Mayo’s Joe Lindsay recalls the September 1987 day he lit up the home of Leeds United FC
By Damian Dolan
Sitting in front of his TV one evening in 1988 Joe Lindsay found himself the unlikely answer to a quiz question. The show was Cross County Quiz on RTE 1, hosted by Peter Murphy.
The question? ‘Who was the last Irishman to score a hat-trick at Elland?’.
Joe, of course, knew the answer, but so to, to his surprise, did the contestant.
“Ya man knew the answer!” laughs Joe. How many would now, as Joe’s Elland Road hat-trick versus Dublin on 27 September 1987 remains the last by an Irishman at the home of Leeds United FC.
Indeed, his three goals that day put him in very select company indeed. Only three Irishman, while wearing the famous white of Leeds, can lay claim to having scored a hat-trick at Elland Road.
Eugene O’Doherty (in 1920), Harry Duggan and Jack Kelly. The latter two both scored their hat-tricks in 1935. Select company indeed.
Records are less comprehensive when it comes to opposing team players bagging a hat-trick at Elland Road, but what is irrefutable is that no opposition player has achieved the feat since 1967. Prior to that, it’s harder to say.
“There was maybe one good goal, and then the others were opportunist,” says Joe, who lives in Belmullet.
“I was more of a goalscorer than a points scorer – once I got inside, I’d always go for the goal.
“I remember rounding my man near the left-hand touchline and coming in along the end-line. The ‘keeper came out and I skidded it inside the left-hand post.”
Joe adds: “I remember the excitement of playing on the famous Elland Road pitch, and our families being at the game.
“You don’t realise at the time, but when you look back now it was a bit of history. We were lucky to get the chance to play Gaelic at Elland Road.”
An accomplished soccer player in his youth, perhaps it was those old soccer instincts that Elland Road brought out.
He’d already played Minor for Mayo when he was invited to train with Celtic in 1980 on the back of impressing for Connacht Youths in an interprovincial tournament in Terryland Park in Galway.
He remembers training with the likes of Paul McStay, Danny and Willie Cranie, David Moyes, Mike Conroy, Tommy Doyle and an emerging Packie Bonner.
He also once came up against Paul McGrath in an All Ireland Oscar Trainor Cup final – Joe lining out at centre forward and Paul at centre back.
As the fates would have it, Elland Road in ‘87 was John O’Mahony’s first game in charge of Mayo.
Four years earlier he’d guided a Mayo Under 21 team, which included Joe, to All Ireland success. As a player, O’Mahony had enjoyed All Ireland Under 21 success of his own with Mayo in 1974.
After the first game with Derry in ’83 ended in a draw in Carrick-on-Shannon, the replay was fixed for Irvinestown in Fermanagh. The first time an All Ireland final was held in the Six Counties.
Mayo won 1-8 to 1-5. Padraig Brogan scored 0-3 with Sean Maher getting the goal. Six of that ’83 team would go on to start the 1989 All Ireland senior final against Cork.
“I had great respect for John O’Mahony – he was a very good man-manager. He was a great fella, and a great football man,” says Joe, who’d enjoyed a brief dalliance with Mayo’s seniors in 1981 under Mick Burke.
“I remember playing in a league game above in Dublin, we were well beaten. I remember going for goal in front of Hill 16 and I think it landed in the Valley Stands!,” he recalls.
He resurfaced during Liam O’Neill’s tenure in the 1985/86 league campaign.
He was a member of the travelling party for Mayo’s Connacht Championship trip to Ruislip in ’86.
“We were supposed to fly out of Knock Airport to Stanstead, but the fog descended, and it covered the airport, so we ended up being bussed to Limerick and we flew from Shannon,” he says.
It clearly didn’t do them any harm, as they romped to a 3-14 to 0-4 win over the Exiles.
But Mayo were then beaten by Roscommon in the semi-finals at MacHale Park, with Joe making an appearance off the bench.
Defeat 12 months later to Galway in the Connacht final at MacHale Park was one to “erase from the memory” he says. Thrown into the fray for the final minutes, he found himself deployed at right half back.
Elland Road offered a first opportunity to link up again with O’Mahony, and he remembers the sense of excitement amongst the players in the build-up.
“We had a great time; we were given a tour of Elland Road and taken into the trophy room – they really looked after us,” he said.
“We’d only seen Elland Road on TV, so to play there was lovely. To see the Gaelic posts up on the pitch was strange though, when you think of all the great soccer players that played there. It was unique.”
For Joe, Leeds was very much a family affair; his four brothers all came to watch – two (Packie and Francis) were living in Cambridge and the other two (Gerry and Seamus) in Shropshire.
“The pitch was that little bit shorter, maybe 30 yards, but it was high scoring and people really seemed to enjoy it,” he said.
“We then had a great reception in the Leeds Irish Centre afterwards and it was absolutely chocker-block. It was wedged.”
Elland Road was not to be the start of something, though. Despite beating Roscommon to win Connacht, Meath ended Mayo’s All Ireland hopes in the semi-finals (0-16 to 2-5).
“Meath were the All Ireland champions and we maybe lacked a little bit of experience, and a little bit of confidence going to Croke Park,” he said.
“We didn’t get to Croke Park often enough to be confident enough.
“That was a good Meath team; Bernard Flynn, Brian Stafford, Liam Harnan, Gerry McEntee, Mick Lyons and Robbie O’Malley, but we offered them too much respect.
“It was only when we were well behind with ten minutes left that we threw caution to the wind. Maybe if we’d done it sooner we could have won.”
He reflects: “It’s very hard to beat the habit of winning. If we’d won one All Ireland, we could have won five.
“It’s hard to break the hoodoo and when you go a few points down negative thoughts can come in. Sometimes we went to Croke Park hoping we were going to win.”
Joe returned to Elland Road with Mayo in October 1988 – Galway the opponents this time – but that would prove to be his last game for Mayo, as other priorities took over.
It meant he missed the ’89 All Ireland final with Cork, although the year did bring him a Mayo senior championship title with Kiltane. He had no regrets though.
“I enjoyed my time playing football and I never valuated my enjoyment in terms of medals – I made great friends and winning is a bonus. There’s more to sport and the GAA than winning,” he says.
Joe Lindsay: the last Irishman to score a hat-trick at Elland Road.