Gerry Doyle

Gerry Doyle
Date Of Birth: Sep 16 1911
Place Of Birth: Dublin
Date Of Death: Dec 3 1990
Place Of Death: Dublin
Position: MAN
Nationality: IRE


For most of the thirty years before he died, Gerry Doyle and Shelbourne were synonymous. Through both the glory days and the bad days he was an almost ever-present. Having played with the club in the 1930s, he filled the roles of manager, FAI representative, chairman, president—and was the only one to fill all these roles.

Appointed manager during the 1956-57 season, replacing Eddie Gannon, he had previously coached Saint Finbarr’s Schoolboys teams, a nursery for the Reds, from where he had been sending a regular supply of players to the club.

Under a Chairman, Danny Trainor, who gave him his head he revitalised Shelbourne, the oldest professional club in Ireland. Rejecting the Shelbourne norm of cross-channel imports, usually greybeards, he built a powerful and popular squad in the early 1960s based almost exclusively on youth, most of whom had passed through his hands at Finbarrs.

The breakthrough came in 1959-60 with a runner-up spot in the League just two points adrift of Limerick—but for his very young team becoming bogged down in the winter mud it might have been better—and closing the season with victory in the FAI Cup, after defeating Cork Hibernians in the final. With the exception of Ollie Conroy, all members of the squad were under 23 and three of them—Tony Dunne, Eric Barber and Jackie Hennessy—had been members of the previous year’s winning FAI Youth Cup squad.

Twelve months later Shelbourne came close to another League-Cup Double, winning the League after a play-off against Cork Celtic, courtesy of a Ben Hannigan special, just a few days after losing in the FAI Cup final to arch-rivals Shamrock Rovers. A year later Doyle added a second FAI Cup win to his CV, again overcoming Cork Hibernians in the final.

His first stint as Shelbourne manager, lasting nine seasons, put the Reds firmly back at the forefront of the League of Ireland scene, with regular European fare against some of the continent’s leading clubs and some highly commendable performances. A crowd of 22,000 cheered the Reds off the field at the end of their 2-0 loss to Sporting Lisbon in the 1962-63 Champions Cup.

The following year there was another great performance against Barcelona in the Cup Winner’s cup and the 1964-65 season saw first round success in the Fairs Cup against Portuguese club Bellenenses, earning a high profile second round game with Atletico Madrid.

Before departing for Oriel Park at the end of the 1964-65 season he had also added a regular diet of trophies to his Cup and League successes including:- Top Four Cup Runner Up 1959-60 and win 1961-62; Dublin City Cup wins in 1962-63 and 1964-65; North South Cup Runner Up to Glenavon 1961-62; Leinster Cup win 1962-63.

A three-year contract, complete control of the playing staff and team selection without interference from any member of the Management Committee….that was the deal when he came to Dundalk for the 1965-66 year. But on a restricted budget—youth player Eoin Hand was the only new face on his first teamsheet—Gerry had an uphill task.

After an opening day Presidents Cup loss to Drogheda, there was an unbeaten home run to the end of November, but this merely disguised the reality and delayed the inevitable. A run of six successive losses terminated with angry after-match scenes following a loss to a 10-man Limerick team in late January.

With the scene complicated by a deteriorating financial position, by this time everybody was feeling the pressure and the upshot was the mid-season appointment of a liquidator, the arrival of a new Board with the promise of fresh capital and the sidelining of manager Doyle. He was gone by the opening of the new season with the arrival of Alan Fox.

While Dundalk were annexing the League Championship, Gerry was at Inchicore where he steered St Patrick’s Athletic to the FAI Cup final—his fourth last day Cup appearance and the first live TV-covered final. Pats went into the lead on two occasions but Cup specialists Rovers claimed their fourth-in-row title thanks to Billy Dixon’s 80th minute winner giving them a 3-2 winning verdict.

He afterwards returned to manage Shelbourne but by now the Reds were in serious decline and in the nine seasons from 1966 to 1974-75 they failed to achieve a single finish in the top half of the league, were last on two occasions and second last in the 1974-75 term. The sole success in this time was in the 1970-71 Shield, earning a place in the following year’s UEFA Cup and a commendable 2-1 aggregate loss against Vasas Budapest.

Gerry’s last chance for glory, in the FAI Cup in 1975, was thwarted by Home Farm’s win in the final, becoming the first amateur club in 40 years to bring home the Cup. Making way in the following season for Tommy Carroll in the dugout, he became a member of the Shel’s Board of Management, resigning in 1982 after the club had been taken over by Tony Byrne.

That however was not the last act in the Gerry Doyle-Shelbourne saga. He later returned as club chairman, when he and Ollie Byrne toiled together to restore the fortunes of their beloved Reds. Future chairman Tony Donnelly admitted that he was prompted to make the substantial financial commitment that ultimately saved the club “…by Ollie Byrne and Gerry Doyle, two sober and dedicated men”.

At the time of his death in 1990, in his 80th year and shortly after he had returned from Italia ’90, Gerry was club President and was completing a remarkable 55-year journey since he had first played with the club in 1935.

When he wasn’t involved with football he ran a hoover repair shop at Harold’s Cross in Dublin, and the business is still in the family, now run by Gerry’s son. The premises ‘so atmospherically’ featured in the Oscar-winning film Once (2006) was the setting for a ‘once seen never forgotten… most poignant of cinematic leave-takings’ (Irish Times).