With the domestic transfer window well and truly underway, Pundit Arena continues its look back at some moves that sent shockwaves throughout the League of Ireland.
In this, the third of a four-part series, Niall Newberry tells the story of how a German World Cup legend was ‘tricked’ into playing a match for Cork Celtic and of a superstar who arrived at Shamrock Rovers with a very ambitious vision for the future.
Uwe Seeler to Cork Celtic, 1978
German forward Uwe Seeler played in four World Cups and was the first player ever to score in four separate finals, not to mention netting a whopping 404 Bundesliga goals in 474 appearances for Hamburg before retiring in 1972.
A one-club man in the true sense, how on earth did Seeler end up playing for struggling Cork Celtic six years after announcing his retirement in 1978? Read on and you’ll find that this truly is ‘the greatest league in the world’.
After hanging up his boots for good (or not) and being the superstar he was, Seeler had no trouble finding commercial work and was involved in a number of advertising deals, most notably with Adidas. He was due to arrive in Ireland as part of his work and Cork Celtic, who were struggling near the foot of the table, saw an opportunity.
The type of opportunity only a desperate and financially crippled Irish club could even dream to think about. Cork managed to get in contact with the 41-year-old Seeler and convinced him to play in what he believed to be a charity match, but what was in actual fact a league fixture against Shamrock Rovers.
He even brought his friend along, ex-Hamburg teammate Franz-Josef Hönig, who also togged out to help the cause. However, they couldn’t prevent Rovers from running riot and winning 6-2, though Seeler did show the crowd that he hadn’t lost much of his ability as he scored both of Cork’s goals that day, including a spectacular bicycle-kick.
Cork Celtic, who ended that season finishing a lowly 14th place, signed several ‘superstar’ footballers throughout the 1970s – George Best and Geoff Hurst to name but a few. One would have to question this method however, as the club dissolved just one year after Seeler’s cameo.
Johnny Giles to Shamrock Rovers, 1977
Johnny Giles needs little introduction to Irish football fans, the man is a living legend in every aspect, but just to be on the safe side…
The Dubliner started out at Manchester United via Stella Maris and was an FA Cup winner in 1963 before switching to Leeds United, where he was a stalwart in a side that won every domestic honour throughout the 1960s and ’70s.
Spells at West Bromwich Albion and stateside with Philadelphia Fury followed before Giles was appointed player-manager at Shamrock Rovers in 1977. By this time, he was still player-manager of the Republic of Ireland national team, so this was seen as quite the coup for the Milltown outfit.
Long before their days bickering in front of the RTÉ cameras, Giles signed up Eamon Dunphy, though he retired from playing after just one season in order to focus on his journalism career. Giles, on the other hand, had a vision – to make Shamrock Rovers the first full-time professional football club in Ireland.
It was an idea that Giles himself admitted was ahead of its time:
“It was way before its time, what I was trying to do was keep young players here,” he told Newstalk.
“I thought if we keep enough Irish players here, give them good facilities, full-time training, then we would progress, rather than lads going to England.”
Giles led the club to FAI Cup glory in his first season, but it turned out to be the only piece of silverware he would bring to Rovers before resigning from his post in 1983. The ambitious project had failed but Giles did take Irish soccer into previously uncharted territory.
- Transfers That Shook The LOI: Part One – Steve Archibald & Luther Blissett
- Transfers That Shook The LOI: Part Two – Gordon Banks & Efan Ekoku/Carlton Palmer
Niall Newberry, Pundit Arena