For many years a keen debate carried on over whether Shamrock Rovers Football Club was formed in 1899 or 1901. Most of the evidence pointed to 1901. Thanks to modern technology it has been established that the earliest known mention of the club is 1899. Research continues into the subject in an effort to establish just exactly when the club was born. What is known for sure though is that Shamrock Rovers were founded in Ringsend; the name of the club was taken from Shamrock Avenue where the committee had a facility for staging their meetings. The first honours came to the club (then playing in stripes) in 1904/05 when they won the County Dublin League and the Leinster Junior Cup. The Leinster Junior League title and Cup were won the following year but the club’s ascendency in the ranks of football was perhaps too fast and they were forced to withdraw from the Leinster Senior League before the 1906/07 season began.

The club had a second coming in 1914 when they won the Leinster Junior League and the IFA Junior Cup. They successfully completed the 1915/16 season in the Leinster Senior League but again withdrew from football at the end of that season.


After two short periods in existence it was to be third time lucky for Shamrock Rovers as the club reformed and joined the Leinster Junior League in 1920/21. They were to never look back after that. Having spent just one year in the Junior League an unexpected development afforded Rovers a quick promotion to the Leinster Senior League. The infamous split between North and South saw the formation of the Football Association of Ireland and the League of Ireland. Not being a senior club Rovers would not have been in a position to apply for the new league but it wasn’t to be long before they were to take their place at the top table of Irish football.

The Ringsend club waltzed through the 1921/22 season, winning the Leinster Senior League and eliminating more senior opposition including the more established Bohemians to get to the FAI Cup final. They failed at the final hurdle when they lost out to St. James’s Gate in a replay of the final but with the whole of Dublin having woken up to Shamrock Rovers the club was considered to be a sure bet to gain membership of the League of Ireland for the 1922/23 season.

The committee decided to make the application and on 17th August, 1922 it was confirmed they had been successful. With little time to organise for what would be their biggest challenge so far one of the first problems that had to be overcome was to find a home ground. The opportunity came up to rent land on Milltown Road, County Dublin, and while this may have seemed quite a journey away for their followers they really had no other option. Within a year the land passed ownership from Mary Anne O’Neill to the Jesuit Society and so began an association between tenant and landlord that was to last until 1987.

The committee decided to make the application and on 17th August, 1922 it was confirmed they had been successful. With little time to organise for what would be their biggest challenge so far one of the first problems that had to be overcome was to find a home ground. The opportunity came up to rent land on Milltown Road, County Dublin, and while this may have seemed quite a journey away for their followers they really had no other option. Within a year the land passed ownership from Mary Anne O’Neill to the Jesuit Society and so began an association between tenant and landlord that was to last until 1987.

With that first historic and successful season out of the way matters began to settle down a little. The loss of John Joe Flood and Bob Fullam to Leeds United weakened the team but the return of the duo for the 1924/25 season was to see more history being made as Rovers went on to win not just their second league title but also the FAI Cup, League of Ireland Shield and Leinster Senior Cup. This was the season that the famous ‘Four F’s’ came together in the forward line. Bob Fullam, Billy ‘Juicy’ Farrell, John Joe Flood and John ‘Kruger’ Fagan were the players who made up the quartet. Rovers went through the entire league campaign having gained the honour of not suffering a single defeat.

The club had outgrown their Milltown ground and major changes became necessary. Thankfully, they didn’t have to leave the site on Milltown Road that had become home. They moved to a piece of land beside the pitch they had been playing on and the development of what was to become known as Glenmalure Park begun. The first game at the new ground was played against new league members Dundalk on 11th September, 1926 with the official opening featuring a friendly against Belfast Celtic taking place on 19th September. The game against Dundalk resulted in a 3-3 draw.

Another significant piece of history occurred on 8th January, 1927 when the team appeared wearing hoops for the first time. The stripes had been officially been discarded forever. The occasion was a first round game against Bray Unknowns and while the new gear no doubt looked impressive the result didn’t go the way of the Milltown club with Unknowns winning the game 3-0.

1928/29 was to be significant both on and off the pitch. Bob Fullam returned to Milltown once again following a spell playing soccer in the United States. Facilities at Milltown were further enhanced with the opening of the main stand and the ground began to take the look of a real football stadium about it. The first ever meeting between Rovers and Bohs in the FAI Cup final took place on 18th March when the teams met in a scoreless draw at Dalymount Park. The Hoops won the replay at Shelbourne Park and while they certainly didn’t know it then this was to be the start of a great run of FAI Cup successes.


The league title continued to evade Shamrock Rovers but further success in the FAI Cup came in both the 1929/30 and 1930/31 seasons as the Hoops broke their own record. A memorable game from 1930/31 was the league opener at Milltown when Rovers beat Jacobs 7-0. David ‘Babby’ Byrne got four that day but also amongst the scorers was one Paddy Moore who was to earn himself the honour of being known as one of the most skilful players ever to have graced the League of Ireland. 1931/32 was to be a particularly memorable season. The former Sheffield United player Vincent Matthews was to captain the Hoops to a league, Cup and Shield treble. Another significant signing that season was goalkeeper Mick McCarthy. The FAI Cup was won for a fifth time in 1933 – a record that only the Hoops themselves have to date broken.

The mid 1930s proved to be a bleak period for Shamrock Rovers by the standards the club had set themselves. The FAI Cup was won in 1936 when Rovers beat Cork in the final. The departure of the long serving William ‘Sacky’ Glen was to see the final link with that great team of the 1920s finally come to an end. Off the pitch there were major changes at the Milltown club as the Cunningham family took control of the club. Joe Cunningham and his wife Mary Jane were to go on and rule the roost at boardroom level for almost four decades.

A new era on the pitch was to begin towards the end of the decade. The Cunninghams pulled off a major coup in enticing Jimmy Dunne to return to Milltown. Dunne had been a fringe player on the first team when he left the club in 1925 to join New Brighton. He went on to become one of the best forwards in the English League playing in the colours of Sheffield United, Arsenal and Southampton. Dunne was also an Ireland international. He was appointed as player/coach by Shamrock Rovers and his influence had an instant effect. Under Dunne’s guidance the club won back to back league titles in 1937/38 and 1938/39. The Shield and the Leinster Senior Cup were also won in 1937/38 but there was to be less success in bringing the FAI Cup back to Milltown.


The club went close to winning a record third league title in a row in 1939/40 but had to settle for the runners-up spot. There was to be success in the FAI Cup after the Hoops beat Sligo Rovers at Dalymount Park before a new record attendance and record gate receipts. Jimmy Dunne had become an almost cult like figure amongst football followers in the capital and his continued influence at Milltown was to see the crowds flock back to the venue once more. The outbreak of War in Europe was to impose hardship on the country but war time crowds in the League saw venues packed to capacity all over the country. Glenmalure Park was no different and the Hoops’ fans were to be rewarded with the arrival, in February 1942, of the highly-rated Paddy Coad. This skilful performer had made a name for himself in the forward line at his native Waterford but a dispute between Waterford and the League of Ireland resulted in the southern club being expelled from the league. The Cunninghams managed to pull off yet another of their by now famous coups in getting Coad to agree to sign for Rovers. It was to be a marriage made in heaven.

Sadly, Jimmy Dunne saw the need to leave Rovers at the end of the 1941/42 season. Bob Fullam took over the reins as coach. Dunne was to return though in 1947. There was nothing in the way of league success for the Hoops throughout the 1940s but they did enjoy more success in the other competitions, most notably the FAI Cup which they won in 1944, 1945 and 1948. The 1944 final was a repeat of 1925 when the Hoops beat Ringsend rivals Shelbourne. The following year saw an all-time FAI Cup record attendance of 41,238 when Rovers beat Bohs 1-0 in what turned out to be a game that failed to live up to expectations. The Cup was won for the third time in the decade in 1948 when Rovers beat yet another Dublin club, Drumcondra, in the final.

The All-Ireland Inter City Cup, played between clubs north and south, was the brainchild of Rovers’ chairman Joe Cunningham and proved to be rewarding for the Milltown club as they brought the trophy to Glenmalure Park three times. Jimmy Dunne saw the need to rebuild the team from scratch and began a process of bringing some of the best young players to Milltown. He knew it would take time to build the team but sadly he was never to see the fruits of the work that he began as he passed away suddenly on 14th November, 1949. Although he didn’t see it himself, Paddy Coad was considered to be the natural successor to Dunne and only accepted the role after a lot of persuasion by the Cunninghams.


Terracing was completed around Glenmalure Park with other improvements also taking place at the Milltown venue. On the pitch things were moving along slowly though. A ‘C’ team was inaugurated by Rovers and it was through this that some very fine young players were to graduate within a short time. The first team began to gel and in 1953/54 the league title was won for the first time in fifteen years. The team was so young that the much-respected soccer writer W.P. Murphy of the Irish Independent gave them the nickname ‘Coad’s Colts’.

This team were to go on and almost dominate the League of Ireland throughout the 1950s. Grounds all over the country were packed to capacity whenever they visited. They were undoubtedly the team to beat. The league title was won again in 1956/57 and 1958/59. The club had not won the FAI Cup since 1948 but that was to change in 1955 when the Hoops beat city rivals Drumcondra to claim their 12th title. They were back at Dalymount Park again the following year and when it looked like they had no chance, losing 2-0 to Cork Athletic with just thirteen minutes to go, they produced one of their famous comebacks to win the final 3-2!

Shamrock Rovers created yet another piece of Irish football history in 1957 when they became the first club from Ireland to participate in European competition. They couldn’t have asked for a greater baptism of fire when they were drawn with Matt Busby’s young Manchester United team. United won the first leg in Dublin 6-0 as superior fitness told in the second half but the Hoops gave United the game of their life at Old Trafford eventually going down 3-2 on the night. Jimmy ‘Maxi’ McCann scored Rovers’ first on the night and the first goal scored for a League of Ireland club in European competition.

The late Billy Lord, who was associated with Shamrock Rovers for most of his senior life as a trainer and physio, in recalling his time with the club stated: “O’Callaghan, Burke, Mackey, Nolan, Keogh, Hennessy, McCann, Hamilton, Coad, Ambrose, Peyton, Tuohy – in my opinion these twelve men are very likely the best team (ever)”.

In 1959/60 Rovers made their second venture into European competition when they hosted crack French side OGC Nice. They lost the away tie 3-2 and had a great chance to claim a major scalp in the second leg at home but could only manage a 1-1 draw, thanks mainly to the brilliant form of Nice ‘keeper Lamia on the night.


The team of the 1950s began to break up as the decade came to a close and the famous era of the ‘Coad’s Colts’ had come to an end. Paddy Coad himself left Milltown and returned to his native Waterford as coach. Shamrock Rovers appointed Sean Thomas as manager and the process of putting together a crop of new young players began. Rovers were invited to take part in a major tournament in the United States at the end of the 1960/61 season. Soon after they returned to Ireland they announced they had signed promising youngsters Frank O’Neill (Arsenal) and Johnny Fullam (Preston NE).

Rovers’ arch rivals from Ringsend, Shelbourne, won the league in 1961/62 but were denied the double when they were beaten 4-1 by the Hoops in the FAI Cup final before a crowd of 32,000 at Dalymount Park. The 1963/64 league campaign began with a 2-1 win away to Bohemians. A narrow defeat away to Dundalk on 6th January denied the team the opportunity to emulate the feat of the 1924/25 team who went through their league campaign undefeated. The league was won in 1963/64 though but it would be another twenty years before the Hoops would achieve the honour again.

The decade of the 1960s will always be remembered for Shamrock Rovers and the FAI Cup. The Hoops beat their own record of the 1930s when they won six FAI Cup titles in a row from 1964 to 1969. Having also won the Cup in 1962 they might have even made it eight in a row had they not been knocked out at the semi-final stage by Shelbourne in 1963. European football was a major feature for the Hoops throughout the 1960s as the Hoops hosted top sides Valencia, Rapid Vienna, Real Zaragoza and Bayern Munich amongst others. Having drawn 1-1 in the home leg against Bayern Munich in the second leg of the 1966 Cup Winners Cup competition, Rovers came agonisingly close to knocking the crack German side out in the away leg but conceded a late controversial goal to deny them the honour. The star-studded Munich side went on to win the competition that year.


The 1970s proved to be a frustrating time for Hoops fans. The decade began brightly though and the club came close to winning the league title in 1970/71. They tied with Cork Hibs at the top of the table but lost the play off 3-1. It was the end of an era in 1972 when the Cunningham family sold their interest to the relatively unknown Kilcoyne brothers. Crowds in the League of Ireland dwindled to alarming proportions at this time. The Kilcoynes appeared uninterested in investing in Shamrock Rovers. The club was to struggle for most of the decade and Glenmalure Park had fallen into a sad and sorry state.

European football, an annual attraction for Shamrock Rovers, had been absent for much of the decade but the club did go on a prestigious tour of Japan during 1975.

The fortunes of the club went from one extreme to another as the Kilcoynes switched track and made the bold and brave decision to appoint the former Man United, Leeds and West Brom midfielder Johnny Giles to the position of player/manager. Giles immediately set about restoring Rovers as a force bringing in experienced players from England such as Ray Treacy, Eamonn Dunphy and Paddy Mulligan. He introduced an Irish version of the YTS scheme in England with the club benefiting immediately from this. Players such as Alan Campbell, Liam Buckley and Richie Bayly graduated from the scheme quickly to the first team.

Glenmalure Park was given a facelift. The Hoops beat Sligo Rovers 1-0 in the FAI Cup final in 1978 and qualified for European competition for the first time in eight years. Rovers were drawn against Cypriot side Apoel Nicosia in the first round of the Cup Winners Cup. The home leg of the tie represented a piece of history as it was the first European game hosted by Shamrock Rovers at the Milltown ground.

Even though fortunes at Shamrock Rovers had improved immensely under Giles league success continued to evade the club as the decade came to an end. Giles’ double role as manager of the Republic of Ireland saw the names of several Hoops’ players appear in the international squad. Something that only a couple of years previously seemed would never happen again.


The Hoops came close to capturing the league title in 1981/82 but were eventually pipped to the honour by Dundalk who were managed by Jim McLaughlin. Rovers did beat Dundalk in the final of the Leinster Senior Cup in 1982 but apart from that and the FAI Cup won in 1978 Giles did not enjoy the success he had hoped for. Noel Campbell took over for a brief period after Giles departed. During the summer of 1983 it was announced that Jim McLaughlin had been appointed as manager of Shamrock Rovers. McLaughlin had proven to be the most successful manager in the League in modern times and his Midas touch was soon to bring handsome rewards at Milltown. The league was won in 1983/84, the first time in twenty years the honour had been achieved. McLaughlin stayed for two more seasons and oversaw the double doube with the club winning both league and FAI Cup in 1984/85 and 1985/86. Dermot Keely, who had played under McLaughlin at Rovers, took the reign for the 1986/87 season and carried on where McLaughlin had left off with the Hoops winning the league and FAI Cup for a third season in succession. Overall, Rovers had won the league title four times in a row, the first time any club had managed to do this in the history of the League of Ireland.

The club’s followers were naturally on cloud nine as the Hoops seemed almost unbeatable but serious trouble off the pitch was brewing. In April, 1987, it was learned that the Kilcoynes had entered into a secret deal with Home Farm F.C. to move Shamrock Rovers to Tolka Park. The Kilcoynes planned to shut down Glenmalure Park and sell it off for property development. Despite the uproar and fierce opposition they proceeded with their plan and the Hoops transferred over to the Drumcondra venue for the 1987/88 season. The fans boycotted all home games and the Kilcoynes were forced to sell out completely. Shamrock Rovers was bought by club patron John McNamara who agreed a deal with the fans to take Rovers out of Tolka Park and support the efforts to save Glenmalure Park.

Under the new ownership the club moved to Dalymount Park for the next two years. Former player Noel King was appointed manager. King had very little time to cobble a team together for the 1988/89 season but at least the fans began to come through the turnstiles again for home games and matters began to look up for Rovers once more.


Shamrock Rovers were involved in a much-publicised move back to the Southside when the club took up residence at the RDS on 30th September, 1990. The traditional show jumping arena had not been used as a soccer venue previously and the move was a progressive one. This enabled McNamara and the board to re-launch the club on the pitch as well. It looked like the good old days were back again when the Hoops qualified for the FAI Cup in 1991 but a late winner for Galway United saw the trophy go west instead.

The team got off to a good start to the 1991/92 season but it soon stalled and the patience of the fans wore thin to the extent that Noel King was sacked as manager. Former Hoop Ray Treacy took over the reins but initially matters got worse and a relegation dogfight in 1992/93 saw Rovers narrowly avoid the drop to the First Division. Treacy made a clean sweep during the off season and strengthened the squad considerably. The return to the fold of goalkeeper Alan O’Neill was particularly welcomed by the fans. 1993/94 turned out to be a memorable one as the Premier Division title was won. This was Rovers’ first league success since the fateful 1986/87 season at Milltown.

Success didn’t last long though as the club wasn’t prepared to overspend to match that of some of their rivals. Key players including top goalscorer Stephen Geoghegan were lost and Rovers’ challenge to retain the title fell away. Attendances at the RDS dwindled considerably and the cost of staying at the venue became prohibitive. McNamara sold out his interest in early 1996 and it was learned in April of that year that Shamrock Rovers would depart from the RDS. Agreement was reached between the new owners and Shelbourne for the use of Tolka Park. Plans for a move to a brand new purpose built stadium in Tallaght were unveiled in December 1996. With the full backing of South Dublin County Council It wasn’t envisaged there would be any snags.

Pat Byrne and then Mick Byrne looked after team affairs during this period but without heavy investment in the squad the club didn’t make any progress on the pitch. While attendances at Tolka Park were encouraging the fact that Rovers were a Southside club meant that the move into the proposed new stadium wouldn’t come quick enough. Much worse was to come though.


The consortium that had taken over the club in 1996 had all but gone as progress on the stadium stalled. Rovers were in deep trouble but avid fan, patron and businessman Joe Colwell stepped in with a rescue deal. Colwell took the brave decision to hire Morton Stadium in Santry for home games but it wasn’t ideal and with games having to be played on Sunday afternoons attendances slumped. The club called time on the arrangement after just two seasons. Former player Damien Richardson was appointed as manager and matters on the pitch took a turn for the better.

Success continued to evade the Hoops though. Their best chance to win a trophy came in the truncated 2002 season when they got to the FAI Cup final against Derry City. Although they had plenty of opportunities during the game the Hoops failed to find the net and lost 1-0.

There was a major development off the pitch with the formation of the 400 club. Trustees were soon elected to the club as the fans took control away from the football club. The role of the 400 club in shaping the future of Shamrock Rovers would become more influential in the times ahead. In April 2005 Shamrock Rovers went into examinership with debts totalling several million euro. Thankfully the process that went through the High Court took only a couple of months with the 400 Club taking complete control at the end of it all. Not only had the future of the club been secured but it was now in the hands of the fans. Matters on the pitch took a serious turn for the worse at the end of the 2005 season when the Hoops lost a two-legged play-off with Dublin City F.C. and were relegated to the First Division.

Pat Scully replaced Roddy Collins as manager for the 2006 season and under his stewardship the Hoops won the First Division title and promotion back to the Premier Division. Scully remained at the helm for three years and was replaced in 2009 by Michael O’Neill. With full government backing and with the High Court having dismissed efforts by the GAA to prevent the use of Tallaght Stadium as a mainly soccer facility the way was clear for the completion of the stadium. On 13th March, 2009 Shamrock Rovers welcomed Sligo Rovers to Tallaght for the very first game to be played at the stadium. The Hoops won 2-1 thanks to goals from Gary Twigg and Dessie Baker. Sligo’s Gavin Peers wrote himself into the history books by scoring the first opposition goal at the stadium.


The Hoops flourished during Michael O’Neill’s tenure. The Premier Division title was won in 2010 but the opportunity to clinch the double was thwarted by Sligo Rovers who beat the Hoops in the FAI Cup final at the Aviva Stadium following a dramatic penalty-shoot out. The title was won again the following season in 2011 in what proved to be one of the most historic years ever in the history of Shamrock Rovers. Having qualified for the qualifying rounds of the Champions League the Hoops earned themselves a play-off for qualification to the UEFA Europa League following their elimination from the CL. They went to Belgrade and recorded a dramatic away win to knock Partizan Belgrade out of Europe. Shamrock Rovers became the first club from Ireland to earn themselves a place in the group stages of the Europa League.

Michael O’Neill departed at the end of the 2011 season to take up a full time position as manager of the Northern Ireland international team. 2012 and the seasons that followed proved to be most disappointing for the club but a new way of doing things was introduced into the club. Rovers decided to invest in their youth structures and in April 2016 the club members agreed to sell a half interest to board member Ray Wilson who offered an upfront loan to fund an ambitious plan that included the building of an all-weather pitch and other related facilities at the Roadstone club. As Rovers awaited the beginning of the 2016 season such were the changes at administrative and playing level a surge in interest by the fans followed providing renewed optimism that a return to the top would be on the cards.