The Great War, the Free State XI and the Dublin Hospitals Cup

Hospitals Cup: Home

The Independent Trophy and the Great War

The Dublin Hospitals compete every year for the Independent Trophy (The ‘Herald Hospitals Charity Cup’). The trophy has an illustrious, largely forgotten, history. It was contested by soldiers of the Great War and many of the greats of the early days of association football. This is the story of some of those men.


In 1906 Independent Newspapers commissioned ‘a handsome silver cup’ as the prize for an annual challenge match between the elite players of the Irish League and the best amateur players of the day in Leinster. The match was sponsored by the Evening Herald newspaper and the gate receipts were donated to the Dublin Hospitals. Following the Evening Herald Hospitals Charity Cup match, the winning team captain was presented with the Independent Trophy (illustration above, from the Irish Independent, 1906). Ireland international, Valentine Harris of Shelbourne and Everton was the first captain to receive the Trophy.

It so happened that many of the best amateur players in Ireland at that time were members of the British Army. Football was very strong in the Army at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. The large British Army presence in Dublin, at that time, lead to the formation of inter-regimental competitions and several British regiments had teams competing in the Irish leagues. The organisers of the challenge match gradually realised that a contest between an Irish team and an official British Army team would be very attractive to the public. Therefore, in the years immediately preceding and during World War I, the Independent Trophy was contested between a combined team representing the British Army based in Ireland (‘the Irish Army’) and a team made up of the best Irish players of the day. Thousands attended the games generating hundreds of pounds for the Dublin Hospitals.


The Army team playing for the Independent Trophy in the Herald Hospitals Cup match of the 1913/14 season was captained by Second Lieutenant Sydney Kingston Gore (pictured above) of the Queens Own Royal West Kent Regiment (the ‘West Kents’). A doctor’s son born in Australia, Lieutenant Gore was stationed with the West Kents at Richmond before the outbreak of World War I. He was a fine sportsman having also played cricket for the British Army. The Irish Independent reports that lieutenant Gore had an excellent game for the Army in the 1913/14 Herald Hospitals Cup match scoring two first half goals with ‘some brilliant footwork’ and captaining the Army eleven to a rare 4:1 victory over the Irish team.


These matches ended with the presentation of the trophy to the winning captain and afterwards the Army players were brought to dinner by Independent Newspapers, then on for an evening of entertainment at the Theatre Royal in Dublin.

theatre Royal

Some months later, in August 1914, Lieutenant Gore sailed with the West Kent regiment from Dublin to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force. After fighting alongside the Fifth French Army at the Battle of Mons, his regiment suffered further heavy losses in the ill-fated first assault on Neuve Chapelle. The assault was part of the Battle of La Bassee (“the race to the sea”), an attempt by the British to secure supply routes from the Channel ports. In that battle, the Royal Irish Rifles and the Wiltshires suffered particularly heavy casualties in the struggle to hold the village of Neuve Chapelle. The Irish regiment was reduced from a force of 900 men to perhaps less than fifty in close quarter combat against equally determined German troops.

On the 28th October 1914, at Neuve Chapelle, with his own regiment surrounded and as one of only three West Kent officers left alive, Lieutenant Gore lead his company forward into enemy fire to cover the withdrawal of the surviving Irish and English soldiers. During this action, Lieutenant Gore was shot through the head and killed. His body was discovered the next day and was buried in an unmarked grave in nearby woods. He was twenty four years old at the time of his death.

Death announced

Lieutenant Gore is commemorated by a stained glass window in All Souls Church, Cheriton, Kent. He is also remembered on the war-memorial plaque at his former school (Harvey Grammar School, Kent) and is named with his fallen comrades on the ‘Le Touret Memorial’ in France. By the time the British army returned en masse from France after the war, Ireland’s relationship with Britain’s military had changed completely. Lieutenant Gore was the last Englishman to receive the Independent Trophy.

Lieutenant Gore’s nephew, Mr. David Gore (former Lt. Col. in the Royal Artillery), tells me that his uncle was one of three brothers who fought in World War I. Two brothers survived. He also tells me that the Gore family have strong Irish connections through the Mayne family, originally from Fermanagh.

Newspaper articles in Dublin in the years leading up to the War describe Lieutenant Gore as a ‘crack centre forward’. A centre forward at that time would have been an excellent ‘dribbler’, running with the ball at his feet directly past defenders without passing. The Victorians and Edwardians distrusted passing, viewing the Scottish invention of ‘playing in patterns’ as unmanly. They would be horrified at our training sessions!

My research indicates that many of the men playing for the Army team in the years leading up to WWI were killed in action in the early years of the War. Compared to the professional soldiers, it is much more difficult to research the fate of the Irish players. One player I do have information about (thanks to the work of Ciaran Priestly of NUI Maynooth) is Bohemians legend Harold Sloan (pictured above). Like all players of the Bohemians football club, Sloan was a ‘gentleman player’ (an amateur). He was one of the outstanding forwards in Ireland at that time. Internationals were rare in the years before WWI, with limited opportunities for players from the South to earn caps. Sloan scored five times for Ireland in just eight appearances for his country. He also scored the first ever goal for Bohemians at their new home ground, Dalymount Park, in 1901.

In 1906, Harold Sloan was selected for the Irish League team to play for the Independent Trophy in the inaugural Herald Hospitals Charity Cup match. However, he did not play due to a dispute between Bohemians and the Leinster football association over the referee appointed for the match (some things never change!). In the years leading up to the war, however, Sloan played for and won the trophy in the Irish league side on several occasions.

Sloan volunteered to fight in WWI at the height of the conflict and was enlisted as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery Garrison. He was killed in action at Combles, near the Somme in January 1917. There are no details available concerning Harold Sloan’s death and he left no record of his reasons for volunteering in 1916. It is clear that he did not have any financial need. He was a relatively wealthy man at the time of his death. Furthermore, by that stage of the conflict, the likely consequences of volunteering for war in France would have been obvious to him. The newspapers of the day were full of long lists of the missing, the wounded and the dead. Indeed, shortly after volunteering, Sloan made his last will and testament.


Harold Sloan is buried in the gaurd’s cemetery at Combles, France. He is commemorated on the War memorial in his alma mater, the High School, Rathgar, Dublin. Sadly, he has no direct descendants, his only son, also named Harold and also by all accounts a fine footballer, qualified as a doctor from Trinity College Dublin in 1937. He joined the Royal Navy in World War II. In November 1940, at twenty six years of age, he was killed in action when his ship, HMS Javelin, suffered a direct and devastating hit during a battle with German destroyers.

Irish army dated 1913

One hundred years on, the Independent Trophy 2014


‘..the hands of the generations..’  Dr James Lee, Dr Paddy O’Connor (captain, St Vincent’s Hospital F.C.), Dr Robbie Kernan

1917: Football in Dublin

The Herald Hospitals Charity Cup match was played on one further occasion during the Great War. Perhaps surprisingly, in May 1917, a full year after the execution of the 1916 leaders, a crowd of several thousand Dubliners attended the match between the British Army and the Irish selection at Dalymount Park. Many Scottish internationals were based in Dublin with their regiments at that time. However, not even a goal from one of Scotland’s greatest ever goal scorers, Willie Reid of Glasgow Rangers (photo below), could save the Army eleven from a heavy defeat at the hands of the Irish that day.

Reid and Lacey update

(left) Willie Reid (Glasgow rangers and Scotland). (right) Bill Lacey (Liverpool and Ireland)

The Irish selection won by six goals to one. The Irish had some remarkable players on show including Bill Lacey (photo above). Lacey is still remembered by die-hard fans on Merseyside and is listed as one of Liverpool F.C.s top players of all time having helped the Reds become champions of England on two successive occasions in the 1920s. Lacey was playing for Linfield FC of Belfast at the time of the 1917 match. Lacey played in all 11 positions during his professional football career and played both outfield and in goals when Ireland won the Home nations championship for the first and only time in 1914. He remains the oldest player ever to represent Ireland playing against Belgium at the age of forty one!

Interestingly, the concept of the Herald Hospitals Cup match was not unique to Dublin. After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, the occupying British Army set up a challenge football match between their best players and the best local footballers. The match between Fenerbahce and the Coldstream Gaurds for the ‘General Harrington Cup’ in 1918 has become part of Turkish national folklore and the Trophy still holds pride of place in the Fenerbahce museum. The reality is that wherever the British Army went, they took football with them and this is part of the reason why association football is the global game today.

The Independent Trophy: caught on the ‘wrong side of history’

riots 1913 history

Dublin Metropolitan Police attack all comers on Sackville (O’Connell) Street, 1913

While researching this piece, it was thrilling to establish a connection between our trophy and the men discussed above and, indeed, with many others with stories to tell. The problem with history is that in researching it, we may uncover associations which are less appealing. The Herald Hospitals Charity Cup match was conceived by Independent Newspapers as a charitable exercise to help the Dublin Hospitals. Independent Newspapers donated the ‘handsome silver trophy’ (the Independent Trophy) and heavily publicised the match. Independent Newspapers was owned by business mogul William Martin Murphy. He was well known for his charitable work. He was, of course, also known to a generation of Dublin’s poor as William ‘Murder’ Murphy, leader of the employers in the 1913 lockout. In 1913, an alliance of the Irish and British establishments led by Murphy, crushed a Labour movement founded by James Larkin and the great revolutionary, James Connolly. This was achieved through a combination of hunger and police violence. The lockout was at its height when the 1913/14 match described above was played (the ‘troublous times’ in the newspaper article above). Although Murphy was offered military help by the British authorities, the regiments discussed above were confined to barracks and played no role in the violent attacks on workers and their families.

In any case, although I cannot be certain, my reading suggests that the main impetus for the Herald Hospitals Charity Cup match may have come from William Martin Murphy’s sons, Mr. Christopher J Murphy and Dr. William Lombard Murphy. These two men attended many of the matches over the years, often presenting the Independent Trophy to the winning captain. As a young man, Dr. Lombard Murphy, like the author of this piece a medical graduate of St John’s College Cambridge, worked as a Surgeon in the Mater Hospital Dublin. Dr Murphy served in the Royal Army Medical Core in World War I. He was mentioned in despatches and was awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French government in recognition of his War service. He was an academic surgeon who, having trained in Austria before the War, translated works in his speciality from German into English. Both sons were reputed to be kind men.

A Final thought

It is clear that the Herald Hospitals Charity Cup match and the Independent Trophy come from a time and a mindset alien to the Ireland of today. I have to admit that with knowledge of the actions of the British Army in Dublin in 1916, the chummy tone of the newspaper articles in 1913/14 makes for slightly uncomfortable reading. However, this should not detract from the memory of the footballing soldiers discussed here. They played no role in these events. They were men of great personal courage and deeply held convictions. They deserve to be remembered and we should feel privileged to have some connection, however tenuous, with them.

The 1920s: The Independent Trophy and the Free State XI

1925 2

Action from the 1925 Hospitals Cup match at Dalymount Park

Before the foundation of the Irish Free State, only two clubs in Southern Ireland played senior football in the National League (Shelbourne and Bohemians) and only Shelbourne were professional. In the lead up to, and during, Irelands War of Independence, the British Army no longer played in the Herald Hospitals Charity Cup match. The match reverted to the traditional format of a Leinster selection playing against the best of Shelbourne FC and Bohemians FC.

Played and replayed in one of the bloodiest weeks of the War of Independence, the 1921 match attracted a particularly large crowd. The first game ending in a draw, seven days later, an equally large crowd saw captain of the combined Shelbourne and Bohemians team, Ireland International, Val Harris, presented with the Independent Trophy by Dr. William Lombard Murphy following a win over the Leinster selection.

The War of Independence brought long-simmering tensions to a head between the overwhelmingly nationalist Leinster Football Association based in Dublin and the overwhelmingly unionist Irish Football Association based in Belfast. In 1921, the Southern clubs broke away from the IFA-controlled Irish League forming their own Free State Football League. In September of that year, the Free State League and the LFA formed the Football Association of Ireland (FAI). The split between football in the North and South was complete and irrevocable.

The next logical step for the FAI was to seek recognition from FIFA as a national association and to award international caps. This was gradually achieved over a period of several years. The Free State XI would eventually become our current FIFA recognised international team, the Republic of Ireland.

Val harris 1925

1925. Mr Christopher J Murphy of Independent Newspapers presents the Independent Trophy to Val Harris (captain of the Free State XI) following the 1925 Herald Hospitals Cup Charity match at Dalymount Park. Standing to the right is Dr Willie Hooper, who refereed the match. Dr Hooper’s son, Dr SB (‘Barry’) Hooper and Grandson, Prof Conal Hooper, ran the Hospitals Cup tournament for many years following WWII (vide infra). Valentine (‘Val’) Harris had an incredibly long football career, he was the first captain to receive the Independent trophy in the inaugural Hospitals Cup match in 1906!

The first ‘Free State selection’, the forerunner of the Republic of Ireland team, played for the Independent Trophy in the early and mid 1920s in the Herald Hospitals Charity Cup match. The photo below shows the Free State XI who won the Trophy in 1925.

free state 11

There were many interesting players involved. Some with problems peculiar to their time. Ireland International goalkeeper, (standing seventh from left) Francis Collins’ career at Glasgow Celtic was cut short because he was said to be suspect on diving to his right hand side due to an old war wound! Bob Fullam (front row, second from right) was famous for the power of his left foot. Legend has it that Italy, in the Republic of Irelands first ever official match in 1926, requested that Fullam not be allowed to take Ireland’s free kicks for fear of injury to their goalkeeper! This is probably an urban myth.

The ‘Leinster’ selection of 1925 (below) contained equally interesting characters, including Mick ‘Boxer’ Foley. “Boxer” Foley (front row, second from left), who played professionally in England and Ireland, was described as a ‘robust’ player in newspaper articles of the time. He was the first ever captain of the Republic of Ireland (as the Free State) in a FIFA recognised international. The match was against Italy in 1926.

Leinster 1925

The Current Hospitals Cup Tournament (1948-onwards)

In 1948 a group of interested doctors from the Mater Hospital approached Dr Barry Hooper of UCD with the idea of setting up an annual knockout soccer competition between teams from Dublin’s Hospitals. Independent Newspapers gave Dr. Hooper the Independent Trophy from the long since defunct Herald Hospitals Charity Cup match to act as the prize for the Tournament winners. The Hospitals have been playing for the Trophy ever since but not continuously. For, like all important soccer trophies (eg the World Cup), the Hospitals cup has been lost or stolen on several occasions over the decades. I’m reliably informed that the cup spent many years as a flowerpot in the Nurses Residence in St Vincent’s Hospital. How it got there is unknown!

The first running of the tournament in 1948, involved five hospitals, two of which, Jervis Street and Mercers, no longer exist. The remaining three ‘originals’ (Mater, St Vincent’s and Dublin Dental) still compete for the trophy today. The following piece is based on newspaper articles and the recollections of people involved in the tournament over the years.

Irish Independent, May 22nd 1948

‘Independent Cup for Mercers Hospital’

Mercers 2 Mater 0 ‘Mercers are the first holders of the Irish Independent Hospitals Soccer Cup, yesterday at Tolka Park, their defense held sway throughout this game and the best efforts of the Mater forwards were contained by a brilliant goalkeeper in Rafferty and a fine defensive trio in McFeely, Feanny and Lavelle. It was a fine performance by the winners as Mater were strong favorites with a trio of Leinster Senior League players in Kilbride, Malone and McGregor in their side together with a couple of well known Rugby men in McAulife and Mullen who played well on the right wing. Rogan got the lead for Mercers in the first half and McDonald made the victory secure with a goal in the second half. In presenting the cup, Dr Barry Hooper, Chairman of the Hospitals Cup Committee of the Universities and Colleges Union thanked the Independent for helping in the resurgence of soccer football in the Hospitals. He referred to the fact that 40 years ago in the days of his late father Dr W Hooper, they had annual games with the London Hospitals and expressed the hope that an invitation might be issued to the London hospitals for a match next season. He congratulated Mercers on winning through and sympathized with the Mater who had been the instigators of the competition on failing at the last hurdle.’

Dr Terry Lavelle, a member of the Mercers team of 1948, informs me that the “brilliant goalkeeper” referred to in the above article, was, in fact, playing under an assumed name. “Rafferty” was an intercounty GAA star and risked suspension under the notorious ‘ban’ if caught playing soccer. This was a common theme in the Hospitals cup throughout the 50s and 60s with stories of players hiding their faces in team photographs! Mercers retained the trophy in 1949. Subsequently, the Richmond Hospital dominated the competition in the early 1950s, winning the trophy three times in a row between 1950 and 1952. Dr Charles DuPont was a member of that Richmond team and he tells me that, although there were several good players in their line-up, Des McGovern (Ex Derry City professional and sometime of Manchester United) practically won the tournament on his own!

1952 h

1952. Dr SB (Barry) Hooper presents the Independent Trophy to Kevin Barrett, Captain of the Richmond Hospital team at Belfield

In 1954, the Mater finally won the tournament they had initiated. The final in 1954 was one of several ‘ding-dong’ battles between the Mater and Mercers during that era. In fact from 1954 to 1956, the two hospitals contested three finals with only the odd goal between them on each occasion. According to newspaper reports the Mater were strong in defence while Mercers relied on their ‘five nations’ forward line of outside-right Aiken (African), inside-right Rae McClean (Irish), centre-forward Billy Maxwell (English), inside left Cowan (Scottish International) and outside-left Jadwat (Indian). Dr Harry Barniville, a member of the Mater team in the mid 1950s, recalls the key role played by Mater captain and centre-half, Frank Obiakpani, in the 1956 final at Dalymount Park. With the Surgeons men (Mercers) well in control of the match at two-nil, Frank knocked their Keeper unconcious in a ‘collision’. In the days before substitutions, the absence of the Mercers goalkeeper for the rest of the game greatly facilitated a Mater fightback to win the game 3:2!


1954. Mater win the cup for the first time. Mr MV Cogley of Independent newspapers presents the Independent Trophy to Mater captain, Frank Obiakpani

The following year, Dublin Dental Hospital won their first of many titles. Charlie Browne, the well known amateur soccer international captained the Dental Hospital to a three goals to two victory over the Richmond in the best final of the era.

Irish Independent, June 7th 1957

‘Exciting finish as Dental win Independent Cup’

‘Dental captured the Irish independent Cup when they defeated Richmond 3:2 in the Hospitals Cup soccer final at Dallymount Park yesterday evening. The hot pace sustained throughout took a heavy toll of the players stamina and occurrences of cramp were frequent during the second half, necessitating eight minutes ‘lost’ time. In the 91st minute center-forward McGovern set the stage for a grandstand finish when he scored Richmond’s second goal from McGrath’s pass. The losers threw everything into attack in search of an equalizer, which would have meant extra-time, but the Dental defense was not to be caught napping again. Best for the winners were the brothers Ray and Charlie Brown, O’Sullivan, Quigley, Stewart and Plunkett. C. Brown making amends for some glaring misses, including one from a penalty, slipped the ball across the face of the goal for Plunkett to open the scoring in the 35th minute. Sainsbury equalized with a header 15 minutes after the change of ends but C. Brown from his brother’s corner restored Dental’s lead in the 18th minute. Sheils put Dental further ahead seven minutes later and McGovern reduced the deficit near the end. Dental: R McCabe, I O’Sullivan, B Barrett, A Stewart, T Quigley, R Browne, A Shiels, C Browne, L Plunkett, J Moore, L Reilly Richmond: G Edwards, P Callaghan, K Gibbons, B Cronin, J Dolan, M Lynch, P McGrath, P Galvin, D McGovern, J Sainsbury, M Kelly Referee: J Morris (Dublin)

To my Knowledge, only the Mater have contested all Hospitals Cup competitions since 1948. Hospitals have come, been successful, and gone (in some cases literally) over the years. Various ‘smaller’ Hospitals have, on occasion, organised and entered teams in the tournament. Few debutants, however, have had the impact of the Coombe Hospital team of 1958. Apart from a brief revival in the 1970s, they have never come close to winning the cup again.

Irish Independent, Thursday June 3rd 1958

‘Coombe Easy Winners of Hospitals Cup’

‘Coombe Hospital proved merited winners of the Independent Hospitals soccer Cup with a runaway 3-0 win over Richmond Hospital at Dallymount Park last night. Taking the lead after six minutes with a goal by their flying outside-right B. de Brit, the winners coasted to a decisive victory, and so completed their first season in the competition with the imposing tally of 15 goals-while their star-studded defence were only beaten once in their four matches. B. de Brit opened the scoring in the sixth minute, beating Galloway, the Richmond goalkeeper, to a pass back from center-half Dolan and 23 minutes later, McKeon raced through to put them further ahead. Majekodunmi completed their tally with the best goal of the match in the 30th minute.’

The late 1950s and the early 1960s saw an excellent Mater team emerge under the captaincy of Billy Noble. Players from this team have been particularly helpful to me in compiling this review.


A sunny day at Dalymount Park in 1959. Dr Hooper presents the Trophy to Mater winning captain Billy Noble

Gerard Seery (Mater 1959) writes: ‘…I played for the Mater in the Hospitals Cup competition from about 1957 to 1961. Although we played to win, the result was far less important than the post-game festivities. Our favorite opponents were Grangegorman (asylum) at Grangegorman. Their team was largely made up of inmates. Or so we believed. We always had a large captive turnout at these games, which were usually enlivened by the occasional bout of fairly good-natured fisticuffs. I organized the fixture, and made sure we played Grangegorman a little more often than was absolutely necessary as a favorable outcome for us could be anticipated. What I remember most about the 1959 final against Dental Hospital at Tolka Park was that the game was tied with minutes to go. We were then awarded a penalty. Overcome by the historic importance of the occasion, our penalty kicker, Mick O’Brien, panicked and refused to take the kick. I took the penalty myself and hit it a mile wide. Fortunately, the day was saved in the last minute by a Ray O’Sullivan goal. My miss had almost cost us the winners drinking money (five pounds donated by Mater surgeon Sean Heffernan). …..Our team was Jack Mehigan, Aiden Kennedy, Joe Timoney, Gerry Seery, Frank Cronin, Jacques Noelle, Mick O’Brien, Pat Tubridy, Patrick Murray, Hugh Staunton, Ian Wilson, Billy Noble and Ray O’Sullivan… In those days there was very little ecumenism between Hospitals. The Hospitals Cup was very helpful in encouraging social intercourse with Protestant Hospital personnel-which, absent the Cup games, would not have occurred. There were no losers.’

It wouldn’t happen today…..

Irish Independent, Thursday May 12th 1960

‘Easy for Mater’

‘Mater Hospital scored a facile 6-0 win over St Vincent’s in the first round of the Hospitals soccer Cup at Belfield last evening. The big differences between the sides were in attack were the winners had clever ball players in B. Noble, P. Tubridy and G. Seery. Noble who had a fine game scored three goals, while Seery, Tubridy and H. Staunton also contributed to the winners tally. Mater led 4-0 at the interval.’

In 1962 St Vincent’s finally got their act together after many humiliations (see above) and lead by UCD captain, Kevin Kilbride, won the trophy for the first time. Kevin put in a ‘captains innings’ in the final scoring the winning penalty to beat Mater 1:0. Throughout the remainder of the 1960s the competition was dominated by undoubtedly its best team to date. The Dublin Dental Hospital managed to win the Independent Trophy and unprecedented six times in a row between 1963 and 1968. The team contained many fine sportsmen from different codes including at least five Irish Universities soccer internationals (Harry Woolfe, Tim McDonnell, Michael McGeown, Gerry Molloy and Ray Browne), rugby man; Gerry Tormey as well as two Gaelic football greats.

Gerry Molloy (captain Dublin Dental Hospital 1964) writes: ‘…I remember the year I was captain, we beat Mercers in the final. The Dean of the Dental Hospital, Dr Jack Owens, gave us the princely sum of £20 to celebrate. Mercers organized a party in their Hospital. Their captain suggested we pool the money to buy drink. I foolishly agreed-by the time we got there their team had demolished all the drink and were stocious-typical medics-gave me a healthy distrust of them for years!’ The ‘six-in-a-row’ Dublin Dental Hospital team: Harry Woolfe, Tim McDonnell, Michael McGeown, Gerard Molloy, Sean Coen, Gerry Tormey, Dan McCartan, Brendan Crean, Joe Cox, Mick O’Brien, Tom Leonard, Kieran Murray, Kevin Barrett, Kevin O’Doherty, Paddy Beausang, Jack “PJ” Lynan, Ray Browne, Pat McEniff and ‘super-sub’ Dermie Lyons! Do you know any others? Any photos?

In 1969, the Dental Hospitals stranglehold on the competition was finally broken by the Richmond, who unexpectedly defeated Dental 3:0 in the preliminary round of that year’s competition. Richmond were not rewarded with the Trophy, however, losing out by three goals to two in a closely contested final with St Vincent’s. Throughout the 1970s the competition was monopolised by the Mater and St Vincent’s. The first of several deciders between the two Hospitals was a ‘memorable final in front of a large crowd at Belfield’ in 1970. St Vincent’s eventually overcoming their rivals late in the game to win by four goals to two. The two UCD Hospitals between them won nine of the ten Hospitals Cup tournaments recorded between 1968 and 1980.

After a long gap, the Dublin Dental Hospital returned to winning ways in 1980. Dental beat Mater 1:0 in the final of the that year.

Dental team: John Tiernan, Gary Heary, Gerry Carroll, Jim Griffin, Clem Sullivan, Darragh Coakley, Chris O’Hanlon, Gerry Kearns, Brian Stein, Niall O’Leary, Brian Hall, Martin Tier, Owen Dee.

The, following year, the Feds name was on the trophy. Disposing of the holders (Dental) in the quarters, they went on to beat the Combined Maternity Hospitals 5:4 in the semi-final having been behind on 4 separate occasions! Phil Dunne scored a hat-trick for the Trinity men that day while Conor O’Shea pitched in with the winner. Conor recalls, however, that the game was dominated by a storming performance from a player on the losing side, well-known Dublin consultant Eamon McGuinness. A drawn final against the Mater went to a replay with the Feds finally coming out on top in a penalty shootout.

Federated Hospitals team: John Oni (captain), Sean O’Nunain, Frank Johnson, Seosamh O’Coigligh, Sam McClintock, Conor O’Shea, Paul McKee, John Bourke, Joe Begley, John O’Dowd, Brian Russell, Peter Keogh, Phil Dunne, Seamus Cooney.

The tournament went into decline in the 1980s and was not even played between 1983 and 1985. Professor Conal Hooper was central to the revival of the Hospitals Cup in 1986 when the tournament resulted in the only ever win by Holles Street! The 1990s again saw a revival in interest in the competition thanks to the involvement of Mr Peter Cassidy and Dr Finbar Condon. Dr Condon set up a Southern and Western league to allow Hospitals from outside Dublin compete for the Cup. This is very welcome but logistics remain a major problem. In the 2002 competition, a St Vincent’s win over Galway University Hospital in the semi-final was helped by the fact that half the Galway team were stuck in a roadside cafe on the road to Dublin at the time of kick-off.

Trophy 96

Dr Finbar Condon, captain of beaten finalists St Vincent’s, presents the Independent Trophy to Dr Kiaran O’Malley, captain of the first Beaumont team to win the Hospitals Cup in 1996

In the late 1990s Beaumont and the Mater were the strongest competitors. Beaumont contested seven of the ten finals between 1995 and 2005. Prof Michael Lee organised their team and tells me that several stalwarts including Mark Rogan and John Schute, had to forgo the celebrations of the last day of final med exams to play in the 1996 final in Dardistown. Goals from Derry O’Malley and Thomas Heggelund made it a worthwhile sacrifice as they defeated St Vincent’s three nil to take the trophy for the first time.

Mater Hospital 2001 Hospitals Cup Winners : Back Row L- R: B. Casserly, P. Breen, R. Power, G. Leonard, J. Moriarty, T. Neilan. Front Row L- R: E. Spillane, P. Byrne, G. Fay, N. Quinlan, J. MacHale.

Mater Hospital 2001 Hospitals Cup Winners :
Back Row L- R: B. Casserly, P. Breen, R. Power, G. Leonard, J. Moriarty, T. Neilan.
Front Row L- R: E. Spillane, P. Byrne, G. Fay, N. Quinlan, J. MacHale.

More recently, Vincent’s have tended to dominate, playing in eleven finals and winning nine times between 2002 and 2015. This is largely due to the efforts of, then captain, Dr Rupert Barry in establishing a league team in the hospital in 2001 and the involvement of former Republic of Ireland international, Freddie Strahan as coach. Freddie coached and Rupert captained St Vincent’s to their first win in decades in 2002. The former missed the final that year, however, requiring several days bed-rest after joining in at training the night before. The key moment in the 2002 final came when, with Beaumont completely on top and the match tied at 1:1, Vincent’s defender, Jimmy Hayden, made a vital goal-line clearance. Rarely, has the outcome of a football tournament been decided by a hairstyle!

history pages 2

100 years of Hospitals Cup football. Scorer of a memorable winning goal in the Centenary Hospitals Cup Final 2006, Dr Diarmuid O’Malley (centre),  savors the moment with team mates Dr Colm McCarthy (left) and Dr Rory McQuillan.


2011. Mr Peter Cassidy presents the old Trophy to perennial Hospitals Cup winner, St Vincent’s Hospital captain, Dr Andrew Delany. Peter has been responsible for the success of the tournament in recent years.

Only in the Hospitals Cup…

“That was the most proprioceptively challenging pitch I’ve ever played on”

– Noel McEntaggart (St Vincent’s 2002), deadly serious after sustaining a minor ankle injury at Belfield.

In the future, we hope that participation in the Hospitals Cup will grow. It was great to have a competition for women’s teams in the four years between 2005 and 2008. Sadly, as soon as the girls qualified and earned enough to buy a car, we never saw them again! Hopefully, it is something that we can re-establish.

Over the years bona fide War heroes and many outstanding sportsmen have played for the ‘Hospitals Cup’. Most of us, of course, do not fall into either category but have contributed to an enduring tradition. The people I contacted while researching this piece were, to a man, delighted to recall their team-mates and the days representing their Hospitals.


Most Wins (16)

St Vincent’s Hospital

Most consecutive wins (6)

Dublin Dental Hospital

1963 – 1968

Four in a row

Dublin Dental Hospital

1987 – 1990

Three in a row

Richmond Hospital

1950 – 1952

The Mater Hospital

1973 – 1975

St Vincent’s Hospital

1976 – 1978

2002 – 2004

2009 – 2011

Biggest score-line (15:1)

The Mater v Baggot St. May 1970

Hospitals Cup: Home