Paul Byrne has a rich family association with Shelbourne FC. His grandfather William was involved with foundation of club in 1895, his two Uncles – James and John Owens- played for Shels in the 1900s, and his cousin Pat Byrne was appointed player-manager of Shels in 1988. Paul recalls attending matches from the early 1960s to the present day. His favourite Shels players include Billy Newman, Brian Delargy and Tony Sheridan. Paul also explains how he ensured that Jimmy O’Connor’s 1967 hat trick against Bohemians at Dalymount, scored in two minutes 13 seconds, was official ratified as a world record for football’s quickest hat trick.
Listen here [play time: 49:18 mins] or Download Audio (mp3) [file size: 22.5 MB. Right-click, save as…]
Duration: 49:18 mins
Project Name: Shelbourne FC Oral History Project: Phase 1
Track Number: 01
Name of the Interviewee: Paul Byrne (PB)
Name of Interviewer: Marc Redmond (MR) on behalf of Dublin City Library and Archive (DCLA)
Place of Interview: Conference Room, The Lab, Dublin City Arts Office, Foley Street, Dublin 1
Date of Interview: 22 March 2011
Name of Transcribers: E–quip Business Solutions, amended by Ellen Murphy, DCLA
MR: This interview is taking place on the 29th of March 2011 in the lab on Foley Street. Present are Paul Byrne and the interview is being carried out by Mark Redmond on behalf of Dublin City Archive. Paul thank you very much for your time, thanks for coming in. Could I begin by asking you to tell us your full name, your date of birth and your occupation?
PB: My name is Paul Byrne. My date of birth is 06/05/1956 and I’m a Senior IT Specialist with the Educational Building Society or EBS Building Society.
MR: And how long have you been a supporter of Shels?
PB: I suppose knee high to a grasshopper and I’ll have to explain that. My family background is such that my grandfather, William, was a young boy at the founding of Shelbourne in 1895 …
PB: … he lived in the old Queen’s Terrace just off Queen’s Street and then they were residing in O’Connell Gardens there beside the Havelock Square End, behind the Aviva Stadium as it is now. My father would have played with Shelbourne in the ‘30s but he never played a senior team much to his regret. He got badly injured when he was about 20 years of age and he was serving his apprenticeship as a painter decorator and consequently because he was helping out with the family he couldn’t afford to be out of work for months …
MR: Of course not.
PB: … which would have required him to get a major operation on his knee and so on. My father’s uncles, the Owens, James and John, they played in the 1906 Gold Cup winning team, they were the first team to bring the IFA Cup south of the border. Well the border wasn’t constructed at that stage …
MR: Of course not.
PB: … but it brought it back to Dublin and of course they went on to subsequently win it three more times. My cousin, Pat Byrne, was an international, he played for Ireland about eight times, he was a player/manager and then subsequently manager of Shels back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. His cousin Terry played in the 1975 FAI Cup Final team. So I suppose really to answer (laughs) would be that I’ve been following Shels since I was a very young boy but I have a lot of early memories of various matches going back to the early ‘60s and so on.
MR: So it really has been established in the family and in the wider family.
PB: Yes, yes.
MR: And what was your grandfather’s full name and your father’s full name?
PB: My father’s name would have been William, William Byrne, and his father would have been William as well. I can’t remember the second name, sorry – apologies – I will get that for you if you like.
MR: Not at all. Can you tell me about your earliest memory of supporting the club, the first kind of few matches that you started to go to and when that was?
PB: Yes. My father used to bring me over to the games, I was the eldest of two boys – I had three older sisters but needless to say in those days they weren’t really interested in football, but my father used to meet up with his brothers, Paddy, who was father of Pat and Terry that I mentioned earlier on. Uncle Mikey had a son as well, he played with the Shelbourne Supporters team, Liam, and we used to meet up at the matches in the early ‘60s but I remember I used to get on the back of my father’s motorbike and we’d nearly always go to the game about an hour and half … because in those days the crowds were huge. The played at Tolka Park. We used to park just down from … near Fagan’s [pub] at the back of Fagan’s there, and we’d leave the bike there and then walk down and my father and his brothers were season ticket holders which Shelbourne going back to I suppose the ‘40s I think when they introduced the season tickets when they played in Shelbourne Park.
PB: So they were my earliest memories and I always remember I suppose the big crowds. The excitement, particularly playing the likes of Rovers in Drumcondra.
MR: That would have been the ‘60s maybe?
PB: Yes that would have been probably around ‘61/’62.
MR: And there was a couple of very significant games actually in the ‘60s, you had your first game in the European Cup in ’62 against Sporting Lisbon.
MR: Do you have any recollection of those games?
PB: No I don’t. I wasn’t brought to that because my father … that was played at Dalymount he thought it would be too … because we wouldn’t have the seats …
PB: … he thought the crowds were too big. I think there was about 25,000 to 30,000 people at that game so he just felt it would be too unsafe for me, to bring me to the match.
MR: Of course. And can you tell me what the atmosphere was like at the first couple of games you were at?
PB: Well it was fantastic. I always remember like one of the big games I remember was playing Dundalk and I also remember playing against Cork Celtic in the early ‘60s. The play-off game when Cork Celtic would have actually had a better goal difference and nowadays they would have actually won the league but in those days there was a play-off and of course that play-off then took place in Dalymount and it was great excitement, it was an incredible atmosphere. I also remember big games against them at Tolka Park and the atmosphere was unbelievable. I mean walking down to a game about an hour before kick off the crowds were such … it was like as if you were walking into a League of Ireland match now, the crowds were that big. And of course I always remember as well a lot of people tried to cycle down the Richmond Road because there was very few cars in those days and trying to get through the crowds and these people probably wouldn’t even be going to the game, maybe they were just trying to travel down to the Ballybough end of … or maybe going on to Fairview or maybe even to Howth but they couldn’t actually get through the crowds, they would have had to hop off the bicycles and walk down.
MR: A lot of people mentioned bicycles actually, there were usually hundreds and hundreds of bicycles outside the ground.
PB: That’s right, yes, yes.
MR: And did you ever travel to any away matches?
PB: I did. The games that we always travelled to when I was a kid were we always went to Dundalk and Drogheda, that was compulsory, then Athlone came into the league around the late ‘60s, I think it was ‘67/’68 around that time, and we also used to go down to those games. Now other matches because of the difficulty of trying to get up and down to the games, the roads weren’t that great, it would depend on whether we were in the Cup or not. The Cup games, my first big journey on a Cup game was we were drawing against Longford Town who were a non-league club at the time. They played out of the greyhound stadium and there was a great story, now we won 2-0 with two penalties, Brian Delargy scored both goals, about two or three days later it emerged that the goals were 14 yards from the penalty spot because apparently Longford Town when they were getting the pitch measured got in a grounds man from one of the local GAA clubs and he wasn’t aware that the penalty spot apparently was 12 yards away.
MR: Oh right.
PB: So they were looking for a rematch based on that but as it turned out the FAI decided, in their wisdom, to let the game stand and then we were into the semi-final of the Cup against Rovers which was a huge game. We were beaten by them then in a replay after a controversial decision, a handball decision.
MR: And which grounds in Ireland did you most or least like going to for whatever … ?
PB: Well I always loved going to Dalymount but unfortunately our results there were very bad and I also loved going to Milltown, the atmosphere was always fantastic, a Shels Rovers game was absolutely fantastic. The football used to be always brilliant as well because both teams played an awful lot of football on the floor and I suppose you had a lot of characters in both teams and that was a huge draw and of course the return fixtures then at Tolka we’d bring as well but the other one I used to love going to in the late ‘60s/early ‘70s was Flower Lodge, the pitch was always fantastic, that’s now called Páirc Uí Rinn now that the GAA bought from the Ancient Order of Hibernians.
MR: Where is that located now?
PB: It would be in Cork city.
PB: It wouldn’t be too far from the city centre itself. I’m not sure exactly the … I know it’s actually not too far from Turner’s Cross because I’ve actually seen it I mean we’ve gone all the way to Turner’s Cross now at the moment.
MR: And back in the day in the ‘60s when you were going how did you get on with other supporters, supporters from other clubs and how do you think that’s changed over the years up to today?
PB: That’s an interesting question. The supporters had a lot of respect for one another even though they followed their teams with a lot of passion but I do remember various incidents, being down in Kilcon Park against Waterford when a bottle was actually thrown at my back in around ‘72/’73 and they’d a wonderful team in those days, so the incidents were isolated to a certain extent. And I also remember a couple of incidents in Turner’s Cross. I suppose with regard to the Dublin derbies there would have been an awful lot of … at the later stages of maybe the early ‘70s and it sort of creeped in from England was the hooliganism …
PB: … Rovers tend to have a larger crowd than most that were hell bent on causing trouble but what’s happened now I think is that the crowds have got less and less so these guys are very easily identifiable compared with the old days.
MR: And other than those isolated incidents did you experience anything on a larger scale or even in later years have you experienced anything unpleasant?
PB: Yes I was up in Derry city there about 10 years ago and I got hit by a rock in the head coming out of the ground. We were actually told to wait for the stewards to clear the ground and then we were asked to leave and we were still in the ground as it turned out, I got hit with a rock – a very large rock – and brought over to First Aid. Now I didn’t do anything about it because I felt okay then after, I just settled down for about a half an hour, but it was a bit of a harrowing experience. I was very lucky because I use glasses for watching the matches in recent years and I was only after taking off the pair of glasses so I was very lucky.
MR: And one of the lads I spoke to earlier mentioned that he saw the deterioration in the chants, the chants back in the ‘60s – he would have been going around the same time, there might have been a bit of kind of funny chants or … but he said that over the … since the ‘70s and the ‘80s they started getting a bit more personal, a bit more nasty, a bit more slagging the … and this, that and the other.
MR: And then taunts about particular players did you witness anything like that?
PB: Yes, I think one of the problems that you have now is the crowds are a lot less than they used to be in those days.
PB: And as a result if … some of these guys are very vocal so you tend to hear them an awful lot more and they can be very nasty and at times we know of families that maybe have been very reluctant to go to games particularly when the Dublin derby … if Rovers were playing or Bohs were playing against us because there is a bit of a nasty undercurrent but having said that it’s well marshalled both within and without the ground both by the police and stewards and so on. They know who the trouble makers are and of course the clubs are working hand in glove now with one another as well, they know they have various spotters so they can actually identify who these guys are and sometimes they had been removed from the ground at an early stage that tends to reduce the I suppose the climate of, uncomfortable climate is probably the best way to put it very, very quickly.
MR: Do you think they are at the stage the same as the way they operate in England where they either will deny them access to the ground or would have photographs of known trouble makers and that type of thing and they kind of tend to filter them out before?
PB: Yes I don’t think they are as sophisticated as that. They are depending on other clubs being able to spot these. Now we have our own head steward, he would be at most away games and he would know the trouble makers that have already been either bared or thrown out of Tolka Park so he would tend to let the opposition club know, particularly the steward his counterpart in the opposition club who these guys are so but I know quite a few in recent years haven’t even got into the ground, they might have travelled down to Cork or down to Longford, Athlone whatever but they actually haven’t even got into the ground as a result.
MR: And how would you have typically even back in the day or even more recently celebrated Shels victory?
PB: Well I, I suppose in the old days we used to go up to the Cat and Cage prior before having a bar in Tolka Park. Fagan’s used to tend to get packed and Maher’s was probably too far down the road or further down the Richmond Road, so we were inclined to go back up to the Cat and Cage with my father, at least one of my uncles.
MR: That’s up in Drumcondra.
PB: Up in Drumcondra yes yes, right opposite the St. Patrick’s Training School.
MR: I know it.
PB: And we would tend to congregate there and then in the last I suppose we opened a bar around ’94, ’95 so I’d prefer to give the money to the club.
MR: Of course yes.
PB: And so we tended maybe go into the club afterwards. Another place that we used to go to as well would have been a place in Clontarf opposite Fairview Park and that was to do with Vincent Smith, he’s a great supporter of the club, he owns Smith’s there in Fairview and we used to go down there and celebrate as well for certain things. He might funding the sponsorship of the game and we tend to go back there as well just to support him.
MR: What would you say was your greatest moment as a Shelbourne fan, the high point, any particular memory that is burned into your?
PB: Yes I have a, I actually have a few, I suppose like all the fans, winning the league after 30 years was fantastic because I knew we had arrived back, we were now back in the big time 30 years on and that would have been ’92.
PB: And a wonderful success, a few years earlier my father had died and passed away in ’84 and I got very emotional up in Oriel Park.
MR: ’91, ’92 yes.
PB: Yes my uncle was with me and that was great.
MR: And it was I can understand why that would bring back memories like that in a sense that you had so many members of your family involved in the club and it must have been a great way to.
PB: That was fantastic, there was a great story there my cousin was actually bringing up a number of guys and he had gone down to Tolka Park probably about an hour and a half before kick-off and Ollie Byrne who was secretary and probably the owner of the club at the time wonderful character and he was instrumental in actually getting us back to that level with Tony Donnelly and his family as well who had bought Tolka and so on but Liam was asked by Ollie to actually bring up a case of champagne up to Oriel Park in case we won it, now we still had another game to play against Rovers the following Thursday night, oh sorry we had two more games to play but Ollie said just be prepared and basically Liam was saying well what happens if we don’t win, you know we don’t win the game and other results go against us, we just said well just we won’t even take it out of the car but he said make sure you have it in the boot of the car.
PB: As it turned out anyway we won 3-1, Liam was dispatched for the champagne and that was duly brought into the, back into the dressing room as well and so all in all it was fantastic but Liam actually was able to get a sup out of it because he was actually in there celebrating with them he was able to bring out some champagne, so we had a wonderful drive back, we all went back to Tolka Park and I think I got out at Tolka Park about three o clock the following morning it was fantastic, absolutely fantastic I had to leave my car over at Tolka Park that was a wonderful experience as well and then following on from that then we had you know there was great European nights and obviously the highlight and the greatest night probably in the clubs history was 2004 as well with Deportivo drawing with them nil all at Lansdowne Road and then being only 20 minutes away from qualifying for the Champions League proper, that was a wonderful night as well, the publicity all that week after we had beaten Hajduk Split was just unbelievable front and back of The Times, the sports section and they were constantly on the radio, we were on the TV, it was astonishing and on a personal level I was asked for, I had sold over about 100 tickets out of my job alone for the game at Lansdowne Road because I work close by. On the day of the game I could have sold another 100 I was inundated with requests for it but it was absolutely fantastic we had a full house at 24 thousand and the reason we were restricted to 24 thousand was because under UEFA Rules we couldn’t open up the terraces.
MR: Right somebody mentioned that earlier as well.
PB: We probably would have had about 40, 45 thousand in the ground and what was a fantastic experience, absolutely fantastic.
MR: And Shels had moved around a bit, you were initially in Shelbourne Park and moved out of there in 1949.
MR: And you had the other grounds down near Poolbeg and then you played in Harold’s Cross for a while how do you think all that moving around affected the, do you think it affected the overall crowds who had supported the club?
PB: Ah it did. Yes without a doubt I think the identity that you have as a club, I think one of the things you have apart from the crest and the name and you know the association with maybe playing in particular colours as with us say red and white is that your ground as well, your ground is such a base.
PB: It’s such an attraction and you can develop it over a long period of time, you get the long term plans for it and so on so forth, so it’s a massive, it’s a massive I suppose way of actually building up support. You would think that maybe moving all around the city that might have been a help but moving around the city means the crowds are dwindling because you don’t, a lot of money is going on rent and it’s not going back into the club and consequently you are not putting better teams or if you like or a team that should be in the race trying to win the championship and that you are literally just being on the pitch you know you are only just part of the race rather than being up near the front and I think that was one of the reasons why we ended up the crowds started going down and particularly the moves back and forward from Tolka Park back over to Harold’s Cross and then back again. When we moved into Tolka Park in the late 80’s Tony Donnelly bought it and Ollie then had great ideas and I suppose his strategy of bringing young lads back Irish guys back from England that were, maybe a lot of them would have been under youth internationals, under 21’s and so on but maybe they were either home sick or felt that coming back to Ireland was a better option and coupled with I suppose the ground and the redevelopment of the ground and then bringing over all the teams for the friendly matches as well which brought in huge profits into the club that was then coming back into the teams major success, but I think those that twin strategy of bringing you know having the likes of Liverpool and United coming over regularly and Liverpool and Spurs, Arsenal, Leeds for example as well who we have a great affinity with was hugely instrumental at bringing up the profile because you had a lot of supporters that would follow those teams coming into the ground for the first time and after looking at Tolka Park and the refurbishment and the way we were playing as well because we got quite a lot of draws out of those matches and the nature of the way we were playing the football was actually a huge attraction as well and I know from talking to guys that’s actually how they started following Shels as well.
MR: Would you have had a particular favourite player from your younger days supporting them, anybody that sticks in your head and who would you say would be your favourite player today or in your later years?
PB: Yes I think my favourite player would have been around the 60’s some of them were great players but I loved Billy Newman, Billy Newman was a very silky player, he was probably we signed him from Bohs, he was an amateur player at the time and he was playing in mid field but he was quite slow but he had wonderful technical ability and they moved, Gerry Doyle was manager at the time moved him back behind centre half and as a result he got capped against Denmark. There’s a great story where apparently John Giles was dropped and Billy Newman was brought in and the English press said well if he’s better than Giles he must be some player but he was, he was a lovely silky player and I loved watching him playing and he played around the late 60’s, early 70’s. Another favourite around that time would have been Brian Delargy who I mentioned earlier on who got two goals in that FAI cup game down in Longford in 1969 and then I suppose in latter years we’ve had, we’ve been very fortunate in having some great players so I have to leave aside my cousin Pat who was obviously excellent player but I think Tony Sheridan was just absolutely fantastic. He came back from Coventry City at about 19 years of age having played already 18 premier games.
PB: For Coventry City, he fell out with the manager. Damien originally was in the fortunate position that he actually knew him from a long way back, signed him and he was fantastic. He got a wonder goal on my 40th birthday which was 6th May 1996. And that was an equalising goal in the last minute and that was a wonder goal. He also got a wonder goal in the semi-final down in Sligo against Sligo Rovers and he then scored a winner in the replay against Patrick’s in that cup final, he also brilliant, we also won the league cup and it was our centenary season so winning the league cup and winning the FAI cup was brilliant but he was instrumental in it and himself and Stephen Geoghan up front had a wonderful partnership.
MR: Any young up and coming players that stand out to you at the moment, anybody did you think people should be keeping an eye on?
PB: At the moment we’ve signed probably seasoned players but I always like the look of, we signed Stephen Paisley and I think we were very fortunate to get him. He won two cups with Longford Town there a few years ago when Alan Matthews our current manager was also managing Longford Town and I was just looking at him last night he’s a very cultured player, very good defender at the back, doesn’t make a mistake and he probably should be playing in the premier division so we are glad to have him, let’s hope we get promoted this year based on you know his ability.
MR: And how about managers obviously managers, different managers perform different ways and club successes and maybe things don’t go particularly well in other seasons, any particular manager that stands out for you in the club or is there any particular manager you think the club might have been able to do without?
PB: I think, well two things I think Gerry Doyle who was manager of Shelbourne in the late 60’s, early sorry late 50’s, early 60’s. He was, he favoured youth, he brought on about eight players that had played in the 1959 FAI Youth Cup winning team. They went on to win the cup in 1960 with the youngest team ever. They played a wonderful brand of football, he had wonderful success during that early 60’s winning the league and winning the cup a couple of times and the Leinster cup and shields when they were worth winning in those days, Presidents Cup, and he would have been a great manager because not only did they introduce youth but it was the manner in which they played football was fantastic. In the latter years Damien Richardson also would have played football, his team should have had a lot more success than they had but he was more inclined to favour the silky players rather than the steel players and I think he had signed a couple of maybe hardened mid fielders who might have been, might have done a bit better. Obviously my cousin as well Pat he was player manager and then manager within the league under him in ’92 and that again they played a wonderful brand of football. I think a manager that we brought in I don’t think we should have brought in was there was an awful lot of history going on between ourselves and Bohs around those times, Eamonn Gregg was sacked and then we brought him in after Pat Byrne was let go by the club then in October ’92 and that proved to be a bit of a disaster then with Eamonn Gregg and a lot of people were very disgruntled about that.
MR: And in terms of the is there anything more that you think that the various club managers could have done as regard even securing a more permanent ground or would that have been beyond their control with circumstances?
PB: Yes I think that would have been outside of the control because normally the board would have looked after that but down through the years you do hear a lot of stories like Shelbourne Park for example is all sort of stories being bandied around about. Lord Pembroke owned the ground and it was a huge acreage as you know from Shelbourne Park, I mean they even … I was only down in South Lotts Road there the other day and I was just looking at it, they’ve all apartments out the front that were actually owned as part of it by Bord na gCon. We could have bought the ground for about 10 thousand in those days back in the 40’s and when you think about getting a freehold for 10 thousand now you are going to put that into perspective at the time but Shelbourne were making about 150 pounds for their home games so it wouldn’t have taken an awful lot with fundraising and everything else to actually buy that out but for a variety of reasons they decided not to do it. They then moved for a, they bought a plot of land out in Irishtown where Irishtown Stadium is now, that’s now under the control of Dublin City Council. They put in a running track based on I suppose encouragement from Billy Morton who was running a lot of athletic events at the time, that proved to be a disaster, instead of putting in the stand which they put in they spent a fortune on a cinder track at the time you know, a world class cinder track so that was very disappointing when you look back at the history of the club so there’s been a lot of lost opportunities but certainly with the likes of Ollie and Tony Donnelly then back in the 80’s buying Tolka Park, buying the leasehold of it rather, and then to refurbish it was a wonderful move but there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding the club now is that exactly what’s going to happen with regard to the club.
MR: And how about other losses and disappointments what would say would have been the clubs lowest point or most difficult challenging period for yourself?
PB: I think when we got relegated in ’85, in 1985 I think that was a huge disappointment for the club and of its prestige and you know the amount of trophies we had been involved in and so on that was a huge loss. I think losing the cup to Home Farm in 1975 as well when we were hot favourites to win and we were beaten one nil, on a personal level that was a huge loss and I know from my family as well at the time they were all really disappointed with that and then subsequently I spoke to Gerry Doyle who had come back to the club and was manager and he was of the opinion that winning the cup and bringing it around in the’70’s because it was only around the same time Match of the Day was actually people I suppose one channel TV land wouldn’t have actually seen Match of the Day but it was instrumental in changing people’s view of the way football was played but he was of the opinion that winning the cup in ’75 and going around a lot of the pubs and clubs and so on would have been a huge attraction to getting in young lads as well which is what he always favoured over the seasoned professional. And then I suppose the other thing on a personal level that I would have been involved in would have been the 1967 hat trick. Jimmy O’Connor scored a hat trick in two minutes 13 seconds against Bohs at Dalymount, we were two nil down at half time, now I was there as a young boy and a couple of things I always remember about it was two things, one was the number of people speculating how quickly that was done, they were all saying 4, 5, 6 minutes, no one even got close to being under 3 minutes that’s one thing I always remember in the aftermath of that one we discovered what it was and the second thing was that a number of people had gone down to the loo and missed all three goals, extraordinary stuff, so they were the two things. I then subsequently found out and I’ll have to explain all of this there’s a bit of background to this.
PB: But I then subsequently found out that RTE only had the footage of those three goals for that match. Because they had no way of archiving all the data in matches and so on, they trimmed it down and they still only have those two minutes 13 seconds of that and how did I get involved in that. That is now ratified as a world record which it was in the Guinness Book of Records in the year 2000. In early 1997 we were coming up to the 30th anniversary of that and I was on a committee at Tolka as one of the supporters clubs and I felt that we had to somehow honour this, that we had to somehow do something about it, people still didn’t know that this was a world record. I said it’s the most famous sport in the world, an Irishman holds the world record for the fastest hat trick in the world, it’s hard enough scoring a goal never mind a hat trick at senior level and to do it considering the hundreds and thousands of matches that had been played and for an Irishman to do it but more specifically than a Shelbourne player had done it and that I was actually at it and I felt we needed to do something about it. Now a guy called Liam not Liam O’Rourke, Liam sorry it will come to me but Liam had a friend called Roisin Ni Linn in TG4, Spóirt Iris she was actually presenter of Spóirt Iris and he happened to contact her about this. Also at the meeting was a guy called Ralph Benham. Now Ralph Benham then coined a phrase he knew all about who had a hat trick because it was an English player called Jack Dodds and he ended up and he was also called Jimmy, so he ended up with this, he coined the phrase ‘Jimmy In, Jimmy Out’ …
PB: … so we ran with this campaign, sorry Deirdre Ni Linn is who it is in Spóirt Irís. Liam then contacted Deirdre Ni Linn and she thought this was a great item to feature in the Spóirt Irís… ran with it. In the meantime I was trying to dig out all the football coverage, she had already got there ahead of me, she had got the match reports of the Irish Press, the Evening Press, the Irish Independent and the Irish Times. She also contacted the referee who was still alive, Ollie Byrne knew who that was, incredibly he still had his notebook and he still had on it sure fire hat trick, sorry quick fire hat trick was actually the way he had it and he had it ringed, he had it down as two minutes 14 seconds. Guinness Book of Records ratified as 2 minutes 13. In 1997 we sent him all the details or rather Deirdre Ni Linn did, we then subsequently had a special presentation of family and on the 30th anniversary or the nearest home match we did up a special match programme, I wrote a lot of articles so I had to get a lot of information. Incredibly when we started digging into all of this Matt Busby was actually at the match of Manchester United fame.
PB: A number of the lads that played on the Shelbourne team also had sons that were playing in League of Ireland around that same time, the likes of Brendan Place. Barry O’Connor the son of Jimmy is actually now our assistant coach, he was playing in League of Ireland with Drogheda, so there were a lot of connections going on so we ended up doing the match programme. Now what happened then was we had a great coverage of Spóirt Irís and we had great coverage on the radio and then we had sent all the stuff over to Guinness Book of Records but unfortunately they hadn’t come back and said yes ratified as a world record. We then followed it up in the year 2000 or about the year of the, they bring out their publication about three months before Christmas, so in around August, September we got in touch with them for at the start of 1999 and they eventually relented. They had the three minutes from or two minutes 13 seconds coverage from RTE, they had all the match programmes, they had a notebook from the referee, it was a senior match why wasn’t it ratified as a world record. They then subsequently put it in, so eventually we got there and then we had Jimmy back then at Tolka Park again to celebrate so he was now confirmed as a world record hat trick. About four or five years ago there was a quick hat trick scored in England, following on from that when people started delving in they discovered he was a Shelbourne player. The club in turn put those people onto me and that I was speaking about this hat trick again. I said really the man you should be talking to is Jimmy but he is a very reserved introverted sort of character and he doesn’t really want to talk about it too much. I think he enjoyed the fact that he had a world record but beyond that he wasn’t telling anyone, even his work mates apparently didn’t even know about this incredible you know so that was a wonderful highlight for me to get that sorted out as a world record.
MR: And in terms of like you mentioned other players there what kind of accessibility would your average Shels fan have to players and how has that changed between the 60’s and today?
PB: I think the stories are legendary in the 60’s because apparently a lot of the guys Ben Hannigan one of the great characters of the 60’s for example he would have won three league medals with three different clubs as far as I know at the time he was the only player to do so and with Cork Celtic, Dundalk and ourselves. He there’s a great story there he used to arrive by bus with all the fans around him signing autographs on the way up to the ground and going home as well. I think now that it has become very professional and a lot of lads don’t drink they are not going into the bars as much but I know there was always a policy within the club that the players make themselves as accessible as possible. Now that they are in the first division I don’t think the lads mind too much but even some of the players that we had around the late ‘90’s and you know 2002 and so on so forth, 2004 they always would have made themselves accessible and there was a club policy like you know the fans that we would have mascots and so on so forth but they always looked after the young children as much as possible.
MR: And besides actually being a fan of the club and the other extra work you have done what kind of relationship is there or do you think there should be between Shels and the wider community?
PB: There’s no doubt about it being a community based club is will actually help the club to develop in so many ways. We do have quite a large number of teams from all ages, from 7’s onwards but we also have about four ladies, three or four ladies teams as well so in that sense we are actually stretching out into the community as well and then we are also trying to appeal to fans to follow the club but I think there’s probably a lot of other things beyond football as well. I mean in the terms things have changed in society in a great way, I think the more you can get kids involved in any sport or in any indeed any activities at night time where it’s something they have to look forward to rather than playing with their IPOD’s and their PC’s and watching TV as well I think it’s a good thing. Shelbourne can play their part in that, the fact that we have so many teams as well I think we are doing that but you can always do more, you are always looking for more managers, more players and so on but at the end of the day it all comes down to money, how much you can actually do but we do try and invite the schools down on match days. We have invited all down through the years as much or when I was involved with say the mascots we always tried and invited people down as much as we possibly could, the school teams as I say schools and so on so forth. Sometimes you might have a bit of resistance there because you may have people like teachers for example who would be less inclined because maybe they are involved in other sports and they may not want class groups coming down to say play watching soccer matches when in actual fact they may prefer them watching rugby or maybe Gaelic or playing hurling and so on.
MR: I was going to ask you about that actually, certainly around the time my father played for James’ Gate and when he was in school it was very GAA orientated and he always recounted the stories of if you were playing football in the school yard if one of the Christian Brothers saw you kicking the ball like a soccer ball as opposed to GAA you were in big trouble, did you ever experience anything like that in your younger days?
PB: Well I did, not so much like Liam Brady would have been around the same era as I was, he would be of the same age and I know he had terrible problems in the school he was in. I went to James Street there beside the Guinness’ Brewery and there was a little bit more open mindedness about it even though it was a Christian Brothers school, a lot of the lay teachers were actually heavily involved in football.
PB: But they were involved in a lot of sports like a lot of Irish people. We used to play a lot of handball in the school yard, we had a wonderful gable end of a building that we played handball. I also, we also because we used to play with a small tennis ball in the school yard as well the usual coats down at either end and one of the teachers then introduced the school football team, the school soccer team. I played Gaelic football, I played soccer, I played hurling with the club or sorry with the school and I always felt that as long as you were bringing honour and glory to the school they didn’t mind.
PB: And you behaved yourself in a certain manner, again they didn’t mind and of course then I think just before I left you had I think the assistant principal was the first lay teacher that they actually had in that school as well, so there was a mindset whereby they would tolerate other sports. Two of my brothers in law actually went to the same school and they would have been a few years older than me and the stories that they had to tell would have been of something similar to Liam Brady whereby if you played football you were nearly barred from the school, because they only just want you to lean in one direction and that direction was GAA.
MR: And did you know of any women who were supporters of Shels?
PB: Yes there’s quite a lot, we would have a lot of you know females and actually on the present committee that I’m actually involved in the SSDG one of the supporters clubs we have a couple of females as well, we actually have a couple of ex females that have stepped down for a variety of reasons but they are actually a wonderful addition to the club, they actually help out in many ways, you know the usual fundraising which is obviously an integral part of any club but they also help out more in meaningful ways on match days as well helping out by way of turnstiles, getting involved in various other activities around the club and they are a huge source of I suppose support for the club as well. Plus they are, I suppose they are hugely influential in bringing the family down too because it’s obviously then you sort of have a conveyer belt of fans coming through and they tend to be more loyal than men I find as well when it comes to supporting your team particularly when you are doing as poorly as we have been in recent times in the first division. They tend to be out more supporting more, they don’t tend to be giving out as much.
MR: And if you had a wish list what would your biggest hope be for Shelbourne in the future?
PB: My immediate wish would be to get out of the first division. It’s there’s a dearth of publicity for that particular division and we are very lucky in that we’ve got very good sponsors who have been very loyal to the club but obviously the fact that they are not getting exposure either on radio or TV is not I suppose helpful to them particularly in the current climate, economic climate that we face, so my big wish would be to get out of the first division and then I believe that the current squad that we have we can achieve that and I think maybe with a couple of additions to it we could certainly be in mid table by next year and then hopefully we can push on from there. The other problem we have at the moment is the uncertainty surrounding Tolka Park, exactly what the future lies because Ossie Kilkenny, one of the developers, he has actually purchased the leasehold of the ground but because of the economic downturn we are not quite sure exactly what’s going to happen next in the next five or six years, we will probably have to move.
MR: Would you think that there’s any spin off effect whenever the National team do well either in the European Cup or the World Cup for example when we did quite well in the World Cup in 1990 everybody seemed to be football mad you know, it was football, football everywhere do you think that has a positive effect, a spin off effect on younger people becoming interested in it?
PB: I think you have to work very hard at it. I think one of the things, one of the major spin offs is that with the FAI are now looking after the League that they will be heavily involved with sponsors and obviously sponsors want success, a bit like when Opel, Opel got involved in 1987 and with a lucky five year deal that and suddenly Ireland were playing in Germany in ’88 and went onto qualify for the World Cup in 1990 and Opel probably got if you like cheap exposure given the amount what that deal actually cost, so if we had great success let’s assume that we qualify for next year for Poland and the Ukraine a lot of revenue will then come into the FAI, that in turn then could filter start down not only to the grass roots but also into the League proper because the FAI would be looking after it. What that would mean in turn would be that the winners of the various Leagues and Cups would be probably getting more sponsorship money from the FAI but I also believe that depending on your position then within the League as well there would be more money there available to it so that would be a bit of a help because then we could afford them to start to looking at other activities and make use of that finance but I think it’s important that the FAI are insisting that certain things are actually done and done right and always take the long term view with regard to the club strategies.
MR: Before we finish is there anything at all that you would like to add generally with regard to Shels?
PB: I think one of the things that what should start to happen would be that all the clubs should be forced down the community route like what we touched on earlier on and the more I’m thinking about that is maybe have links with various clubs. I know in maybe a more formal way than we currently have, I know we will have good links with a lot of junior clubs and probably those clubs that we’ve actually got players from down through the years but I think that could be formalised in a better way and maybe one of the aspects is that for example a lot of players get disillusioned around 18, 19, 20 for whatever reason and to try and bridge that gap in between League of Ireland and junior football I think is essential, I think the quality then would improve all round and I think the more you have quality on the pitch then the more that is inclined then to attract players or more fans in through the ground as well and the more fans you have in then there’s a knock on effect because then you have more revenue and more revenue that means you can do a lot more things so there’s no doubt about it there’s a lot of interlocking I suppose benefits that actually are there just from, just taking a long term view and link it up in a lot of different clubs and maybe by way of say junior season tickets could be given out to a lot of these clubs of a certain age and they in turn then would be maybe bring their parents or bring adults with them as well into the ground who would be paying you or maybe the kids could be allowed in free at 12, 13 because there’s no doubt about it the Jesuits notion that if you… about the boy at 7 being a man at you know later years is very true, I think if you get into the habit of going to games like as I did it becomes addictive.
PB: And you are less inclined to change as you get older.
MR: Is there anything you think I’ve forgotten to ask or any other memory which has occurred to you?
PB: No a lot of them would be just football related either the highs and lows I suppose which we touched on earlier on.
MR: A particular incident in August 2006 a couple of people mentioned where centre back Jason Mc Guinness lines out for Bohemians against Shels setting up the winning goal for the Dalymount based club and Shelbourne lodged a protest about with regard to that, can you tell us a bit more about that or?
PB: Yes I can’t remember the exact details now on that, I do remember something like that alright, unfortunately I can’t remember it. There would have been an earlier one now in around 2001, 2002 season and it would have been the Marley Affair and this would have been where Pats played a guy called Paul Marley, Ollie Byrne who knew the rule book inside out realised that Paul Marley wasn’t registered. There was a lot of controversy during that whole season so two of us ended up winning the League. This was a cop out by the FAI, we ended up in turn representing Europe so as far as we were concerned we won the League but the games against Pats were huge, the publicity was enormous and the crowds at Tolka Park were enormous, actually it was probably among the biggest crowds that I’ve seen outside of the European matches would have been those particular games during that particular season and they had a very good side as well in fairness to them as we had but the football was great so they were tremendous matches but there was this underlying current of them feeling that there was an injustice there but it transpired anyway apart from Paul Marley when Ollie started delving more into it a lot of the players weren’t registered properly.
MR: There was a few people mentioned stuff like that where there were kind of little incidents like that they kind of, that there seemed to be a lot of people pulling against each other.
PB: Oh without a doubt. The FAI only took over the League a few years ago, the League was run by the clubs themselves.
PB: And what actually happened this incident that I was talking about it was a cop out by the League where they didn’t make a decision, wouldn’t make a decision, didn’t want to upset Pats. They said they didn’t want to upset us and the whole League was tarnished as a result of it.
MR: What do you think was behind that?
PB: I’m not really sure, I’m not really sure because the facts were laid bare, Pats kept jumping up and down saying they had sent on the forms by registered post. They even got an employee in An Post to say yes they had sent registered post but no one could validate the contents of what that post was, it could have been anything, anything that was sent to the FAI and as a result the decision that they made was actually an absolute cop out, now the FAI in fairness have only taken over the League in recent years but they now through the licensing I suppose process that they now are saying well it’s a licensing committee now are deciding various things. You had a situation there with Derry City a couple of years back whereby they actually had dual contracts with players, so they had a contract on the table which the players signed, they also had a contract under the table which the players signed. The one under the table was the real figure, the one over the table was and tax, there were tax implications up the north because Derry City are based up in Northern Ireland and they also then had the forms, the application forms that were sent in and the registered forms that were sent out to the FAI that guys on so much, so what actually happened was a player was on loan one of the keepers I think, I can’t remember the name but he was on loan to a club in Sporting Fingal, inadvertently Derry had forwarded on the contract under the table rather than the one over the table, that went to Sporting Fingal, the representative of the FAI happened to spot this, questions were being asked, Derry City jumped up and down for three days and said they knew nothing about it everything was above board as it turned out then, then they all resigned on mass because then obviously they were found out, the League broke their own rules because they kicked Derry out of the football, when you apply you are supposed to be going into what they call the A League and then you get into the first division and then you get into back into the premier division well assuming as part of the pyramid affect so you win the A League you get into the first division and then you are up then into the premier division. When Derry came back in they said there’s a change of the board of control and they had reapplied and the FAI put them back into the first division so they didn’t even put them into the A League, now instead of barring them for about four or five years for what they did a lot of people felt very unjust about that particularly on Shelbourne where we had been punished and we had been punished prior to the FAI taking over and the FAI keep saying well that was a different regime. The clubs were looking after the situation at the time, the FAI weren’t looking after it but we were actually, we weren’t relegated on the pitch, we were demoted because of financial irregularities. Now all the players were actually paid and all revenue were actually fully paid up to date. Bohs last year ran into terrible difficulties, they had a couple of players being threatened with high court action right up to the week on which the premier division licence was going to be given out. If they had gone to a high court at that stage their application for a premier division licence is going to be compromised and they probably would have been relegated to the first division. On the steps of the High Court some sort of deal was done and the FAI ended up giving them the premier division licence. Now it transpires that from what I heard none of the players were paid the full amounts outstanding but because the deals were done with the club this was ratified by the FAI. Now if they in turn keep pointing to the licensing committee has been saying no, it’s the licensing committee give out the licenses so it’s a bit of a cop out there too.
PB: Now Shelbourne just feel you know that because of all this the cahoots that were going on both with Cork City a game a few years ago, the same thing when the FAI running up and down this never happened Shelbourne, Shelbourne you’ve got money problems you are relegated. To me it was about the Ollie Byrne stance because Ollie knew the rule book inside out and he used to have them, challenge them nearly every time there was a committee meeting when they were doing things because he would always say look hold on a second you are breaking your own rules here blah, blah, blah and he was a hated man in the corridors of power, now he was wonderful from Shelbourne’s point of view but a hated man on the corridors of power and I always, I’m of the belief that it wasn’t so much an anti-Shelbourne stance by the FAI at the time but it was actually an anti-Ollie Byrne stance to get us to regulate, sorry to demote us so I mean that would be my only gripe but at the end of the day I just hope that with football, it should all be done through football, you win or lose on the pitch and it shouldn’t be going to the High Court and it shouldn’t be going anywhere else and you get promoted and demoted based on what happens on the pitch.
MR: Is there anybody else you think deserves a mention before we finish? Anybody you would like to thank, anybody?
PB: Yes well I’ve always you know when Shels lose sometimes I wish I would have taken up opera singing or I’m looking at rubbish football on a cold winters day and I don’t be thanking my grandfather for the likes of that you know but having said that some of my best and greatest memories have been both you know I suppose within the club and watching matches and so on and the camaraderie that goes with it and all the people that I got to know down through the years and thoroughly enjoyed our company and so on so forth and I’ve been to places all around Europe based on recent years that I probably would have never have seen based on being my association with football and particularly with Shels.
MR: Paul thanks very much for coming in. It’s been wonderful chatting here, thank you.
PB: Yes thanks Mark. Thanks very much. Thank you, thanks very much. (recording ends here)