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A walk back in time to Transport's FAI Cup win

Tue, Mar 31 2020

The gates at the Transport Club Credit: Macdara Ferris

Macdara Ferris reports from within 2km from home

I've been branching out most evening’s to see where my two kilometre ‘brief individual exercise’ will take me. I’ve headed across the Liffey as far as Grangegorman where the Dalymount Park floodlights are visible a bit further north. And while a walk west is too far to get me to Richmond Park, there is ground close to my home where an FAI Cup winner plays.

On Monday night, I went south and when my Strava map told me I had done 2km I’d come as far as Rutland Avenue and Clogher Road to the home of Transport FC – a club that is listed amongst a selection of teams that have won the FAI Cup just once.

Their solitary win came in 1950 and this is the story of what turned out to be a very memorable final.

There are 11 clubs that have won the FAI Cup once – five of them currently play in the League of Ireland (Athlone Town, Drogheda United, Finn Harps, Galway United, and U.C.D.). The remaining clubs include Alton United, Cork, Fordsons, Home Farm, Sporting Fingal and Transport.

Back in 1948 Transport joined the League of Ireland alongside Sligo Rovers when the league was expanded to a dozen teams - St. Patrick’s Athletic missed out on a place in the league that year. As a CIE sponsored team, Transport played their games at the Carlisle Grounds across the road from the railway station in Bray.

They finished runners-up in the Shield in their first two seasons as a league club and made the FAI Cup final for the first and only time in 1950. Managed by Matt Giles, the uncle of John Giles, they would go on to claim the FAI Cup trophy that year but only after requiring close to 300 minutes to separate themselves and Cork Athletic across there games played out in Dalymount Park. 

The first final took place on Sunday 23 April in front of 27,807 spectators and Transport looked out of it when they went 2-0 down after just a quarter of an hour. Second half goals from Barney Lester on 55 minutes and Jimmy Duggan in the 75th minute earned a replay that took place three days later. 

Athletic led 1-0 with eight minutes remaining in the second game before Bobby Smith grabbed an equaliser to take the match to extra time. The Cork side took a 2-1 lead and seemed to have secured the cup only for Jim Loughran to equalise two minutes from the final whistle with a goal from 35 yards.

The end of the match was delayed as supporters swarmed onto the field after the late equaliser.

The Irish Independent the following day noted that the final ‘ranks amongst the really great past struggles for the trophy, as it was very tense as Cork seemed to have won twice and their opponents hit back each time.’

Sean Ryan in his seminal book – The Official Book of the FAI Cup – tells the story of defender Mick Collins who came into the team for the third game and was instrumental in the win by keeping Cork danger man Paddy O’Leary quiet.

“I was released by Transport two weeks before the final in a dispute over money,” Collins recalled. “I paid into the first two games at the stiles and after the second replay I was approached and trained with them from Monday to Friday because I got the terms I wanted.”

The third game was the first time a second replay was required for an FAI Cup final. The kick off was delayed by 15 minutes in order to give the crowds outside a chance of getting in but eventually the gates were broken and thousands gained free admittance – the official attendance was 26,406.

Transport didn’t have to come from behind this time as Bernard Lester – who was joint top scorer in the league the previous year - put them in the lead after 21 minutes. While it was all square at the break, Lester grabbed his second five minutes into the second half before Jimmy Duggan made sure of things eight minutes from time for a 3-1 win for Transport.

Arriving in Bray that evening the bus carrying the Transport players and officials was met by a large and cheering crowd, who escorted them to the Town Hall where the captain John ‘Pip’ Meighan thanked them for the wonderful reception saying he was happy to have brought the cup as winning captain to Bray for the first time in its history.

The FAI Cup wouldn’t be as kind in the following decade for Transport when by then they were playing out of Harold’s Cross – they were knocked out by non-League clubs four times in that period. The club dropped out of the League of Ireland in 1962 when the league was reduced to ten team.

They took up a position in the Leinster Senior League, where the club continues to play to this day playing out of the Transport Club venue close to Crumlin in Dublin 12.