Auchinlek Talbot’s recent heroics in the Scottish Cup [they beat Championship side Ayr United in the Fourth Round to advance to a mouth-watering Fifth Round tie away to Hearts, surpassing their previous record from 2011-12 when they went all the way to the Fourth Round, losing narrowly away to …. Hearts!] grabbed my attention, not only because of my pleasure at seeing the underdog triumph but also because of the name, which sounded like a teamfrom the dark mists of history.
It got me thinking about teams from the past here. League of Ireland teams fall into three categories – the current membership of the League, clubs who have dropped out but still exist [Drumcondra, Home Farm, Kilkenny City, Monaghan United, Salthill Devon, Mervue United, Newcastle West, Thurles Town, St Francis, Pioneers, St James Gate and Transport] and clubs who were in the League but have since folded.
There’s well over a dozen in this latter category. I’ll start with Bray Unknowns, a team who played League of Ireland soccer for 19 seasons between 1924 and 1943, and continued to exist in the town as well as Bray Wanderers right up to the 1970’s. There were many teams who didn’t last that long in the League, and a few teams who only lasted a single season – Rathmines Athletic, YMCA and Reds United being three.
Reds United were formed by former members of Shelbourne after Shels were suspended from the League in 1934. They played in Milltown for their solitary League of Ireland season [1935-36]. Given the circumstances of their formation they have a direct link to Shelbourne, unlike another defunct former League club called Shelbourne United who were a completely separate entity.
YMCA were the soccer branch of a multi-sport club based at Claremount Road in Sandymount that also included cricket and hockey teams. The side is defunct but their name lives on in part via the club Mount Merrion YMCA FC who play in the Leinster Senior League.
Dublin clubs formed the majority of the League membership in its early days. The defunct club Dublin United, a side who were based in Donnybrook, were founder members and stayed for 2 seasons. Olympia, another defunct side, were based in The Coombe and were also founder members and also stayed for only 2 seasons. Brideville, a side from The Liberties, played a total of 17 seasons in the League over 3 spells. Then there was Brooklyn, a side who had nothing to do with New York or David and Victoria Beckham but everything to do with Merchants Quay. Unfortunately neither Brooklyn Terrace, after which they were named, nor ChalgroveTerrace, where they played their games, still exist – they are as defunct as the club itself.
You don’t have to look back through the mists of time to find defunct League of Ireland clubs from Dublin. Step forward Sporting Fingal and Dublin City, 2 quite recent examples of teams that didn’t last.
Defunct League of Ireland sides really become interesting when you focus on Cork. Fordsons [often referred to as Cork FC] were the works team of Ford and played in the League from 1924 to 1938. They became defunct but passed on the League baton to Cork City FC [not the current club!] who stayed in the League from 1938 to 1940 before becoming defunct themselves; their place was taken by Cork United who stayed in the League for 8 years, winning 5 titles.
Next to take the baton were Cork Athletic who took over from United in 1948 and stayed in the League until 1957. Upon their demise a club called Cork Hibernians [who had been formed by members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians] took the League place, and stayed until 1976. Guess what – upon their demise another Cork team immediately stepped into the breach. That would be Albert Rovers, who stayed in the League until 1982. Albert Rovers also went under the names Cork Albert, Cork Alberts and Cork United [nothing to do with the previous Cork United] during this time, just to add to the confusion, or the legacy!
A couple of other defunct former League clubs from Cork were Cork Bohemians and Cork Celtic. Like all the clubs above they were separate entities but their distinction was to play as a second Cork team alongside the baton-changers above [Bohemians from 1932 to 1934 and Celtic from 1951 to 1979, with the title being secured in 1974 and the 2nd round of the European Cup reached the following season].
Some of the names of defunct clubs can cause confusion. Take Midland Athletic for example. They had nothing to do with the midlands but were based in Whitehall and were the works team of the Midland Great Western Railway who operated out of Broadstone in Dublin city.
Works teams were plentiful in the League in the early days. As well as the aforementioned Fordsons and Midland Athletic there was Jacobs from Crumlin who were the works team of Jacobs Biscuits and they played League of Ireland for a decade between 1921 and 1931 [they were founder-members of the League]. The side continued to exist for a long time after their exit from the League; I can even find mention of them in the FAI Cup during the year I was born [1968-69 season] but they are definitely defunct now.
Defunct teams aside, this year’s League of Ireland membership comprises the same 20 as last year. I’d like to see the bottom team in the First Division dropping out and being replaced by a team from non-league [as happens in England from the National League and in Scotland with the winners of a play-off between the Highland and Lowland leagues securing a SPFL place if they beat the bottom side in League Two]. Perhaps this is something the League should consider to prevent teams being allowed to stagnate at the bottom of the First Division; a spell in a provincial league might prompt revival rather than precipitate becoming defunct.
Back to Auchinlek Talbot. 1979 was the year that Talbot’s horizons started to broaden considerably. Auchinleck Talbot the football side that is [who are based near Kilmarnock in Ayrshire], and not the Talbot Horizon car that won European Car of the Year in 79. They won the first of a run of nine West of Scotland Cups in eleven years, helping legendary manager Willie Knox [who had taken over in 1977] to his final tally of 43 trophies in 16 seasons by the time he stood down in 1993. Sir Alex, eat your heart out!
Talbot are a semi-professional side and play in the McBookie.com West Of Scotland Super League Premier Division, a league they have won five times. It is run by the West Region of the Scottish Junior Football Association, and has such exotically-named sides as Pollok, Troon, Largs Thistle, KilwinningRangers and Kirkintilloch Rob Roy.
Talbot have 12 Scottish Junior Cups to their name, and the same number of West of Scotland Cups [they had won one before Willie Knox’s time, and have won 2 more since]. They once won a Scottish Junior Cup match [against Craigbank in 1920] 11-0, a record they surpassed in 2008 when they beat NairnSt. Ninian 13-1.
‘The Bot’, as they are nicknamed, play at Beechwood Park, the original site for which was donated by the 2nd Baron Talbot de Malahide, Richard Wogan Talbot [the club repaid the favour in their name].
Currently the side are managed by former AyrUnited, Queen Of The South, Stranraer and Kilmarnock player Tommy Sloan, who has been in charge since 2003 [initially as player-manager].
Talbot might still be in the Scottish Cup but our own Bohemians are still in the IrnBru Scottish Challenge Cup. They face East Fife [from Scotland’s League One] this Saturday 02 Feb at Dalymount Park, so this essentially is the first competitive game of our 2019 season, if you want to look at it that way. It would certainly be great if fans of other League of Ireland clubs went along to cheer on Bohs in their quest for a semi-final place [they will face Championship leaders Ross County away should they overcome East Fife]. I’ll certainly be there.