Bohemian FC and Bloody Sunday

Dublin Team Bloody Sunday

Today is the 100th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, a day remembered in Irish history for actions that morning when Michael Collins’ “Squad”, supported by members of the Dublin Brigade, carried out a series of assassinations across Dublin which helped to cripple the British Intelligence network in the city.

It is also remembered for the brutal reprisal that took place in Croke Park later that day when a combined force of RIC, including the Black and Tans, and Auxillaries along with British Army troops opened fire at a Gaelic Football match between Dublin and Tipperary, causing the deaths of 13 spectators and Tipp player Michael Hogan.

Though Dalymount Park sits only a short walk away from Croker, any connections with Bohemians and the events of that day would appear remote or non-existent, though that is certainly not the case. Both in the streets of Dublin that morning and in Croke Park that afternoon there were men who were, or would become, players, coaches, administrators and supporters of Bohemians.

We will begin early that morning on the streets of the south inner city, Charlie Dalton, the 17-year-old Drumcondra native and IRA intelligence officer has been preparing the attack on 28 Pembroke Street, making arrangements with Maudie, a maid who worked in the house to gather intelligence on the six suspected British intelligence operatives residing there.

At the appointed hour of 9am, Dalton and several other Volunteers burst into the house. Dalton’s job was to ransack the house for documents and intelligence files. His colleagues were tasked with the other work. Lieutenant Dowling and Captain Price were shot dead in their beds. Four other British officers were also shot in a volley of bullets in the hallway – Colonel Montgomery was killed and although the other officers were badly wounded, they survived.

Dalton was a member of Bohemians and an occasional player for the lower Bohs sides. His older brother Emmet, a British military veteran, had also joined the IRA by this stage and was also a member of Bohemians, playing for the first team as an inside-forward and becoming club President in 1924. By the end of the War of Independence, Emmet had become the IRA’s head of training.

Charlie Dalton (left)
Charlie Dalton (left)

Teenaged Jeremiah “Sam” Robinson was was out that morning acting as a lookout for his friend Vinny Byrne, one of Collins’ famed “12 Apostles”. Their destination was 28 Upper Mount Street – their targets British Lieutenants Aimes and Bennett.

This was a late change to the plans due to a recent piece of intelligence received Charlie Dalton. Byrne and fellow Squad member Tom Ennis led the party. In Byrne’s witness statement, he mentioned that they were a party of about ten men and that the operation did not go as smoothly as hoped.

The sound of shooting aroused the attention of other British military personnel in the area and the men keeping an eye on the entrance to Mount Street came under fire. Most of the party fled to the river and rather than risk crossing any of the city bridges back to the northside where they could be intercepted. They crossed by a ferry, and Sam and the others disappeared into the maze of streets and safe-houses of the north inner city.

Sam, along with his brother Christy, another IRA Volunteer, would go on to enjoy a stellar career with Bohemians as part of the all-conquering 1927-28 side and was capped twice by Ireland. But his cousin William “Perry” Robinson would not escape Bloody Sunday unscathed. He was the second youngest victim in Croke Park. Perched in a tree near the Canal End, he was struck by a bullet through the chest and would die in Jervis Hospital. He was 11 years old.

On Ranelagh Road was Christopher “Todd” Andrews, a Bohemian fanatic, who would later become a prominent public servant in the 1930s. He helped establish Bord na Móna in the 1940s, before going on to chair Córas Iompair Éireann and the RTÉ Authority, and began a political dynasty. His younger brother Paddy would enjoy success with Bohs in the 1930s, becoming club captain and would be capped for Ireland.

However, for Todd, his thoughts were with the headache caused by a clash of heads during a match for UCD the previous day as well as his duty that morning, the shooting of Lt. William Noble.

As he later recalled:

“I had increasing fears we might be surprised by the Tans. If that happened and we were captured, we would have been shot or hanged. It is not an agreeable prospect for a nineteen-year-old psychologically unattuned to assassination.”

In the end, Andrews did not have to fire a shot – their target had escaped. Noble had left at 7am that morning. Andrews’ home was raided later than night, and his father, also Christopher, was lifted by the Black and Tans. Todd was forced into hiding, searching for a safe house in the south Dublin suburbs.

Charlie Harris with the Dubs

Charlie Harris with the Dubs

That afternoon in Croke Park, strange as it may seem, there was also a strong Bohs connection. Many of the Dublin side were taken from the O’Toole’s club from Seville Place in the North inner-city, they would become the dominant club side of the 1920s in Dublin, winning seven county football championships over the course of the decade. Their trainer was Charlie Harris, and he was also assisting the Dubs that day from the Croke Park touchline.

A former athletics champion, Croke Park was familiar terrain for Harris, he had even raced against a horse there in 1912, narrowly losing! Harris had also been the trainer of Bohemians since 1916, and was involved with the club for over 30 years as an integral part of many successful Bohemians teams.

He even coached the Irish national side on a number of occasions, including at the 1924 Olympics. Harris, like most of the Dublin team was likely among the group that was rounded up by the RIC and detained in the Croke Park dressing rooms before finally being released later that day after threats and intimidation.

Gerry Farrell

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