By Sean Creedon
Fifty years ago this month former Dublin footballer Eamonn Breslin made history when he scored a goal with his head at Croke Park in a National Football League game against Laois.
Twenty minutes into Dublin’s home game against Laois at Croke Park on November 1, 1964, Dublin’s Brian McDonald dribbled the ball past three Laois defenders and passed to Jackie Gilroy.
Gilroy, father of former Dublin football manager Pat Gilroy, didn’t try to pick the ball up, but instead chipped it across the goal where it was headed to the net by Dublin’s left half-forward Eamonn Breslin.
Eamonn, who had never played competitive soccer in his native Ballyfermot, instinctively headed the ball as it came to him and it flew past Laois goalkeeper Tommy Miller into the net at the Canal End. It was the only goal of the game as Dublin won on a score of 1-11 to 0-10 in front of a crowd of 8,027.
Apparently a few years earlier a player had ‘scored’ with his head in a football game played in Cork, but it was disallowed for ‘dangerous play’. Breslin’s header was the first goal to be allowed.
Fifty years on Eamonn’s memory of the incident is the silence that greeted the goal. He said: “It was just a spur of the moment thing, the ball came across at the right height and I just headed it past a surprised goalkeeper. Instead of cheering, the crowd waited a few seconds before the umpire and referee agreed that the goal was legal.
“There was a lot of soccer played in Ballyfermot when I was young, but I never really played for any team. One of my brothers played for a local team called Bromley, but I never joined any soccer club,” added Eamonn. Eamonn’s goal was the main topic of discussion in the sports pages of the daily and evening papers over the following weeks and he was named ‘Sports Star of the Week’ in the “Irish Press”.
At a time when the GAA’s ban on ‘foreign games’ was still in force, the controversy raged for months and there was talk of submitting a motion to GAA Congress calling for a ban on scoring with the head, but it never happened.
It was unusual for a Ballyfermot lad to get on the Dublin senior team. Eamonn played for Ballyfermot Gaels, who were not a senior club, so it was a big achievement for Breslin to wear the light blue of The Dubs.
However, his inter-county career was short lived and Eamonn switched to rugby shortly after scoring his famous goal, joining the Monkstown club.
Having served his time as a bricklayer, Eamonn soon realised that selling cars was much easier work than working outdoors in bad weather. He worked as a salesman with Smithfield Motors for many years and finished with Fort Motors in South Dublin in 2006.
It was a spectacular goal by Breslin and credit must also go to referee Seamus Aldridge, who made the decision to allow the score fifty years ago. Aldridge was a useful player with the Round Towers club in Kildare. He took up refereeing in 1963 and was quickly promoted to inter-county level. Seamus was only 28 when he made the decision to allow Breslin’s goal.
Seamus said: “There was no rule against it and there still isn’t as far as I am aware. To me it was just like the ball going in off a player’s hand or foot. But the ban (on soccer and rugby) was still in force back then and naturally it was a controversial score. It was quickly forgotten by me, but I know it still comes up in quizzes.” Aldridge went on to become one of the top referees in the country and give a lifetime of service to Kildare and Leinster.