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Forgotten trophies - The Top Four Cup and FAI Super Cup

Mon, May 25 2020

Morton Stadium was the venue for the 1998 FAI Super Cup won by Shamrock Rovers Credit: Peter Fitzpatrick (ETPhotos)

League champions Dundalk, FAI Cup holders Shamrock Rovers, along with Derry City and Bohemians will take part in a behind closed doors tournament as the first part of the return to the pitch for the League of Ireland. 

The tournament, which will see last season’s top four face off ahead of their European matches sometime later in the year, will conjure up memories of other such events over the years including the Top Four Cup and the FAI Super Cup.

This pair of cup competitions, which ran from 1956 to 1974 and 1998 to 2001, saw the top four in the league play off for silverware.  

The Top Four Cup, which was also known as the Independent Cup due to sponsorship from the Irish Independent, was originally a post-season competition played in the weeks after that season’s FAI Cup final. 

Shamrock Rovers won the inaugural competition in 1956, and by doing so completed a cup quadruple of the FAI Cup, League of Ireland Shield, and Leinster Senior Cup. 

The following year, Evergreen United, who up until that point had won the 1935/36 FAI Junior Cup as their only national honour, claimed the Top Four Cup by beating Drumcondra 2-1 at Dalymount Park. 

Finals for the cup were played all across the island. Dalymount Park hosted the first six, with the Mardyke breaking the tradition in 1961 for a replay between Drumcondra and Cork Celtic. After the two sides drew 2-2 on the banks of the Lee, a second replay was played in Tolka Park, which the Dublin club won 3-0.

The Kilcohan Park Greyhound Stadium in Waterford hosted Blues’ hammering of Cork Hibernian 6-2 in 1970. 

This victory for Waterford was part of a four in a row for the club, starting in 1968 and finishing in 1971 with a 3-0 win over Cork Hibernian at Tolka Park. 

The last final for this iteration of a top four competition was played in 1974, with Cork Celtic beating Bohemians on penalties after a 0-0 draw at Flower Lodge. Forty six years later, the trophy sits inside the now closed down Evergreen Bar in Turner’s Cross. 

The idea of a top four tournament was revived in 1998 with the FAI Super Cup. This tournament, which was played in the pre-season summer months, would see the previous year’s top four play off as a warm up for the upcoming European qualifiers.

The FAI also said that the tournament was used to ‘gauge the public's response to summer soccer’ which was later introduced in 2003.

The FAI Super Cup was played for its first three seasons as a knock out  tournament with semi finals, a third place play-off and a final. This format produced three different winners in Shamrock Rovers, St. Patricks Athletic, and UCD. 

This format was changed in 2001, with a round robin group stage adopted. Shelbourne clinched the trophy two hours after their final game of the season against Cork City when Bohemians drew 2-2 with Longford Town. 

Jason Kabia, who scored a consolation for Cork City in their 2-1 loss to Rovers in the first ever game of the FAI Super Cup and an equaliser against Shels in that year’s third place play off, holds the record as the all time top goal scorer in the now defunct competition.  

Games in this competition were played all across the island. Traditional grounds such as Turner’s Cross, Tolka Park, and Dalymount Park were most used along with Morton Stadium (which would later house Shamrock Rovers and Sporting Fingal), Knockgriffin Park (the home of Munster Senior League club Midleton FC), and Longford Rugby Club.