A Short History of Dundalk and District League

 

On the 17th of January 1906, representatives of the local association football clubs met in the central hotel in Earl street to form a league. That Wednesday evening the Dundalk and District League was founded. Roles were drafted and officers elected. Mr TA Finch, MA was chosen as President, Mr G Hamill as Honorary Secretary and Mr T Finch jun as Honorary Treasurer.

 

Mr TA Finch was headmaster of the education institute known as the Grammer School. Six teams entered the two round league with the first series of games taking place on the 10th of February 1906. The first results saw St Nicholas lose 3-2 against the G.N.R, Dundalk drew 2-2 with St Marys (The Marist School) and Carrickmacross defeating Drogheda Centaurs 4-1 but had lost the game after an objection. St Mary's went through the season unbeaten to become the first winners.

 

The proprietors of the Central Hotel was a Mrs Casey, another Casey would play a pivotal roll in the history of the league some 13 years later.

 

The league was covered by local papers for the next three seasons with British Army teams taking the title. In the season prior to World War 1 there were brief reports of league activity which faded altogether until the end of the war in 1918.

 

In 1919 PJ Casey, Honorary Secretary of Dundalk town was the main driver behind reviving the league for the 1919/20 season. Paddy's son Dessie would go on to be the Vice President of UEFA. Paddy, the first Secretary after the revival would go on to become the President of the League of Ireland in 1932, the first Dundalk man to be elected. 7 teams made up the league, St Marys, Dundalk Town, Silver Badges, 10th Norfolks, 33rd RFA, 36th RFA and the winners GNR, who would later become Dundalk AFC. The McArdle and Moore brewary donated the cup for the league winners.

 

In the 1928/29 season the Leinster Football Association presented the league with a challenge cup for spreading and fostering the game. Dee United from Ardee became the first cup winners by beating St Patricks 3-2 in a replay in the Athletics grounds and also became the fist double winners having just clinched the league.

 

Drogheda United won the league in the 1923/24 season and lifted the trophy again in the 1925/26 campaign, and like the GNR would eventually reach league of Ireland status 1975 when the club founded by Jack Lougheed and Tom Monks merged with Drogheda AFC to become Drogheda United FC. Jack Lougheed played with Drogheda Centaurs in the inaugural season of the Dundalk and District League in 1905/06.

 

Joey Donnelly became the first player to be capped from the league when in 1934 when playing for Dundalk he scored on his debut against Hungary in a 4-2 loss. He won 10 caps and scored 4 goals, he lined out with Norton Villa and St Malachys in the local league. Others to follow in his illustrious footsteps were Billy O'Neill (Brookville) who collected 11 caps for the Irish side, Tommy Clinton (Dealgan Rovers) the holder of 3 caps in the early 1950's, Tommy Trainor (St Patricks) won his 8 caps as a Southampton player, Tommy McConville (Rangers) made 6 appearances for Ireland in the early 1970's, Cathal Muckian (Rangers) won his only cap in 1978 in a 3-0 loss against Poland. Frank McCourt (Bank Rovers) was capped 6 times for Northern Ireland, Ken Finn (Bendigo) was honoured by the US in 1962 and Tom McCabe (Bank Rovers) playing for New Zealand in the late 1950's.

 

 

The league has produced many outstanding teams over it's long history. In 1937 St Patricks reached the final of the FAI Junior Cup drawing 1-1 with Amiens Celtic in Dalymount Park. The replay in Oriel Park saw Amiens win 3-2 with a goal in extra time. The Pats became the first team to do a clean sweep in the local league in 1945 winning all 4 trophies on offer. Bank Rovers became the only local club to win the Leinster Junior Cup beating Belgrove 4-3 in Dalymount Park during the 1951/52 season. In 1984/85 season Bank Rovers won the Intermediate cup with a 3-1 victory over Hammond Lane. Bank were the first Dundalk junior side to play in the FAI Senior Cup, hosting Waterford in Oriel Park before a £3,000 gate. Quay Celtic are the only other Dundalk Club to play in the FAI cup.

 

Rangers became the 2nd team to do a clean sweep when they lifted all 3 trophies on offer in 2005. Muirhevnamor have done 5 clean sweeps since 2007 to become the most decorated club in the leagues history with over 40 titles won since their winning of the 1988 First Division.

 

The 1970's saw floodlights used for the first team, penalty shootouts to decide matches, a transfer system introduced and a 3rd Division added to accommodate a record 38 teams playing in the league. That decade also saw an automatic 1 match ban was introduced along with compulsory of shirts and the introduction of red and yellow cards. The league played it's first competitive fixture in 1980 beating the NE League 5-0.

 

Since 1906 many great teams have graced the Dundalk and District League and these clubs have produced some of the most outstanding players to display their gifted talents on the playing fields of Ireland and abroad, long may it last.