Dundalk FC History

Tue 10 May 2022 | 13:30

Football clubs are the whole reason behind football's popularity. Today we are going to learn Dundalk FC history.

Dundalk Football Team is an Irish professional association football club based in Dundalk. Dundalk plays in the Premier Division of the League of Ireland. A competition between top-tier football clubs. They are the second most successful club in the history of the League (with 14 league championships and 12 FAI Cups), and the most successful in the Premier Division period.

The club was formed in 1903 as Dundalk G.N.R.—the Great Northern Railway's workers team. They competed in junior leagues until 1922–23 when they were admitted to the Leinster Senior League. They were elected to the League of Ireland for 1926–27 after four seasons in that tier. In 1932–33, they became the first team from outside Dublin to win the league title, and in 1941–42, they won the FAI Cup for the first time. Their most recent league championship was in 2019, and their most recent FAI Cup was in 2020.

Dundalk made its European debut as League Champions in the 1963–64 European Cup, becoming the first Irish team to win an away match in Europe that season. In 1979–80, they reached the final 16 of the European Cup for the first time. They also advanced to the Round of 16 in the 1981–82 European Cup Winners' Cup. They qualified for the Europa League group stage twice and became the first Irish team to earn points and a match at that level of European play in 2016–17. The 2021–22 UEFA Europa Conference League season was their 25th in Europe.

Dundalk FC history, the most successful club in the Premier Division

In 1927, the club got its emblem and white playing jerseys. The crest is based on the historical corporation seal of the municipality. In 1940, the present squad colors of white jerseys and black shorts were established. They relocated to their current home site, Oriel Park, in 1936, after previously playing at the Athletic Grounds in the town center.

Dundalk F.C. birth

The Dundalk Great Northern Railway (G.N.R.) Football Team was founded as a rugby football club during the 1883–84 season. They played their final rugby encounter in February 1903, and in September 1903, the club transitioned to association football, starting their path to become the modern-day Dundalk F.C.

The new team, dubbed "the Railwaymen" by the locals, chose the Dundalk Athletic Grounds (a site in the town center shared by numerous athletic codes) as their home pitch. They began by playing challenge matches before becoming founding members of the inaugural Dundalk and District League (DDL), which was created in 1906. There are no records of the club being active between 1907–08 and 1912–13, but they re-joined the local league in 1913–14 for the last season before World War I broke out.

During the war, the DDL remained dormant, although the G.N.R. club competed in the Irish Junior Cup and Leinster Junior Cup tournaments in 1913–14, 1914–15, and 1916–17. The club appears to have been dormant for the next two seasons after exiting the Irish Junior Cup in January 1917.

It reformed for 1919–20, became a member of the Leinster Football Association, and entered both the resurrected DDL and the Newry and District League. G.N.R. competed in the DDL for three seasons, winning it twice, and qualified to represent the district in both Junior Cup competitions each season.  In 1920, they reached their first knockout tournament final, the Leinster Junior Cup final, which they lost after two replays against Avonmore.

In order to advance, they were voted to the Leinster Senior League for 1922–23 to replace teams that had been promoted to the fledgling Free State League. They spent four seasons in that level before being elected to the Free State League on June 15, 1926, to replace Dublin team Pioneers as the national league expanded into the provinces.

They made their league debut against Fordsons on August 21, 1926, and finished eighth in the 1926–27 season. By this point, the team only represented the G.N.R. works in a name, and the club's management committee decided to separate it from the company. In December 1927, new colors of white shirts and blue shorts with a crest of the town's coat of arms were adopted. In April 1929, they competed in their first senior club final, the Leinster Senior Cup final, which they lost after a replay. It was the final occasion the club was billed as 'Dundalk G.N.R.,' and the name was legally changed to 'Dundalk A.F.C.' in the summer of 1930.

The first steps


finished second in both the League and the FAI Cup in 1930–31, thanks to a new manager, Steve Wright, who was "doing everything except selling the programs." Proof that they could compete at the national level gave the management committee the confidence to move further, and on January 25, 1932, the club was transformed into a membership-based limited company called "Dundalk A.F.C. Limited."

In 1932–33, they became the first team from outside of Dublin to win a league title, clinching it in Dalymount Park with their first victory against


. With the championship, they were the first team from outside Dublin or Belfast to win a league title in Ireland since the first Irish League was founded in 1890.

In 1936, the club's management committee decided to transfer from the Athletic Grounds to their own ground in order to increase gate revenues and revenue. They bought land on the Carrick Road from P.J. Casey (a previous committee member) and christened it 'Oriel Park.'

After winning the league, they finished second eight times in the five major tournaments (the League, Shield, FAI Cup, Dublin City Cup, and Leinster Senior Cup) until winning the 1937–38 City Cup, their first cup final success.

In 1942, they won their first FAI Cup in their fourth appearance in the final, defeating Cork United at Dalymount Park. They won the first Dublin and Belfast Inter-City Cup five weeks later to become 'Champions of All Ireland.' The City Cup was won for the second time the following September, in the new season.

During the mid-1940s, the management committee relied on player sales to English clubs to fund the club, since gate receipts alone were insufficient to cover its operating expenses. After missing out on both the League and the City Cup by a point in 1947–48, the committee decided to spend the surplus from its transfer dealings on a player-coach, Ned Weir, and a number of professional Scottish players in an attempt to attract larger crowds and win the trophies that had previously been out of reach.

The investment paid off as the team won the City Cup for the third time at the start of the new season by going undefeated in its new league system, while the club's second FAI Cup was won with a win against


in 1949 final. However, the new club fell short in both the Shield and the League, and despite the cup double and increased gate revenues, the extra money was insufficient to offset the cost rise.

The ups and downs

The attempt to keep a full-time squad intact had failed, and the 1949 cup-winning team was disbanded. A transfer surplus prevented a more serious financial issue from forming, and despite the player turnover, Dundalk won the Leinster Senior Cup for the first time in 1950–51 (after five previous final defeats) with a win against St. Patrick's Athletic.

However, the cuts began to have an effect, and the next season they ended second from bottom in the league table. They did, however, have a spectacular FAI Cup run, coming from 3–1 down against


in a semi-final replay to win 6–4 in extra time, and then defeating Cork Athletic in the 1952 FAI Cup Final (also in a rematch) to win the Cup for the third time.

Club Secretary Sam Prole quit midway through the 1952–53 season to take charge at Drumcondra. Prole, a Great Northern Railway employee, had played junior football for Dundalk G.N.R. and had been Secretary for 25 years. He was in charge of the club's transfer activity, and player sales dropped when he left.

The resultant loss in income forced the club to focus on cost-cutting, and they finished last in the two seasons after his departure. They struggled for the rest of the decade, but in contrast to their league results, they won their fourth FAI Cup in 1958, defeating Shamrock Rovers 1–0 in the final.

Despite not competing for the League or Shield throughout the 1950s, they finished the decade on top of the league standings. Although they came short of capturing the championship, it provided hope that the hard times were coming to an end.

In 1960–61, they won their second Leinster Senior Cup, and in 1962–63, they won their first league championship in 30 years. Because of their success, they were able to join European play for the first time, when they became the first Irish team to win an away leg of a European game, defeating FC Zurich 2–1 (in a 4–2 aggregate defeat) in the 1963–64 European Cup.

Dundalk was unable to defend their crown that season, finishing as runners-up and runners-up in the Shield. They did, however, win the season-ending Top Four Cup for the first time.


After a disappointing 1964–65 season, the club's management committee felt it was time to employ a modern-style manager, with exclusive responsibility for recruiting and player selection, for the first time.

They hired Gerry Doyle, who had spent the majority of his career with Shelbourne as both a player and a coach. With losses growing and investment at Oriel Park needed, it became evident early in the 1965–66 season that the membership-based ownership model could not offer the financial backing required to move the club forward. Following the voluntary insolvency of the previous firm, a new public limited company took over in January 1966.

Before the 1966–67 season, the new board spent extensively on both Oriel Park and the team and hired a new player coach, Alan Fox, from Bradford City. The benefit was instantaneous. Dundalk ultimately won their first League of Ireland Shield before storming to the league title, winning by seven points to complete the club's only League and Shield Double. They then won the Top Four Cup the following season, completing the club's first 'treble.'

With the arrival of Vasas SC of Hungary the next season, Oriel Park hosted European football for the first time under freshly installed floodlights. However, Fox had a falling out with the club's board on the travel to Budapest for the return leg, and he was sacked the following March, even though his team was poised to retain the title. His final win with the club came in 1967–68 when he won the Dublin City Cup.

They finished second in the league, qualifying for the 1968–69 Fairs Cup, where they won a European tie for the first time, defeating DOS Utrecht. But the remains of Fox's club could only finish fourth in the League and win another City Cup that season.

In the summer of 1969, future Ireland manager Liam Tuohy took over and also joined the board, and as a consequence of his management expertise, Dundalk began the new decade at the top of the league table.

Tuohy, on the other hand, was forced to narrow the squad and lower the pay bill due to the magnitude of the debts still hanging over the club from the construction of Oriel Park, and he was unable to assemble a team capable of sustaining a championship campaign. Dundalk had to sell or release a lot of players to survive after Tuohy left, and they plummeted down the table, ending second from bottom in 1972–73 with a young, inexperienced squad.

To rectify the problem, a new board of directors took over the club's management and signed English player-manager John Smith from Walsall. They were able to offer Smith funding to recruit numerous players after renegotiating the club's debts. The team got off to a great start in the new season, winning the Leinster Senior Cup Final against Bohemians, but they soon faded, and Smith left two matches into the 1974–75 league season to pursue a profession outside of football. In November 1974, the club hired Jim McLaughlin as player-manager in his place.

The golden age

Dundalk rebounded and established a new level of success under McLaughlin's leadership. Despite a still-meager playing budget, he won his first league title in 1975–76, losing only one match and bringing European football back to town for the first time since 1969.

They played against

PSV Eindhoven

in the European Cup the next season and were considered unfortunate to only draw the opening leg at home. That game began an eight-match unbeaten run in Europe in Oriel Park over the next five seasons. They won the Leinster Senior Cup at the end of the season, and a week later won the club's first FAI Cup since 1958 when they defeated Limerick United in 1977 final.

For the two seasons following the title, league form was mixed, and despite winning their first League Cup and retaining the Leinster Cup, a poor end to the 1977–78 season fueled speculation that McLaughlin would be fired. The club, on the other hand, backed the "reorganization" he sought and utilized profits from the sale of three players to Liverpool to invest in the team and strengthen Oriel.

In 1978–79, he won his second league championship, and they went on to defeat Waterford in the Cup final, achieving the club's first League and Cup Double. The club's best European performance until 2016 was their 1979–80 European Cup run, in which they narrowly missed out on qualifying for the quarter-finals.

After two seasons in the middle of the table, former player Turlough O'Connor was appointed before the League was divided into two divisions in 1985–86. O'Connor quickly assembled a team capable of contending for championships, and his teams consistently finished in the top four over the next eight seasons.

They won the 1987 League Cup Final[90] and ended runners-up in both the League and the FAI Cup, with the League championship won on the final day of the season and the FAI Cup won with a win against

Derry City


O'Connor won his second League Cup in 1989–90, and another league title in 1990–91 in a winner-take-all match in Turner's Cross against

Cork City

. However, Dundalk blew a chance to advance in the European Cup after a 1–1 draw away to Honved was followed by a 0–2 home defeat.

Attendances began to fall noticeably during 1992–93, as the new English Premier League, which was broadcast live on BSkyB, gained popularity. By the conclusion of the season, the club's financial situation had deteriorated to the point that a "healthy" surplus in 1989 had turned into a major deficit, with income plummeting due to some of the lowest gate receipts in memory.

The 1993–94 season began with mixed results, with solid away victories followed by home failures, and O'Connor resigned after a home defeat to Monaghan United.

Dermot Keely, another former player, took his position. The elder players were dismissed, and a depleted squad failed to make the 'Top Six' round-robin that determined the title. They spent the latter third of the season in a meaningless 'bottom six' round-robin in front of little audiences, contributing to their deteriorating financial situation.

Early in the next season, the club's financial problems came to a climax, and a group of local businessmen created a new temporary company to take control and save the team from bankruptcy.


Jordan Flores' goal went viral early the following season, and he was nominated for the FIFA Puskás Award. Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, football was suspended in line with other European countries.

The season resumed with a shortened schedule of 18 games, all of which was played behind closed doors. Following Dundalk's departure from Europe in the first qualifying round of the 2020–21 UEFA Champions League, manager Vinny Perth was fired.

Filippo Giovagnoli of Italy took his spot. Dundalk advanced to the group stage of the 2020–21 Europa League after qualifying victories against Inter Club d'Escaldes, Sheriff Tiraspol, and K Klaksvik. Dundalk was placed in Group B with Arsenal, Rapid Wien, and Molde. They did not score any points and finished at the bottom of the group.

In the FAI Cup, they defeated Athlone Town 11–0 in the semi-finals, setting a new record for the largest win in the competition's history, as well as a new club record triumph. They won the Cup for the twelfth time and qualified for Europe for the 25th time with a 4–2 extra-time triumph over the holders, Shamrock Rovers, with David McMillan scoring a hat-trick.

Shane Keegan was chosen first-team manager for the 2021 season, with Giovagnoli reverting to the role of 'coach' because the latter was unable to gain a seat on a UEFA Pro Licence course, which is required for the manager of a club playing in European competition.

The season began with a President's Cup triumph, but after a string of setbacks at the start of the regular season, both Keegan and Giovagnoli left the club. Vinny Perth returned to the club as head coach on a short-term contract in June, following a time in which new Sporting Director Jim Magilton assumed over.

Dundalk struggled for the remainder of the domestic season, finishing with their lowest league place since 2012, and was eliminated in the third qualifying round of the inaugural Europa Conference League by Vitesse Arnhem, 4–3 on aggregate.

Prior to the completion of the season, the club was restored to local ownership by a consortium formed by former co-owner Andy Connolly and sports technology business STATSports, who agreed to a buyout with Peak6. During the offseason, the new owners appointed former captain Stephen O'Donnell as the club's new head coach.

A place to call home

Finally, the last part of

Dundalk FC history

! In 1936, the club relocated permanently to property on the Carrick Road made available by former committee member P.J. Casey on a long-term land lease, christening the new pitch "Oriel Park." Almost ten years after Dundalk G.N.R. played their first Free State League game away at Fordsons, the same club (as Cork F.C.) were the first visitors to the new ground, with the home team winning 2–1.

The attendance record at Oriel Park is reported to be 18,000, set in 1982 for Dundalk's European Cup Winners' Cup second-round match against

Tottenham Hotspur

. When Oriel was unavailable owing to construction, matches were transferred to United Park in Drogheda or Gortakeegan in Monaghan. Since 2005, the stadium has got an artificial playing surface.

In the 1963–64 European Cup, Dundalk played their first home European match against F.C. Zurich in Dalymount Park in Dublin, as Oriel Park did not have floodlights. Floodlighting was added in 1967, allowing matches to be played there for the first time, with Vasas SC of Hungary visiting in the 1967–68 European Cup.

Due to the Oriel field being re-laid that summer, the 1995–96 UEFA Cup tie against


was relocated to United Park in Drogheda, and the 2002–03 UEFA Cup tie against Varteks was moved to Tolka Park in Dublin since Oriel did not match UEFA's improved requirements for football stadiums at the time.

Oriel has now been renovated to a Category 2 Stadium, with seating for 3,100 European fixtures. Matches needing a Category 3 ground have been played at Tallaght Stadium (owned by South Dublin County Council), while matches requiring a Category 4 facility have been played at Dublin's Aviva Stadium. Thanks for reading Sportmob's 

Dundalk FC history


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