Distillery 8-3 on aggregate, a dynamic 5-1 victory in Dalymount was capped by a stunning strike from Kevin O’Flanagan, who beat the opposing keeper with a shot from out on his own touchline. The Irish Independent correspondent was moved to describe it as “the greatest goal seen in Dublin for years” and very topically likened the speed of the shot to that “of a V2 rocket”. O’Flanagan had the Distillery defence bewildered, and Bohs could have won by an even greater margin, as he finished with two goals. His brother Mick at centre-forward got one, while Noel Kelly and Waters got the other two. Despite going 2-0 down early on in the second leg in Belfast, the Gypsies rallied, and goals from Mattie Burns, Kevin O’Flanagan and Noel Kelly ensured there was no chance of an unlikely comeback.

The other semi-final between Belfast Celtic and Linfield was also a high scoring affair, finishing 7-5 on aggregate to Celtic. As a two legged semi-final the first leg was held in Belfast before both sides travelled to Dalymount Park for the second game. With the tie balanced at 2-2 from the first leg, the Linfield goalkeeper and captain Tommy Breen (once of Manchester United and a seasoned international) elected to kick off defending the tramway end of the famous old ground. Due to heavy rain, Breen and his defence were ankle deep in water at that end of the ground which had cut up much worse than the opposite school end. 7 of the 8 goals scored on the day went into the tramway goal and Linfield were out. Breen’s former team, Belfast Celtic, were through to the final and were eager to make up for their defeat to Glentoran the previous year. Celtic had beaten not only Linfield, but Shamrock Rovers and Shelbourne en route to the final. The first leg was to be played in Belfast on May 30th with the return leg in Dalymount on June 2nd. VE day had taken place on May 8th and the laws and censorship brought in during the “Emergency” were lifted shortly afterwards. For the first time in six long years, football fans both North and South could genuinely look forward to the first real cup final in “peacetime”.

It is worth a brief diversion from our narrative to outline the merits of the Belfast Celtic side. Although the club has not existed in any real sense since the end of the 1940’s, they were at the time unquestionably one of the biggest sides on the island of Ireland. By the time the club was dissolved in 1949 they had won 14 league titles, second only to Linfield who by that stage had 19 to their credit. Former players included Mickey Hamill later of Manchester United and Manchester City, former President of the FAI and Government minister Oscar Traynor, Paddy O’Connell who would also play for Man Utd and later managed Real Betis and FC Barcelona, and Louis Bookman, the Lithuanian-born Irish international who became the first Jewish player to play professionally in Britain. Their coach at the time was Elisha Scott, a former player with Belfast Celtic and also Liverpool’s longest serving player ever. Scott was considered with some justification to have been one of the greatest keepers Ireland has ever produced and won ten league titles and six Irish Cups as Belfast Celtic manager. Their starting XI at the time of the Inter-City cup final was also on par with any of their previous sides. They would win the first official Irish League title after the war in 1947-48, and the team that Bohs faced included the likes of midfielder Charlie Tully, who would later join Glasgow Celtic and once famously scored against England direct from a corner in an international, attacker Jimmy McAlinden (an FAI and IFA international) an FA Cup winner with Portsmouth, and fellow international centre half Jackie Vernon who spent much of his career at West Brom.

In the case of Bohs, it would be a last hurrah of sorts. After the end of the Inter-City final, several of the winning side left for pastures new, including young goalkeeper Jimmy Collins, Frank Glennon and Noel Kelly, who would all switch to Shamrock Rovers. They would be joined a year later by their coach Jimmy Dunne, the former record breaking striker and soft-spoken coach, returning to Rovers after patching up his differences with the Cunninghams. Kevin O’Flanagan, a medical doctor was offered a job as a GP in Ruislip, London where he would spend his free time playing for Arsenal at football and London Irish in Rugby. While Bohs would make another FAI Cup final in 1947 (which they would lose after a replay to Cork United) the Inter-City cup would be the last trophy that Bohs would win apart from a pair of Leinster Senior Cups until the Cup final victory over Sligo Rovers in 1970. Bohemians’ insistence on remaining strictly amateur had served them well, as they won Leagues and Cups in the 1920s and 30s, but by the 40s, key players were being picked off by other clubs offering a few pound a week. While Bohemians continued to find and recruit excellent young players, they struggled to keep them for any length of time, the few exceptions being those whose day jobs allowed them the freedom to play without care for additional wages.

The two-legged final would be a close and often controversial affair. In the first leg there was nothing to separate the teams, not even corners as the sides finished level with two goals apiece, six corners each and both sides down to ten men. Kevin O’Flanagan for Bohs and Douglas for Celtic were the men sent off after coming to blows after Douglas kicked the ball out to touch when O’Flanagan was about to take a free. Bohs had taken a two goal lead thanks to an own goal and a finish by Smith, but the free scoring Bohs full-back Glennon ended up getting a roasting from Celtic outside left Paddy Bonnar, who grabbed two second half goals to tie the game. The return leg was no less controversial. Bohs named an unchanged side for the second leg (almost identical to the one which had lost to Shamrock Rovers just over a month before apart from Smith coming in for Frank Morris).

The Bohs side read: Jimmy Collins (GK), Frank Glennon, Billy Richardson, Ossie Nash, Peter Molloy, Pat Waters, Kevin O’Flanagan, Noel Kelly, Mattie Burns, Robert Smith, Mick O’Flanagan.

Belfast Celtic had suffered some injuries in the first leg with Peter O’Connor and Charlie Currie coming into attack for Johnny Campbell and Tommy Byrne. The second leg remained tight with few opportunities, Jimmy Collins in the Bohs goal being called into action in the first half to deal with chances from both Tully and Bonnar, but it was in the 67th minute that things became more heated when a cross came in from Smith which was trapped by Kevin O’Flanagan and passed into his younger brother Mick who when controlling the ball had a “Thierry Henry moment” and appeared to handle it before firing past Celtic keeper Hughie Kelly. This started furious protests from the Celtic players and led to an altercation between Captains Kevin O’Flanagan and Jimmy McAlinden who both had their names taken by the referee. Despite the Celtic players’ protests, the goal stood. Celtic’s disjointed attack, with the enforced changes since the first leg, had struggled to get past the Bohs defence, with Richardson and Glennon coming in for particular praise. Bohs successfully defended their lead, and after a season of disappointment, were All Ireland champions. It was particularly sweet for the star player Kevin O’Flanagan, who despite his sending off in the first leg, had been key in Bohs’ advancement to the final in much the same way that he had been key during the FAI Cup run scoring three goals by the time they reached that final. By setting up the goal for his brother Mick he had managed to make amends for his below par display in the earlier final versus Shamrock Rovers. Despite being a qualified GP the “Flying Doctor” had failed to diagnose himself with a bout of flu and upon returning home after the defeat to Rovers took his temperature and found that he had played a cup final with a 103 degree temperature!

It would be the last major trophy that Bohs would win for some time and the Inter-City cup was in some ways was the farewell of the Corinthian era of Bohemians and of Irish football as they signed off as Champions of North and South. Belfast Celtic, meanwhile, would remove themselves from League football only four years later, a mixture of sectarian violence, financial troubles and mismanagement forcing them out of senior football. While the Celtic board believed the withdrawal would only be a temporary measure it would transpire that their successful tour of North America, where they played to packed stadiums and famously defeated the Scottish national team, would in fact be their good-bye to the world of football. Guesting at centre forward for that touring side was none other than Bohs’ Mick O’Flanagan, his “hand of Mick” moment forgotten as he starred for Belfast Celtic as they slipped into history.

*special thanks to Martin Flynn and the Belfast Celtic Society for their assistance with some research for this article.

The Flying Doctor and the free-scoring publican: the extraordinary O’Flanagan Brothers

Along Marlborough Street, opposite the Department of Education and a 100 yards or so from the Pro-Cathedral, stands the aptly-named Confession Box pub, a small intimate venue where one could air your concerns over a pint that once belonged to former Bohemians and Ireland centre-forward Mick O’Flanagan.

The pub has its own sporting legacy quite apart from its former proprietor, it was there in 1960 that the Soccer Writers’ Association of Ireland was formed, and it was there that Mick O’Flanagan received the phone call that would make him and Irish International.

It was, as O’Flanagan recalled, around two o’clock in the afternoon of 30th September 1946 when a call came to the pub from Tommy Hutchinson, the Bohemians member of the FAI selection committee which chose the Irish International team.


Ireland were due to play England at 5:30 that afternoon, a historic meeting between the two nations as this was a first time the English national side had agreed to play an FAI selected team since the split with the IFA in 1921.

After decades of being ignored and ostracised by the English FA the FAI had finally secured a fixture against a formidable English side in Dalymount Park. In the minds of the FAI committee of 1946 this was the biggest game in its relatively short history. There was only one problem, their centre-forward, West Brom’s Davy Walsh had pulled out through injury.

This was the purpose of Hutchinson’s call to Mick O’Flanagan, the 24 year old Bohemian striker was being asked to line out against the inventors of the beautiful game at the last minute.

As O’Flanagan remembered:

“I went home to Terenure for a bite to eat, had a short rest and then headed off to Dalymount. It was not really sufficient notice as only the previous evening I had brought a party of English journalists to Templeogue tennis club and I hadn’t got home until nearly two in the morning.”

Despite a laughable lack of preparation, the Irish side put it up to their illustrious opponents who had hammered an IFA selection 7-2 just days earlier. It was only a Tom Finney winner eight minutes from time that sealed victory for the English.

Henry Rose in the Daily Express was moved to write:

“If ever a team deserved to win Eire did. They out-played, out-fought, out-tackled, out-starred generally the cream of English talent, reduced the brilliant English team of Saturday to an ordinary looking side that never got on top of the job.”

Not only did Mick O’Flanagan line out against the likes of Finney, Billy Wright, Tommy Lawton and Raich Carter, he did so alongside his older brother, and fellow Bohemian, Kevin (pictured).

Brothers Kevin and Mick O’Flanagan are unique in world sport as not only did they play international football for their country, they both were capped by Ireland at Rugby, making them the only pair of brothers in the world to play for their nation in both codes.

Mick was capped against Scotland in 1948 as part of the last Irish Grand Slam winning side until 2009, while Kevin had been capped a year previous to that against Australia. This unique achievement is one that isn’t likely to be repeated anytime soon.

Despite this singular accomplishment the sporting careers of the brothers could have been even more illustrious had it not been for the outbreak of World War 2. Both brothers were lining out for Bohemians when hostilities commenced in 1939, Mick a 17-year-old just beginning his career, his older brother Kevin at 20 had been a first-teamer for four years, had already captained Bohemians and had seven Irish caps and three goals to his name as well as being selected to play for Northern Ireland.

While the League of Ireland would continue during the war years, international football would cease for Ireland until 1946. Similarly, Olympic competition would cease which would rob Kevin the chance of competing in the Olympiads of 1940 and 1944. Kevin, at the time was a medical student in UCD, was Irish sprint champion at 60 and 100 yards as well as being national long jump champion.

He had even been a promising GAA footballer, lining out for the Dublin minor panel alongside Johnny Carey (Carey and O’Flanagan would both make their international debuts as teenagers against Norway in 1937) before being dropped because of his involvement with the “Garrison game”.

Young Michael would also miss out, his best goal scoring season would be 1940-41 where he finished as the League’s top scorer with 19 goals for Bohs. Had war not been raging across Europe he might rightly have expected to have more than his solitary international cap.

Both brothers remained committed to the amateur ethos of the club which explains the duration of their stays at Bohemians. Mick as a publican in the city centre and Kevin as a medical student and later a Doctor weren’t likely to be swayed by the offer of a couple of extra quid a week from a rival club.

Indeed Kevin took his commitment to the Corinthian ideal to the extreme, upon qualifying as a doctor in 1945 he had been offered a position as a GP in Ruislip, London. Despite this move he kept up and even increased his sporting activities, he signed on with Arsenal as an amateur while also lining out as a Rugby player for London Irish, when Arsenal invited him to submit his expense claims, they were shocked that he asked for just 4p, the cost of his tube journey from Ruislip to Arsenal.

Bernard Joy, a team-mate of Kevin’s at Arsenal, and a fellow amateur, noted in his history of the club that Arsenal secretary Bob Wall quipped that Kevin “did not want to know anything about tactics. I play football the way I feel it should be played’, he would say.”

Arsenal coach Tom Whittaker said that O’Flanagan could have been “one of the greatest players in football history” if only he could have gotten him to train properly. Despite only spending one full season with the Arsenal first team (for whom he scored three times) Kevin would make a big impression.

No lesser an authority than Brian Glanville described him thus:

“A fascinating, amateur, figure in those Arsenal teams between 1945 and 1947 was the powerfully athletic Irish outside right, the hugely popular Dr. Kevin O’Flanagan. Coming from Dublin to London to take up a general medical practice, he demonstrated pace, strength and a fearsome right foot. He attained the distinction of playing soccer for Ireland on a Saturday, rugby for them the following Sunday.”

Between them, the O’Flanagan brothers would spend almost 20 years as players for Bohemians, while their younger brother Charlie O’Flanagan, a winger, would also line out for the club in the 1946-47 season.

Kevin would return to the Dalymount in another role, that of the club’s Chief Medical Officer and despite his retirement as a player he would remain hugely busy as a sporting physician and sports administrator. He was a member of the International Olympic Committee for almost 20 years before being made an Honorary Lifetime member upon his retirement and was the Chief Medical Officer of numerous Irish Olympic teams throughout the 1960’s and 70’s.

Despite missing out as a competitor, “The Flying Doctor” would manage to make a huge contribution to the Olympics and to Irish Sport in general.
Despite their almost twenty years service in the red and black of Bohs and the almost two hundred goals scored between them the honours list for the two brothers was relatively short. Both brothers combined to help Bohs win the Inter-City Cup in 1945 in somewhat controversial circumstances.

A year later after Kevin left for London, Mick scored an astonishing six goals in Bohs 11-0 victory over local rivals Grangegorman in the Leinster Senior Cup final, a record not likely to be broken any time soon by a Bohemian player in a cup final.

So much about the brothers’ careers is unique or exceptional, so in this our 125th year it’s worth remembering two of the greatest all-round sportsmen that Ireland has ever produced.


Dr Kevin O'Flanagan


It’s Dublin derby day! And when playing our great rivals, thoughts inevitably slip back to previously hard-fought games, writes MATT DEVANEY. The crushing defeats, the near misses, the last-minute victories (Glen Crowe in the cup semi) etc.

However for, my generation, there is one game against Rovers that evokes such wonderful memories. Of course it’s the famous 6-4 out in Santry in 2001. This particular fixture has spawned songs, verses and poems, one of which we include below.

The Santry Dew was written by Jer O’Leary, and was dedicated to his son Diarmuid ‘Dermo’ O’Leary. Dermo, who died tragically in Glasgow in 1999, was a very good mate of mine and to many of us here in Dalymount Park and as Jer is here as our guest tonight, we thought it would be fitting to include his poem here:



It was a January Day, at Santry 2001
All through the bitter cold and gloom, a miracle was spun
The famous bould Bohemians, though down by 1 to 4
With the greatest comeback ever seen, bate the Rovers 6 to 4

There was less than half an hour to go, and the Bohs were still 3 down
So the weepin’ and the wailin’ then, was heard in Dublin town
But when the final whistle blew, the hoops were in a fix
For on that hour they were still 4 an’ the Bohez they had 6

Oh, what a legend there was made , Oh, what a glorious dream
To see such a score, the Dalymount Roar, was back on full mainstream
But best of all, as we watch football, in years not encountered yet
What will give the boys the purest joys, is ,it was Rovers that were bet

The ghost Captain Cannon, now, and ‘’Blind’’ White can be seen
When is recalled the great football, of 28′s famous team
And like the Celts an’ Hun And the 7-1, on that day of renowned endeavour
The famed 6-4, ever-more, is on history’s page ………Forever

By Jer O’Leary at Gaffneys, No. 5 Fairview Green – 30/1/2001

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