Golden Anniversary Of Landmark Ireland Fixture
Derek Dougan’s role in setting up a historic, pioneering match against world champions Brazil has been celebrated in Dublin exactly 50 years on.
The Wolves forward was a prime mover in the scheduling of the game in early July, 1973, on the site of the stadium in which a Wolves v Celtic friendly has just been arranged for late this month.
He was part of a united Ireland side formed to take on the South Americans at the old Lansdowne Road at the height of the unrest across the Irish Sea.
So bad were the troubles then that Northern Ireland didn’t play home fixtures in Belfast from 1971 to 1975 but the country’s players rubbed along with their counterparts from the south for a day to temporarily bring the island’s football into line with sports like cricket, rugby and hockey that are represented by cross-border teams.
Dougan drew in international team-mates Pat Jennings, Martin O’Neill, Alan Hunter, Bryan Hamilton and David Craig, while the south contributed Johnny Giles, Miah Dennehy, Don Givens, Mick Martin, Paddy Mulligan, Terry Conroy, Tommy Carroll and Liam O’Kane.
Mulligan, a Crystal Palace player at the time, was guest of honour at the special event organised by MP Aodhán O’Riordán to mark the 50th anniversary and recalled how the players spent three days training together in what was the middle of their summer break. Former Wolves youngster Dave Clements, who was then with Sheffield Wednesday but holidaying in the Seychelles, was one of those who didn’t make it back and George Best was a high-profile absentee as his Manchester United career unravelled.
Attempts through this website to involve a member or two of The Doog’s family failed but Ireland-based Wolves fan Peter Jones was among the 30 invited guests at The Little Museum of Dublin. He kindly provided the picture below that shows a match-worn shirt that was auctioned on the night along with a Brazilian one.
“Paddy Mulligan said in his address that, without Derek’s efforts, the match would not have happened,” Peter reported. “He brought all of the Northern players on board to the later detriment of his own International career.
“He never played for Northern Ireland again, thanks mainly to the influence of IFA president Harry Cavan, who was completely against the game and tried to have it stopped.”
As it was, the home side had to play as a ‘Shamrock Rovers XI’ and wear the club’s hooped colours rather than the plain green of either of the two countries. Dougan scored the last of his side’s goals in a 4-3 defeat.
“The game showed the potential of what an all Ireland team could achieve,” Peter added.
“In the absence of anyone to speak for Derek, I said a few words telling a little of his flamboyant story… the transfer request on Cup Final eve, the shaved head, the first shirt advertisements in UK football etc. The evening clearly acknowledged him and his vital contribution to making the game happen.
“As an aside, I had a chat with Paddy Mulligan after he had also told us how the players went to the home of Luke Kelly from The Dubliners following the game and were singing songs and enjoying much laughter.
“I asked how he had found facing David Wagstaffe. ‘A wonderful player, Waggy,’ he said ‘And that Mike Bailey, he did me one day and put me out of a match against Russia. His tackle was only about 30 minutes late!’”
Lansdowne Road, where the Brazil game was staged, was demolished in 2007 and the Aviva Stadium, where Wolves and Celtic will meet on July 29, was built in its place.
Proceeds from the 1973 match, which attracted a 34,000 crowd, went to UNICEF and the Irish Cancer Society.
Dougan was 35 at the time and showed no ill-effects from his early return to action for this prestige friendly when scoring twce in Wolves’ 3-1 win at home to Norwich on the first day of the 1973-74 season.