Last Wednesday marked the 50th anniversary of Shelbourne’s debut in European competition. On 19 September, 1962, under Gerry Doyle,a Reds side featuring such club legends as Eric Barber, Freddie Strahan, Ben Hannigan and Joey Wilson took on Portuguese giants, Sporting Lisbon (Sporting Clube de Portugal) in a European Cup Preliminary Round First leg tie here in Dublin. The game was played at Dalymount Park, in front a big crowd with the away side eventually running out 2-0 winners.
The away leg the following week in Lisbon saw the Irish champions bow out of Europe at the first hurdle. A 5-1 defeat on the night saw the Reds exit on a 7-1 aggregate scoreline, with the one silver lining of Jackie Hennessy having the honour of getting Shels off the mark in European goalscoring stakes. It was to be another 30 years before the Reds were back in Europe’s premier club competition. Sporting would go on to win the 1963/64 European Cup Winners’ Cup.
The 1960s were a halcyon period for Shels in Europe as the Reds went toe-to- toe against such heavyweights as Barcelona, Atlético Madrid and another Lisbon-based side, Belenenses. The latter were the Reds first every scalp in Europe, a 2-1 playoff victory over the Portuguese outfit in the 1964/65 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup setting Shelbourne up with a glamour tie against Atlético.
Exciting times. Lets hope we don’t have to wait too long before the next European chapter in our illustrious history is written.