The Rams in Ireland

The Rams in Ireland

The Rams have visited Ireland and Northern Ireland eight times since 1950, winning six, drawing two and scoring 31 goals in the process.

A few days after the conclusion of the 1949/50 season, a 4-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers at the Baseball Ground, Stuart McMillan’s Derby departed for a close-season tour of Ireland. The first game was at Dalymount Park in Dublin against Bohemians on Wednesday 10 May. The cover of the 8-page programme issued for the friendly shows that Bohemians were celebrating their Diamond Jubilee – a similar cover was used for all their home games throughout the season. Inside, ‘Our Visitors from Derby’ is full of praise for the Rams saying: ‘The name of our visitors has long been synonymous with the best in football and Dublin fans are looking forward to a display of talented and classic style soccer’. Although Johnny Morris did not play in this game due to suspension, the Derby pen pictures noted that after he joined Derby from Manchester United and ‘overcoming that disability of that £25,000 tab’ (a world-record transfer fee at the time) he had settled down ‘to prove a fine investment for the club’.

The Irish Independent on the 11 May reported that a large crowd witnessed ‘a superb exhibition of soccer well in keeping with the tradition of the famous English First Division club Derby County’ while ‘Four-Goal Parkin Hero of 7-3 Win’ was the headline in the Derby Daily Telegraph. Geoff Parkin, the reserve centre-forward, was the star man in a win ‘gained as comfortably as the score suggests’.

Lawlor gave Bohemians the lead in the 33rd minute after a slip by Oliver but Derby hit back instantly through Jackie Stamps, after Parkin headed a Mynard cross against the bar. Parkin scored 7 minutes later to give the Rams the lead before Billy Steel beat three men to score ‘a brilliant third goal’ a few seconds before half time. In the second half, Parkin scored another three goals, with Hugh McLaren also getting on the scoresheet. Malone and a Coad penalty were the other scorers for Bohemians. Parkin’s career at Derby did not take-off and he only made 9 first-team appearances, all in the 49/50 season, without scoring.

Bohemians: Hanley, Fullam, Leavy (Sligo Rovers), Coad (Shamrock Rovers), Patchell, Radford (Shamrock Rovers), Henderson (Drums), Lawlor (Drums), unknown (number 9 position blank in the programme), Malone (Shels), Lennox (Cork Ath)

Derby: Brown, Bell, Parr, Mays, Oliver, Musson, Mynard, Stamps, Parkin, Steel, McLaren

Derby travelled south for the next game of their tour at Waterford on Sunday 14 May at Kilcohan Park, a stadium which also hosted greyhound racing (and still does today). An image of Derby players celebrating their 1946 FA Cup victory against Charlton at Wembley holding captain Jack Nicholas aloft with the cup is on the cover of the 8-page programme, and is captioned ‘Derby County’s Proudest Moment’.

The centre pages list the team lineups and welcome the Derby delegation with the traditional Irish greeting Cead Mile Failte! (a hundred thousand welcomes). A few sentences in Gaelic follow, then an English welcome: ‘It is with pleasure and pride that we welcome the opportunity to witness in action this deservedly renowned First Division club, whose reputation for football skill, sportsmanship and wholeheartedness has gone before them. May we be granted fair weather, a record crowd, and a close, well-fought game’.

Waterford’s top-scorer and player-manager, former Ram Dave McCulloch, was unavailable for the game due to injury. McCulloch signed for the Rams from Brentford for £9,500 in October 1938, scoring 16 goals in 31 appearances to help Derby to sixth in Division 1. The outbreak of World War Two curtailed his career at Derby and he signed for Leicester in 1946.

‘Jack Stamps Scores His Fifth Hat-Trick’ read the headline in the Derby Daily Telegraph’s match report the following day. Derby were ‘full value for their victory’ despite Steel’s absence – he was with the Scotland team travelling to play Portugal – in front of Waterford’s biggest home crowd of the season. Former Rams Sammy Crooks and Frank Broome guested for Waterford, who also fielded Vernon and Ryan (West Bromwich Albion) and Hartery (Plymouth). Stamps scored in the first, 30th and 80th minutes with Cotter replying for Waterford.

Waterford: Keohan, Boyce, Hartery, Barry, Vernon, Reilly, Cotter, Ryan, Crooks, Broome (Notts Co), Bergin

Derby: Brown, Bell, Parr, Mays, Oliver, Musson, Mynard, Stamps, Parkin, Parry, McLaren

Linfield were Derby’s final game of the tour at Windsor Park, Northern Ireland, on Wednesday 17 May. A simple 4-page programme, Windsor magazine, was available at the game with the first page devoted to Derby County. The team line ups in the centre pages are surrounded adverts, including one for Belfast Food Products Ltd which describe the post-war conditions of the time: ‘When the time comes for the ending of rationing and the removal of restrictions in manufacture you may be sure that Purity Brand sausages and cooked foods the palatable products of pronounced purity, will figure largely in the menus of most people. In the meantime, we ask housewives to accept our regret for any difficulty that may arise in obtaining supplies’.

Club Jottings on the back page reviews a successful season for Linfield, who won the Gold Cup and the City Cup as well as the Irish Cup and the Irish League Championship for the second year in succession. Linfield played 49 games across the season winning 36, losing 6 and drawing 7. 138 goals were scored with 55 conceded. Young forward Tommy Dickson was in his first season in senior football and was Linfield’s leading scorer with 38 goals.

The Thursday edition of the Belfast Telegraph reported an 8-3 victory to the Rams although in the first hour ‘it was in every sense of the word, a “friendly.” The visitors appeared to be content with taking things easy, as in both attack and defence they were easily the more polished side, but in the closing half hour piled on goals to win 8-3’.

Stamps opened the scoring on 11 minutes, then an own goal from a strong Smyth backpass six minutes later doubled Derby’s lead. Simpson scored ‘a grand header’ from a Thompson corner to pull one back for Linfield but Morris netted with a powerful drive to give the Rams a 3-1 lead going into half time. After the break, Linfield scored twice to make it 3-3. Lockhart, guesting from Coventry, scored from a penalty then Dickson equalised after a ‘fine run,’ but Derby gave a ‘real exhibition of English football and five more goals were chalked up before the finish’. Johnny Morris, returning to the Derby team following a 14-day suspension, was the ‘outstanding player on the field, though the Derby side as a whole gave an exhibition typical of English international class’. Derby’s scorers were Morris (3), Stamps (2), Parkin, Smyth OG and McFall OG.

Linfield: Russell, McCune, McMichael (Newcastle), Smyth, McFall, McCoy, Thompson, Kelly, Simpson, Dickson, Lockhart (Coventry)

Derby: Brown, Bell, Parr, Mays, Oliver, Musson, Mynard, Stamps, Parkin, Morris, McLaren

It was nearly 26 years before Derby would next play in Ireland. Two weeks after defeating Finn Harps 12-0 at the Baseball Ground in the UEFA Cup first round, the Rams travelled to Finn Park, Balleybofey, County Donegal, on 15 September 1976 for the second leg of the tie. The first leg scoreline remains Derby’s record highest score in a competitive game.

In The Rams in Europe, Andy Ellis describes the long trip the Rams party undertook due to the political situation at the time. After a five-and-a-half-hour coach journey from Dublin to the Londonderry border area, armed British troops had to accompany the team on the bus as the bus entered Ulster. In a 1999 interview with the Irish independent, right-back Tony Macken, who came on as a first-half substitute for Roy McFarland in the return leg at Finn Harps, recalled the trip:

“Because of the unrest in the North, we flew to Dublin and then travelled by coach via Sligo to Ballybofey. It was a long haul and we stopped in a hotel somewhere beyond Sligo for a coffee. Dave Mackay, the manager, was giving a team talk when this fellow came into the room with about 22 pints of Guinness on a tray! He said they were on the house and invited us to join the wedding reception which was going on inside. Mackay refused the drinks and the offer but the fellow returned a while later and asked us would we mind posing for a photograph with the bride and groom. Mackay felt this would be okay so we all trooped into the reception, in our tracksuits. I’ll never forget it. The bride and groom must have been about seventy years old! We all had a laugh, wished them well and went back to finish our coffee when another tray of creamy pints arrived. If any of the lads had been a bit uneasy about coming over to Ireland, they all left the hotel in great form.”

A low crowd of 2,217 saw the home team take the lead in the first minute, McFarland lobbing the ball over Moseley after Todd headed down a cross. Hector equalised from 6 yards following up a Todd shot that hit the post, then put Derby ahead on the night from a James cross. Two late goals from Charlie George gave the Rams a 4-1 win, and a 16-1 win on aggregate. Tony Macken stayed at the Baseball Ground until 1977 and made 38 appearances, 8 as a substitute before moving to Walsall.

Finn Harps: Murray, Bradley, Ferry, Harkin, Healy, Hutton, Logan, McDowell, O’Doherty, Sheridan, Stevenson

Derby: Moseley, Thomas, Nish, Rioch, McFarland, Todd, Newton, Gemmill, Hector (26, 31), George (81, 89), James

No programme was issued for the game but a press pass, Derby County itinerary and two photographs from the match sold for £440 at Hansons Auctioneers in August 2018.

The Rams’ next visit to Ireland was a trip to Galway United for a mid-week friendly on Thursday 19 March 1998. A strong Derby squad were welcomed to Terryland Park in the 20-page programme, Galway’s first visitors from the top-flight in England. It is mentioned that the friendly had been arranged at short notice. The Rams had been well beaten at Pride Park by Leeds on the Sunday, and with no game for nearly two weeks Jim Smith’s team needed to maintain their match fitness for the final few weeks of the season. However, the trip to Ireland was far from straightforward.

‘Travel agent comes to rescue of Galway Utd’s glamour tie’ read the headline in The City Tribune the following day. The article revealed that Derby were nearly unable to play in the friendly due to a 5 hour delay at Manchester Airport. Faced with a considerable financial loss, Galway officials made a series of frantic phone calls with their Derby counterparts to make alterative arrangements. The Rams nearly aborted the trip until John O’Dowd of Fahy Travel contacted British Airways, then convinced the travelling party that their plane would be in the air within an hour. O’Dowd was true to his word – the flight to Knock Airport eventually went ahead before the Derby delegation were transferred by coach to the Glenco Abbey Hotel on the Wednesday night. They spent the next day playing golf before departing to Terryland Park for the evening kick off.

Galway manager Don O’Riordan, who made six appearances for the Rams at the beginning of his career, was delighted with the 0-0 draw in front of a crowd of around 4000 and described the game ‘as a terrific experience for both the young and older Galway players who would look back at the game as one of the highlights of their careers’.

The match report in the City Tribune declared that Derby could not have been more forthcoming and did not disappoint fans with an attitude that ‘boosted the image of the cross-channel game’. Paulo Wanchope ‘displayed some moments of sheer class’ before being replaced at the interval then mingled with the crowd in the second half signing autographs. Galway came close to scoring three times, through Fran Carter, Luther Watson and Seamus Rabbitte. However, the Tribune were not happy with the ‘appalling coverage in the national press,’ naming the Irish Independent, Examiner, Star and Irish Times as not deeming the game ‘worthy of even a paragraph’.

Galway used the opportunity to give almost their entire squad a chance to play against Derby, but ‘the story of night was the inclusion of 17 year old schoolboy Alan O’Donnell’ who was making his first team debut. O’Donnell was back in class the next day, but had some company as Lee Carsley and Rory Delap made an appearance at his school, along with Galway boss O’Riordan.

In July 2000, the Rams travelled to Belfast in Northern Ireland to play Crusaders in a testimonial for Glenn Dunlop. Dunlop, who played over 300 games for Crusaders as a centre-back, was retiring at 32 years old due to a serious ankle injury to become a full-time minister in the church.

In the 24 page programme, Jim Smith wrote that ‘It’s a great feeling to be able to bring an English team to Northern Ireland again. It’s the second time I’ve been here with my team, following my trip with Blackburn in 1977’. The Derby squad included Chris Riggott, Craig Burley, Seth Johnson, Rory Delap, Malcom Christie and Branko Strupar. Midfielder Richard Clarke, a Northern Ireland under-21 international on trial with the Rams, was described as ‘on Portadown’s books for the last six seasons, has previously found the net for the Shamrock Park club at Seaview and would doubtless enjoy repeating the feat tonight’. Gareth McAuley was listed in the Crusaders squad – the centre-back would stay at Seaview until 2002 when he signed for Coleraine before a move to England where he represented Lincoln, Leicester, Ipswich and West Bromwich Albion.

The Belfast Telegraph match report was effusive in its praise of Dunlop in the 0-0 draw: ‘Watching Glenn Dunlop at Seaview last night was like viewing Pete Sampras at Wimbledon. The Shore Road ground is Dunlop’s Centre Court and no matter the opposition, the Crusaders defender is boss’. Derby brought on Richard Clarke as a substitute for the last 10 minutes and, according to the paper, he did not look out of place. Clarke did not secure a move to the Rams, instead spending nearly his whole career at Portadown.

After a 0-0 draw at home to Crewe in March 2004, Derby made the journey to St Richmond’s Park in Inchicore, Dublin, to face St Patrick’s Athletic on Friday 5 March. This was a pre-season game for St Patrick’s, whose season would begin on 19 March, and the Rams were without a league fixture at the weekend.

In the 24 page programme, St Patrick’s boss Eamonn Collins mentions that he played with Derby manager George Burley at Gillingham. A brief history of the Rams features the 12-0 win against Finn Harps in 1976 and lists the Derby players from that game. Derby took a strong squad for the friendly which included Ian Taylor, Michael Johnson and 17-year-old Tom Huddlestone, who had been a regular in Derby’s first team midfield all season.

George Burley declared the 3-1 win in Dublin ‘a good run out’ in Derby’s next home programme against Rotherham, with Candido Costa, Izale McLeod and Manel scoring for the Rams. Former Germany international Marco Reich was injured so teenage winger Lee Holmes started, as did Pablo Mills, Lee Camp and Peruvian striker Gianfranco Labarthe Tome. St Patrick’s were giving a trial to former Rams centre-back Con Blastis. An Australian international, Blastis left Pride Park after playing only two games in 2001 and had spells at Sheffield Wednesday, Colchester and Kocaelispor in Turkey.

St Patrick Athletic 1 (Bird 42), Derby 3 (Costa 25, McLeod 55 pen, Manel 60)

The Rams returned to Dalymount Park to face Bohemians again on 13 July 2013 for their first friendly of pre-season. Two different teams played in either half, with Nigel Clough’s Rams claiming a 6-1 victory. New signing Johnny Russell (2), Callum Ball, Ben Davies, Paul Coutts and Conor Sammon were the scorers. Bohemians produced a 28 page programme for the game which was a reversible double issue to include the friendly against Bradford City the following Saturday.

Derby (first-half): Grant, Keogh, Eustace, Buxton, Freeman, Hughes, Bryson, Jacobs, Bennett, Martin, Russell.
Derby (second-half): Legzdins, Gjokaj, Brayford, Forsyth, Hanson, Hendrick, Ball, Davies, Ward, Sammon, Coutts.

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