Cumann Peile Dhroichead Átha Aontaithe / Drogheda United Football Club
- City: Drogheda, County Louth / Droichead Átha, Contae Lú
- Founded: 1919
- Ground: United Park (3,500)
- Nicknames: The Drogs; Claret and Blue Army; Super Drogs; United; DUFC
- Colours: Claret shirts with sky blue sleeves, claret shorts and socks with sky blue trim.
- 2023 League: League of Ireland Premier Division
- Club Website: https://droghedaunited.ie/
- Club Twitter: @DroghedaUnited
- Best League Finish: 1st in the LoI Premier Division (2007)
- Best FAI Cup Finish: Winners (2005)
- League of Ireland Premier Division
- Champions (1): 2007
- League of Ireland First Division
- Champions (5): 1988–89, 1990–91, 1998–99, 2001–02, 2020
- FAI Cup
- Winners (1): 2005
- League of Ireland Cup
- Winners (2): 1983–84, 2012
- Setanta Sports Cup
- Winners (2): 2006, 2007
- League of Ireland First Division Shield
- Winners (1): 1990-91
Drogheda United Football Club / Cumann Peile Dhroichead Átha Aontaithe is an Irish semi-professional and supporter-owned football team currently playing in the League of Ireland Premier Division, the top tier in the Republic of Irish football pyramid. They have been crowned as Irish champions on one single occasion in 2007, as well as being runners-up two other times, whilst also being FAI Cup champions in 2005, and League of Ireland Cup winners twice. The Drogs come from the industrial and port town of Drogheda / Droichead Átha, Ireland’s eleventh-biggest settlement (with a population of 41k), located on the River Boyne on Ireland’s east coast and 56 km (35 mi) north of the Irish capital of Dublin. Drogheda United currently play their home games at the 3,500-capacity, 1,500-seater United Park (known by the sponsored name of ‘Head In The Game Park‘) which has been the club’s home since the ground opened in the summer of 1979. The ground is situated north of the River Boyne in the northern outskirts of the town, sandwiched between the town’s main hospital and O’Raghallaighs GAA club.
The foundations of the current club are relatively modern having been created following a merger between two local sides Drogheda United and Drogheda FC in 1975. The former club was the older club, having been founded as early as 1919, but spent all of its history in the Irish non-league system, whilst the latter club was founded in 1962 and elected into the League of Ireland when the league expanded to twelve teams. Drogheda FC’s best league finish was a fifth-place placement in the 1967-68 season, and also reached the 1971 FAI Cup final but lost to Limerick 0-3 in a replay. However, the majority of the latter club’s time in the LoI was often finishing in the bottom half of the league, before the merger helped improved the performances of the unified Drogheda club. They would reach another FAI Cup final in their first season as Drogheda United, but again lost in the final through a single goal to Bohemians, but would confirm the benefit of the merger by finishing in third position for three consecutive seasons between 1976-77 and 1978-79.
The start of the 1980s would see some successful moments for the Drogs as they achieved their highest league finish of second place in the 1982-83 season, albeit finishing sixteen points behind champions Athlone Town, but crucially qualifying for the following season’s UEFA Cup. Alas, their debut in European competition would be brief as they were heavily defeated by the eventual winners Tottenham Hotspur 0-14 on aggregate. Nonetheless, their season would see success by experiencing their first piece of silverware when they won the League of Ireland Cup by beating Athlone Town 3-1 in the final. Unfortunately for the club, the remainder of the decade, and continuing throughout the 1990s, saw the club become a yo-yo club as they bounced between the Premier Division and the First Division (created in the 1984-85 season) and win three First Division championships during their undulating period.
It wouldn’t be until the 2000s that Drogheda United experienced further success following the decision to become a full-time club to be able to compete with the big Dublin-based clubs. They finally won their first FAI Cup in 2005, by beating Cork City 2-0 in the final and then won back-to-back Setanta Sports Cups in both 2006 and 2007. However, their crowning glory came in the same season as their second Setanta Sports Cup victory when they finally became Irish champions for the first (and to date, only) time by finishing seven points clear of runners-up St Patrick’s Athletic. Drogheda also experienced a modicum of success in European competitions by reaching the second qualifying round of both the 2006-07 and 2007-08 UEFA Cup, famously beating HJK Helsinki 4-2 on aggregate before losing to Norwegian club IK Start on penalties in the later season. They also reached the same stage in their only appearance in the UEFA Champions League qualifying rounds, by beating Estonian champions Levadia Tallinn 3-1 on aggregate and then giving Ukrainian powerhouses Dynamo Kyiv a huge scare but ultimately losing 3-4 over two legs. Sadly, by the end of the decade, Drogheda United experienced huge financial problems that almost saw the club have to fold but revert back to a part-time club to continue its existence.
The vast majority of the 2010s saw the club often battle with relegation from the Premier Division, although 2012 was arguably their best season as a part-time club when they finished as runners-up in the 2012 Premier Division (ending up four points behind champions Sligo Rovers) and won their second League of Ireland Cup when they beat Shamrock Rovers 3-1. 2013 could have been a potentially better year but ultimately proved their most agonising as they lost in the finals of the FAI Cup, League of Ireland Cup, and Setanta Sports Cup in the same season. Sadly, their tenure in the top flight finally came to an end in 2015 after finishing bottom of the table, and they subsequently competed in the second tier for four of the next five seasons, with the club earning promotion in 2016 via the playoffs but returning back to the second tier the following season when they finished bottom of the 2017 Premier Division table. Drogheda United then returned back to the top flight once again after winning the 2020 LoI First Division title, and the upcoming 2023 season will be their third consecutive season back in the Premier Division, with last season’s finish of eighth position confirming their berth in the top tier for another year.
To talk about a side that has been Irish champions once and will be competing in the LoI Premier Division for the 2023 season, we spoke to the excellent Dave Carabini from the Peilcast Podcast. Dave is a Dublin-based Drogheda United supporter who is one-third of the regular hosts for the Irish football podcast Peilcast, an English-language pod that talks about all the things that have happened in the League of Ireland, with the Irish national teams, and Irish football in general. To listen to Dave and the rest of the Peilcast crew, as well as find his social media channels, they can be found at the links below:
- Dave’s Twitter: @carabini_10
- Peilcast’s Twitter: @thepeilcast
- Peilcast Podcast Link: https://anchor.fm/thepeilcast/
Q. Firstly, how did you decide to start following and supporting Drogheda United?
Well, I grew up between two homes and at the weekends I was always in my dad’s house. We lived in a small coastal town called Skerries and it’s about 15 miles from Drogheda. When I was about 14/15, myself and my friends wanted to start going to League of Ireland games, and the choices we had were between Drogheda United and Shelbourne due to having to use public transport to get there, so we chose the Drogs for convenience, and I’ve never looked back really.
Q. Who would you say is Drogheda’s best player, and coach/manager of all time, and the reasonings behind the choices?
The obvious choice is forward Declan ‘Fabio‘ O’Brien for the player. He’s the club’s all-time top scorer [scoring 118 goals in 289 games] and captained us to a league title and an FAI Cup win back in the mid-naughties as well as being the only player to win every senior trophy in Irish football.
As for the manager? Paul Doolin managed us in our most successful period from 2003-2008 leading us to the aforementioned league and cup victories as well as being just centimetres away from a 3rd round UEFA Champions League qualifier in 2008, but I’ll always have a soft spot for Mick Cooke and what he achieved on a shoestring budget from 2011-2014.
Q. Of the current squad, who would you say is the best player at the club and why?
Darragh Markey [25-year-old attacking midfielder] all ends up, this guy is incredible! He’s just a pure joy to watch. As our former chairman said, he’s worth the entrance fee alone. He just seems to glide across the pitch. The famous quote “he wouldn’t leave footprints in the snow” is fitting for Darragh!
Q. Who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent at the club?
We’ve got a fantastic academy at Drogheda, as you can see from some of the lads coming through. There are some quality players there like 20-year-old Evan Weir at left-back, 19-year-old Stevan Stanic-Floody on the wings, and Dylan Molloy at right-back who all excite me, but the most exciting talent we have had got to be defender Emre Topçu. He’s 17 years old but when he’s on the pitch he looks like a player in his mid-20s, he doesn’t look out of place! I can’t wait to see more of him and the others in 2023.
Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ for the club in both the past and present squads?
I think picking a cult hero is a tough one really! In the past we’ve had some fantastic players at the club, recently the likes of Jimmy Brown [24-year-old right-back] who’s now at Blackburn Rovers, Dan O’Reilly [27-year-old centre-back] who’s at Hamilton Academical in Scotland, and Killian Phillips [20-year-old midfielder] who’s on loan at Shrewsbury Town from Crystal Palace, then you’ve got your Mick Daly [right-back who played for the club in two spells, in the 2010 season initially and then from 2013 to 2015], Philly Hand [left midfielder who played for Drogheda between 2011 and 2013], and Chris Lyons [29-year-old forward who played for the Drogs between 2018 and 2022 before moving to Bray Wanderers for the 2023 season] too. A current player that everyone loves right now is our captain Gary Deegan [35-year-old midfielder], he was our player of the season in 2022 and I don’t think there’s a more suitable man to lead us into the New Year.
Q. Who would you regard as Drogheda’s biggest or historical rivals?
Dundalk will always be our biggest rival. There are only twenty teams in the League of Ireland and when you spread them across the country, five are based in Dublin, and two in Louth, with Drogheda and Dundalk being the two Louth teams. I think the rivalry is only really rivalled in Ireland by Bohemian and Shamrock Rovers for the intensity between the two clubs and the sets of fans. Nothing beats a derby day win!
Q. Looking at the club’s history, what would you say has been the best game, result, or performance in your opinion?
I think historically, the big one we’d have to say is beating Estonian side Levadia Tallinn in the 2008/09 UEFA Champions League qualifiers [winning 3-1 on aggregate]. It was played about 12 months before I started going to games but to win a Champions League tie isn’t something we see often for Irish clubs.
In more recent years, in the 2014 season we beat Dundalk 4-1 in the derby, and last year we won both home games against Dundalk 1-0. They were both incredible nights!
Q. How would you describe the current performance or state of the club? How do you think this past season has gone?
I’m forever an optimist when looking at the Drogs. We’re working on a minuscule budget compared to the other teams in the top flight in Ireland and are one of few part-time clubs in the league which is a huge challenge. Going into the New Year, we’re a team happy to stay safe and be competitive as much as possible. 2022 was a good year for Drogheda United and I’m confident that 2023 will be much the same.
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the club?
The best is the atmosphere at games and the bond between the players and fans, win lose or draw we always have that togetherness and backing for the players! I remember last year we were 3-0 down at half-time against Sligo Rovers and our supporters didn’t stop singing or backing the players.
The worst is probably the fact we can never do anything the easy way! We always seem to scrape wins 1-0 or 2-1. I think one of these days the club is gonna kill me!
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of Drogheda United?
I think after seeing the club get relegated twice, in 2015 and 2017, and witnessing us lose three cup finals in three months in 2013 [losing the FAI Cup 2-3 to Sligo Rovers, the League of Ireland Cup 0-2 to Shamrock Rovers, and the Setanta Sports Cup 1-7 to Rovers], I’d love to see us win a trophy or even reach a cup final in the next few years, but only once the club is sustainable, I’m happy to be patient. Those great days will return to the club, I’m sure of it!
A massive thank you to Dave for answering our questions on the League of Ireland Premier Division side Drogheda United. Remember you can find their social media accounts, and the excellent Peilcast podcast in the links towards the top of the blogpage.
If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at email@example.com or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.