This week Shamrock Rovers play Liverpool in the Aviva Stadium. It's a nice money spinner for the Hoops but is it that interesting? Not compared to these friendlies, it isn't...
1) Cork City in the Shanghai International Football Invitational Tournament
In 1991 Cork City were pipped to the league title on the final day by Dundalk. That didn't stop the organisers of the Shanghai International tournament inviting them to represent Ireland in a tournament where they played Chinese Olympic Team and the full national team of Poland. Also involved in the tournament were Romania and Dutch club side Den Haag.
City were so happy to be representing Ireland that they commissioned an "Italia '90" style kit from sponsors Adidas with the crest and sponsors changed to their own from the FAI's.
Thanks to Razor for the itinerary and Mick Ring of Cork City for the jersey pic!
2) St Patrick's Athletic Tour of the Middle East 1989-1990
In 1989 a combined St Patrick's Athletic/Bohemians team made a trip to Libya to play a friendly against their top club side Al Alhi FC. As documented on the Voice from the Stands blog it received political condemnation. It must have given St Pats a taste for travelling as in May 1990, shortly after winning the league title, they traveled to Tunis to play the Tunisian national side. The game finished 0-0. Later that summer, the team set off to Tehran where they played 2 games, one against top club side Persepolis (losing 2-0) before playing, and drawing, with the Iranian National Team before a huge crowd.
In a strange con-incidence (or not...) with the Cork City tour, St Pats also wore a green kit for this game. In April 1991 Pats beat national team of Finland 2-0 in Dalymount Park, leaving them unbeaten in 3 games against full national teams.
3) All the US trips in the 1970s
In the 1970s plenty of League of Ireland clubs went on trips to USA. The craze may have been started by Shamrock Rovers competing as Boston Rovers in the United Soccer Association in 1967 but among those to travel to the States in the 70s included Athlone Town, Sligo Rovers, Finn Harps and Cork Hbernians. Athlone Town looked at it as a fundraiser and they played local teams only.
Other Clubs played a tougher schedule and among those that Finn Harps played were the famed New York Cosmos. Cork Hibs last ever friendly may have been against the Cleveland Cobras as they folded shortly after.
The main reason that programme cover is being shown is, of course, to showcase the awesome Cleveland Cobras logo.
4) Shamrock Rovers v Brazil
Okay, okay so this friendly didn't exactly feature a League of Ireland side but it's glamorous enough to be included. In 1973 the idea of a friendly to be played by an all-Ireland team was floated as a gesture of friendship at the height of the troubles. In the face of opposition from the IFA, FAI bigwig Louis Kilcoyne persuaded the players to play under the Shamrock Rovers name to avoid any political backlash. No Irish anthem was played at the game. The "Shamrock Rovers" team included the likes of Pat Jennings and Martin O'Neill from the North as well as Johnny Giles and Don Givens from the South. Brazil would win the game, played in Lansdowne Road, 4-3.
In recent times, Rovers have played Real Madrid in Tallaght Stadium, John Hume arranged for Barcelona to play Derry City in the Brandywell and Bohs were even invited to a tournament hosted by Sevilla but none of those are interesting enough for this list. Sligo Rovers playing host to the team that calls themselves the Barbados Defense Force SC probably is but that might be for another day