The Magnificent Seven.
Hi folks. A little bit of history that might help us win the title this year (yes I’ve been on the Jack Daniels) but here are the opening fixtures of every year we’ve won the Premier Division title in hope it spurs the lads on tonight.
The first game of our victorious 1965/66 season was surprising a 4-0 defeat at Kilcohan Park to Bohemians on a cold November evening. The Blues had started the season with the League of Ireland Shield which was always the pre-cursor for every campaign at that point but had little success in it.
The team that day was Taylor, Casey, Roche, Maguire, Griffin, Hale, Flynn, Purcell, Fitzgerald, Coad and O’Connor. Waterford of course went on to win that first title, unknowingly creating a record of becoming the first championship side to the title after losing their first game. by more than three goals.
The beginning of the ‘67/’68 season (our second title win) would begin with Martin Ferguson as the club’s new player-manager. Dundalk were champions from the previous year but the Blues were confident. The serious business really started in November. Waterford opened up their league campaign against Cork Hibernians. On the fourth on November, a generous crowd at Kilcohan would watch the Blues play out a scoreless draw with their nearest rivals. That side lined up as Thomas, Bryan, Griffin, Stafford, Morley, Coad, O’Neill, Ferguson, Hale, Casey and Matthews. It was a disappointing opener. Possession wise Waterford owned the pitch but had come up against a well-marshalled Hibernians’ defence. History shows the Blues went on to take the title by four points from the Lillywhite’s of Dundalk.
At the start of the 1968/69 season the Blues would once again try to create club history by not only winning a third league title, but become the first club that decade to actually retain the prestigious title. Not since St Patrick’s Athletic 1955 had a League of Ireland club managed to win back-to-back titles, but Waterford would be about to re-write that chapter in the League of Ireland history book. The opening game that season pitted Waterford against old foe’s Cork Hibs again. However by this stage the Blues had won the first silverware of the season – the 1969 League of Ireland Shield (wrapped up with a 4-1 hammering of St. Pat’s) and went to the Leeside in bullish mood. Welcome inclusions that season included the likes of Phil Buck and Danny Trainor. However 90 minutes of frustration, gamesmanship, tugging of jerseys and spoiling tactics in a no quarter given match saw Hibs win the tie courtesy of a goal from Sheehan. The Blues team; Thomas, Morrissey, Maguire, Matthews, McGeough, Trainor, Buck, Hale, O’Neill, Coad & Casey.
The opening game of the next successful season , 1969/70, when we again retained yet again, would be a rather lack-lustre 1-0 win against St. Patricks Athletic with the only goal coming from Al Casey in the 56th minute in a season that would see us play 26 games, losing just four to pip tonight’s opponents Shamrock Rovers into second. The Blues first competitive game of the 1969/70 was a League of Ireland fixture against Limerick with six players sent off in ten minutes! It erupted in full scale war early in the second half when a foul on Peter Bryan resulted in Phil Buck and Limerick’s Byrne slugging it out for the vacant Welterweight Championship of the world. Nine minutes later, Danny Trainor challenged O’Donovan for the WBO Middleweight belt in the centre circle, and with another scuffle breaking out seconds later on the under-card, the man in black could have been forgiven for not knowing were to turn. The upshot meant SIX players were dismissed in a mere ten-minute period. For the record Al Casey’s 89th minute goal rescued a point for the Blues but it was a day most fans would rather forget- unless you prefer ringside seats to football terraces.
The next opening day fixture in a season we won the league came in 1971/72 season. Shay Brennan would take over the reigns that Coad, Hale & Maguire had successful held and the first fixture of the league season started a win over Drumcondra. By December Waterford were clear by three points at the top and with only three defeats that year the Suirsiders took back the League of Ireland title with four points to spare from Cork Hibernians. Interesting fact of the season – we recorded our biggest ever FAI Cup win with an 11-1 victory over Railto.
Our sixth and so fair last Premier Division title is now 46 years old. That of course was the 1972/73 season when we retained the title, seeing off the surprise package of Finn Harps who had only entered the League in 1968/69. New signings Gordon Parr (ex-Bristol City) and Pat Shortt, formerly of Limerick came in, but it would be the signing of Tommy McConville that would prove a masterstroke as the former Dundalk centre-half, McConville slotted nicely into the finely tuned Waterford engine, and with the departure of Jackie Morley the timing was impeccable.
Waterford kicked off their league season with a 4-0 win over St Patrick’s Athletic. Shay Brennan’s team that day may have had several changes from last season but there was still a familiar look to the line up – Thomas, Bryan, Morrissey, Parr, McConville, Buck, Shortt, Hale, O’ Neill, House and Matthews.
Let’s hope (probably against hope) that our first league opener today can somehow follow in the footsteps of those six title winning openers that have gone by.