Dundalk FC ‘Once In A Lifetime’ Premiere

‘Once In A Lifetime’, a documentary about Dundalk FC’s European Cup run during the 1979/80 season will be broadcast on Setanta Sports Ireland at 9pm on Thursday, August 6.

The film, produced by Square 1 Productions, premiered at An Táin Arts Centre in the Town Hall last week and was attended by Lilywhite legends Dermot Keely, Mick Lawlor, Willie Crawley, Paddy Dunning and Richie Blackmore, who were all key players of Jim McLaughlin’s double winning side.

Writer, producer and director, Shane Tobin introduced the 60 minute film and received a round of applause from the invited guests when the credits rolled.

The documentary focuses on Dundalk’s infamous preliminary round tie with Linfield which featured the worst acts of rioting ever seen at a football ground in this country.

Played just two days after the IRA murdered Lord Mountbatten in Sligo along with 17 British soldiers in Warrenpoint, the game was played in what one national newspaper described as an ‘atmosphere of hatred’.

Keely, whose contribution lit up the documentary, recalled the Linfield match and said it ‘should never have been played’.

“It was pure madness,” he said. “Nobody would play a game of football in those conditions again. The game became secondary to the whole thing.

“Whatever about the tensions, it was nothing to do with Dundalk people. They were here to watch a match and Linfield ended up with heavy fines while Dundalk’s was smaller due to crowd control.

“Linfield supporters came down to wreck the place, that is a fact. There was no tribalism on our part — that came down from the north. There was no malice from us towards them, it was all in one direction.”

The first leg at Oriel Park finished 1–1 but Dundalk won the return match, played in Haarlem in the Netherlands, 2–0 to set up a first round tie with Hibernians of Malta which they won 2–1 on aggregate.

Dundalk’s reward was a last 16 clash with Celtic. The first leg at Parkhead saw Dundalk come under the cosh throughout but they left Glasgow with two away goals after a 3–2 defeat. A 1–0 win at Oriel Park would be enough to book their place in the quarter finals of football’s greatest club competition.

“I think if we had beat Celtic, the next round was Inter Milan — I mean stop!” laughed Keely.

“If we had beaten Celtic 1–0 that night nobody could have said we didn’t deserve. We weren’t as good as Celtic but in Oriel, they came and defended, I think they had a back five that night.

“They were very scared and for us to do that to any team of that calibre, with some great players, it was fantastic that we went so close.”

The film will bring memories of the McLaughlin glory days flooding back and for the likes of Keely, it is an era that will never be forgotten.

“You forget so much as you get older. It is only when you start talking and thinking about the memories that you remember the fun you had. It was great for the town at that time.

“You probably don’t appreciate it at the time but now it is something to look back on. It was an outstanding occasion for Dundalk and I don’t think it will ever be matched.”