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If Bob Dylan had been a League of Ireland fan….

I’m pretty sure Bob Dylan, who turns 75 this week on Tuesday 24 May, has never been to a League of Ireland football game. You can never be sure though with Bob. He’s been known to enjoy cycling round Dublin in disguise whenever he visits the city; perhaps he stumbled across a game and wandered in?
I’d say not. I’m a big fan but can’t recall any interviews where he expresses a liking for soccer. In his vast canon of songs I can only find one mention of football, the line ‘’out of the shower comes a football man’’ in the song ‘’I Shall Be Free’’ from 1963’s ‘’The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’’ album. I’m pretty sure it’s American football he meant too. Bob Marley was more of a soccer man.
Given the way Bray’s Cup game went on Friday night last against UCD, I was hoping to be celebrating Bob’s landmark birthday by attending a replay in the Carlisle Grounds on Tuesday 24 May. We didn’t make it; having come back from 3 down at half-time we drew level but got edged out 4-3 in the end, despite having chances to equalize near the end. A return to the league now and the fight to climb the table.
Back to Bob Dylan. Joseph O’Connor wrote an excellent tribute to him in Saturday’s Irish Times. He mapped some key moments in his own life to the Bob Dylan albums that were current at those times. Allow me to briefly do something similar and link up League Of Ireland moments with Bob Dylan moments.
Back in 1941 when Dylan was born [as Robert Zimmerman, in Hibbing, Minnesota] Cork United won the League and also the FAI Cup [defeating Waterford 3-1 after a replay in Dalymount Park]. By 1962 when Dylan had dropped out of college and gravitated to Grenwich Village in New York to launch his music career, Shelbourne were League champions and Shamrock Rovers were FAI Cup winners, defeating Shelbourne 4-1 in the final. Rovers seemed to win the Cup all the time in the 60’s, rolling off triumphs with a similar frequency to the rate of release of new Bob Dylan albums at that time!
1966 was a key year for Dylan. He had had enough of the abuse he was receiving for ‘going electric’ and staged a motorcycle accident to get out of the limelight. He hung out at Woodstock writing songs with The Band. Football was also big in the news at that time. England had won the World Cup. Over here, Waterford were League champions and no prizes for guessing who won the Cup … yes, Shamrock Rovers.
A decade on and by 1976 the League of Ireland was in a period of decline as it sought to compete with more and more cross-channel televised soccer. Dylan’s career had been in a similar decline but he’d pulled out of the nose-dive a bit by 1976 with the brace of top-notch albums ‘’Blood On The Tracks’’ and ‘’Desire’’ and the spectacular Rolling Thunder Revue tour. Bohemians were Cup winners that year, beating Drogheda 1-0 in the final. League honours went to Dundalk.
1985 was an exciting time in the League Of Ireland. The introduction of the First Division [of which Bray were founder members] re-energised the League somewhat. For Bob Dylan, it was the opposite as his career went into another trough. Three successive lacklustre albums from 1985 to 1988 [‘’Empire Burlesque’’, ‘’Knocked Out Loaded’’ and ‘’Down In The Groove’’] did a lot of damage to his myth.
By 1990 Dylan’s stock had risen again, thanks to the album ‘’Oh Mercy’’. Bray Wanderers had won the Cup so I was happy out. Bob was back, Bray were in Europe and I’d finished college, turned 21 and got a job [not an easy thing to do in Ireland in 1990!].
The modern-day Bob Dylan still releases albums at regular intervals and tours frequently. He rocks on against the odds, like the League Of Ireland. You can’t keep something good down.
Brian Quigley

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