The Reds Down The Road
Every Game An Away Game by Bluebeard
(first published in the August 2010 Shelbourne match programme)
We round out the second set of fixtures tonight with this year’s visit from Shelbourne. It is not so long ago that Shels dominated the League, before their financial disaster in the winter of 2006 proved our footballing salvation, albeit only for a year. That last season for both clubs in the top showed us far behind them on the field, but since we followed them down to the First things have been much more even between the sides, with seldom much to separate the two: only in that first game did either side manage more than a goal and since then it has been mostly 1-0 results barring the odd draw.
This was a relief for Dublin based fans and for myself in particular. I used to work very close to Tolka Park when I lived in Dublin, so I’ve been to Tolka many times, unfortunately mostly with us on the wrong side of a scoreline. The last time we played them in Tolka at Premier Level, was possibly the worst. 5-1 was the score on that occasion. Not a pleasant night at all.
Living in Dublin was a colossal pain as a Blues fan. Work held me late on Fridays and Saturdays a lot, so getting back to Waterford for a game was a seldom enjoyed pleasure. Prior to 2003, only two of my seasons in Dublin saw Waterford in the Premier, and invariably, that was where most of the Dublin based clubs were. Indeed, in 2002/2003 – the season we got promoted – we had just the one game in Dublin, against short lived Dublin City, and we managed to lose that one 5-1 also.
But promotion to the Premier was a joy – I could finish up early, or sometimes work late but duck out for a couple of hours to see a game. It still meant rarely getting a game in the RSC, but at least the chance to see us play. In 2003 that meant ten games within last minute travelling distance – three more than the previous three seasons combined. That season back in the Premier was something of a rebirth for the club too. We played good football and fans came back. I remember talking to one guy at a game who’d not gone to see us play since Al Finucane was playing. It was as if the club was re-founded there and then.
It makes me think of when we first joined the league in 1930. Funnily enough, like 2003, that season saw the top tier dominated by Dublin clubs and won by Shelbourne. We finished both seasons 4th from bottom too.
That first season was a tough lesson. We lost half our games, including 7-3 in Dundalk and 4-0 to Bohs in Kilcohan. But a few good results steadied the Blues, and set the club up for an impressive third place, a point off coming second in our second season. Jack Forster topped the national scoring charts with 21 goals from 22 games as the Blues racked up the goals, including a 7-0 win against St James’s Gate and a 9-1 trolleying of Jacobs, on their way out of the big Leagues forever.
And at that point, the Blues stepped back out of the League. For two seasons, Waterford had no representative in a League they were four points from winning. For two seasons, Waterford lost heavily in the first round of the Cup to Bohs and to Bray, before coming back in 1934/35. The return paid dividends, firstly winning the Shield twice, and then in 1937, the Blues won their first major national trophy, beating St James’s Gate 2-1 with goals from Noonan and Timothy O’Keeffe – our top scorer pre-war – to win the Cup.
A couple of seasons later, we very nearly won the double, but ended the season out of senior football entirely, but that is a story for a different day.