Shamrock Rovers secure league and cup double - a look back 35 years to the 1985 FAI Cup final

Wed, Dec 02 2020
Shamrock Rovers won the double 35 years ago

Shamrock Rovers won the double 35 years ago Credit: Brian F Smyth (ETPhotos)

This weekend Shamrock Rovers go seeking their first league and cup double for 33 years. 35 years ago the Hoops won the double and would repeat that feat in 1986 and 1987 – the last season they would play in Milltown. 

The 1985 double was secured with a 1-0 win in the final against Galway United at Dalymount Park. It wasn’t a straight forward route to the 1985 final for the Hoops. In the first round they drew with Bohemians.

After those consecutive scoreless draws, Rovers won thanks to Mick Byrne scoring the only goal in Dalymount Park in the first round second replay. 

Twice the Hoops fell behind away to Drogheda United in the second round but a brace by Noel Larkin, along with another Mick Byrne goal, helped Rovers to a 3-2 away win.

In the semi-final the Hoops overcame Sligo Rovers 2-1 – once again Mick Byrne was on the scoresheet with Liam O’Brien grabbing the other goal for Rovers.

It was Noel Larkin who scored the only goal of the final against Galway ensuring that the FAI Cup went to Milltown and as the Hoops won the double for the first time in 21 years.

“I joined Rovers from Athlone the year after Rovers won the first of the four in a row but had lost the cup final against UCD,” recalled Larkin when speaking to this author on the 25th anniversary of that FAI Cup win.

“I had won the first two of my six league championships with Athlone but had never been to a cup final having lost two semi-finals. 

“Athlone’s one and only cup victory was in the 1920’s.There was a hotel in the centre of the town called the Royal and in there was a very large photo on the wall of that cup winning team. Anytime I was in the hotel, I would look at it and dream of what it would be like to play and win a cup final and maybe score the winning goal.

"Well what do you know, dreams do come true and Shamrock Rovers and the great Jim McLaughlin gave a lad from Athlone that opportunity!”

It was in the 57th minute of the 1985 final that his dream came true. Mick Byrne brought down the ball in midfield and played the ball through to John Coady who made a penetrating run on the left.  

Despite two defenders between him and the goal, he fired in a cross and Larkin nipped in ahead of a last gasp tackle to score with the outside of his right boot to win Rovers’ 22nd Cup. 

“John Coady did all the work,” said Larkin about his winner. “He was fantastic on the left side of midfield using his speed to get by people. He got to the by-line sending a low cross to the near post.  I got there before the defender and touched it with the outside of my right foot into the net.  

“The goal for me was a simple tap in,” says Larkin modestly of his goal. “I remember running away with my hands in the air and I think it was Noel King I had on my back. I wanted to make sure I was going to enjoy it. The only way you can do this is to make sure you win it. Then to be able to do this three times in a row was unbelievable.”

Larkin has another indelible image from the day which occurred after they had claimed the trophy.

“When we were getting ready to go and pick up the cup, I heard my Dad calling from behind the fencing at Dalymount and when I went over to him the tears of pride and joy were streaming down his face.

"It is a memory that has stayed with me ever since. That to me is the memory I have of winning the cup that day, it means so much too so many people not just the players on the day.”

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