‘But all I got is a photograph . . .’

Published in 18th–19th - Century History, General, Issue 5 (Sept/Oct 2011), News, Volume 19

But-all-I-got-is-a-photograph-1 There are periods in the history of any football club that stand out for certain reasons and gain mythical status among its followers. Sligo Rovers’ fans fondly remember the League-winning teams of 1977 and 1983, and Shamrock Rovers their four-in-a-row champions from the mid-eighties. Years from now, people may talk about the Bohemian FC team of the late noughties, arguably the best side to have played in the League of Ireland in the modern era. But one period of history that truly stands out for Bohs is the late twenties, when a team captained by the great Harry Cannon led an amateur side to an unprecedented clean sweep of all four available domestic trophies in the 1927–8 season, a feat as yet unmatched by any team in the League of Ireland since.The Irish Times remarked that, ‘by sweeping the decks, so to speak, in Free State football, Bohemians . . . have achieved a feat which is so remarkable that it deserves more than passing notice’. Football history holds no parallel. Harry Cannon, a legendary figure in Bohemian lore, had stood between the posts for the Irish Free State’s first-ever international match against Italy on 21 March 1926. The team then were all home-based players, and the record shows that they were beaten 3–0. He also led out the Irish Olympic team in Los Angeles in 1932, captained the Civil Service cricket team and kept goal for the Railway Union hockey team in the same era. In the modern age, where players are wrapped up in cotton wool, such feats seem unbelievable. I came into possession of a rare photograph of the Bohs side of that era recently, picked up at a fundraising auction for the Phibsboro side. The photo shows the team from the 1929–30 season, still including many of the players from the so-called ‘golden season’—Cannon, Bermingham, Whyte and McCarthy. The team photo is taken in front of the old dressing rooms at Dalymount. Colloquially known as ‘the hut’ because of its stone walls and galvanised roof, it was the inspiration for the name over the door of a certain pub on Phibsboro Road that remains a pre-match haunt for many Bohs fans. According to Bohemian Times, the dressing rooms were replaced in the 1931–2 season in a stadium revamp designed by architect Archibald Leitch, famous for designing Hampden Park, Goodison Park and Anfield, amongst others. Gavin, the previous owner of the photo, gave its background:

‘My grandfather, John Doyle, was the first owner of it. The photo has a signature on the back that we believe belonged to the player Jack McCarthy, who captained the all-conquering Bohs team of the 1927/1928 season. He also played for Ireland. My own father took it after his father died and it was found in our attic a few years ago. My father and grandfather are from the deCourcy Square area of Glasnevin and so were raised on Bohs. The captain of the team when the picture was taken . . . Jimmy Bermingham, is the grandfather of a friend of mine.’

According to staff in the office at Dalymount Park, Jimmy Bermingham’s legacy lives on, as his grandson (Gavin’s friend) is an avid Bohs supporter.That such historical artefacts are required to change hands in order to save such a historic club from financial ruin is unfortunate. Items like this photograph might not be valuable to those outside of League of Ireland circles, but to a Bohemians fan it is a treasured possession. Never mind the 1920s, the glory days of the noughties now seem like a distant memory for most Bohs fans. In a financial quagmire, the club that brought historic nights to Dalymount Park like the 3–2 victory over Glasgow Rangers in 1984 is close to collapse. Their home itself is at risk, the financial downturn causing its value to plummet so much that the €65 million dream deal espoused by Liam Carroll in 2006 is now dead in the water. The monetary value of the site is now negligible when compared with its historic value. Fans have rallied to the cause, with the recent auction only one of many fundraising ventures taking place all over the city. Let’s hope it’s not all in vain and that the centenary of the ‘golden season’ can take place where it should—in the original ‘home of Irish football’.  HI

Ciaran Murray is co-editor of ‘Come Here To Me’, a blog on Dublin life and culture, http://comeheretome.wordpress.com/.

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