THE two main banking institutions Allied Irish Banks and Bank of Ireland played a huge role in the fabric of the Business League for the best part of over 25 years, through the late 1970s, '80s and '90s.
Not alone were both model members, consistently performing in the top division, but both successfully provided sponsorship for the league’s two prominent competitions, the main cup and the much-loved shield.
AIB was founded in 1961 and one of its founder members, Noel O’Keeffe, remembers the early years.
"We played in the Inter-House League under the name of Munster & Leinster Bank in ’63 before spending season 1965/66 in the Shipping League.
"We played our matches in various places such as Douglas by the stream, Blackpool, the old Ringmahon Park, Togher schoolboys’ pitch and Southern Park."
The club went on to fill the void in the resurgent 70s by re-joining in 1974/75 when the emphasis on new entrants turned towards the city centre region and away from the harbour area where most of the early members were concentrated.
A second division title win along with a Byrne Cup success in 1981/82 followed the club’s acquisition of the Greyhound Track on the Western Road.
Three seasons later the sponsorship of the cupin 1984/85 was pivotal in mounting a challenge to win ‘their’ trophy that season. A brace apiece from Pat Ryan and Pat Houlihan, the first players to so for the same team in a final, secured a stunning 4-0 win over OLH United in the final, at the Showgrounds on May 4.
The club reached a second cup final in 1990, losing after a replay to Liebert. Billy Mulcahy led the team back to the top flight in 1992/93 in an exciting team that features Pat O’Sullivan in goal, central defender Mick O’Driscoll, the industrious Liam Tobin and Kieran Ashcroft in the centre along with flying wingers Liam Shine and Leo Whelan.
The nucleus of that side went tantalizing close to winning the elusive double in 1994/95, losing only three matches in the league in a 16-match campaign to edge out rivals Postal Workers for the title.
The Banks lost out in a narrow one-nil cup final replay defeat to Postal Workers on Saturday, May 13, 1995 after an exciting 3-3 after extra-time at Turner’s Cross. AIB would go on to make amends by lifting the cup for a second time three seasons later following a 2-0 win over Smurfits at headquarters on Sunday, May 3, 1998.
While Bank of Ireland enjoyed only moderate success, by comparison in their tenure since joining in 1977/78, their various teams over the years contained some of the finest players to have played in the league. Danny O’Leary, Tom Purcell, Tomas Maher, Dave McDonnell, Joe Dillon, John Barry, John Vaughan, Dave Luttrell would be some who would spring to mind as having distinguished themselves.
The club came to the fore when winning the second division and snatching the cup from under the noses of ‘team of the '80s', Postal Workers in 1982/83. BOI knocked out fancied CIE Athletic 2-1 in the opening round on their own ground at The Farm on February 27.
The previous season’s beaten finalists Ridge Tools fell 5-2 in round two, with Aer Lingus going the same way in a 3-0 replay win in the quarter-final. Postal United narrowly lost out 1-0 in the semi-final before the Workers squared up for a winner takes all dual at The Farm on Saturday, May 14, Tomas Máher scored the only goal of the game with five minutes remaining to secure the winners' place in cup history and in the process deprive their opponents of the treble.
Like their rivals, AIB, Bank of Ireland were faced with work change practices that would end their association coincidentally at the end of the same season, 1998/99.
In the financial turmoil at the end of the Noughties in which banking institutions found themselves less popular than ever before, It’s fitting to recall that AIB and Bank of Ireland contributed handsomely at a time when sponsorship was in its infancy.
The association of both teams could well have saved the league from extinction, a fitting legacy!