John Joe Flood was a hero for Shamrock Rovers – and Ireland

We talk about the great eras and the men who played their part in shaping history. At Shamrock Rovers we have no shortage of such heroes. On an individual and personal basis it must be a great sense of satisfaction and pride for a player and those close to him when he achieves something that can be truly be described as being great.

On this day, 20th April 1929, John Joe Flood, one of the famous ‘Four F’s’ scored a hat-trick in the international game against Belgium at Dalymount Park. Flood had previously made his debut for the Free State national team in 1926 when he, along with others, made history by lining out for what was the very first senior international game for the FAI. This game, played on 21st March that year, was against Italy in Turin. In 1924 the Free State did participate at the Paris Olympics but because of politics and the difficulties that remained after the split with the Irish Football Association they played in Paris under the name of the Ireland Olympic team. That is the reason why many observers refer to the game against Italy as being the first international; indeed, it was the first to be played under the name of the Free State F.A.

John Joe Flood was a key figure on the Shamrock Rovers team that won the league championship in the club’s very first season as members of the League of Ireland. He departed for one season to Shelbourne before returning to Milltown but within another short period, he was off again, this time to Leeds United after the English midlands club came calling for him. That stint lasted just one year and with the return of Bob Fullam, who had also been playing in England with Fulham, John Joe again returned to Rovers for the 1924/25 season. There cannot be any doubt, and it was referred to by football correspondents at the time, that the return of this duo to Milltown played a huge part in the club capturing a historic league, FAI Cup and Shield treble in impressive style that season.

That was the season the ‘Four F’s’ came to prominence with Flood and Fullam taking their place in the forward line along with Billy ‘Juicy’ Farrell and John ‘Kruger’ Fagan (more popularly known amongst his peers as Jack).

Possibly as a result of his form throughout that history-making season Flood again got the opportunity to play for a cross-channel club. Having signed for Palace in May 1926 Flood made 39 appearances and scored 5 goals during his stint with the London club. In 1928 he returned to Milltown once again, this time to wear the hoops and not the stripes as had been the design on the jersey before his departure, and remained until the end of the 1933/34 season before finally finishing his career after a year at fellow Ringsend club Reds United. In addition to winning 3 league titles with Rovers, in 1922/23, 1924/25 and 1931/32, Flood also won FAI Cup honours with the club for each of the famous ‘Five-in-a-Row’ years as well as the 1925 final when he scored Rovers’ second goal in the first Ringsend derby final against Shelbourne, a game that was won 2-1 by Rovers.

On the international front, John Joe made 5 appearances in total for Ireland. He also gained 8 inter league caps, the first appearance being against the Welsh League on 14th March 1925. As mentioned, Flood netted a hat-trick against Belgium in the game on 20th April 1929. The Free State team might very well have taken their opponents for granted. Getting the rundown on opposing sides at that time was a very difficult task, especially where an overseas or international team was concerned. The word the Ireland camp had been given in the run-up to the Belgium game at Dalymount Park was that their opponents weren’t very good. They were described as being “hustlers and bustlers”. There was a surprise in store though as the Belgiums turned out to be quite skilful and disciplined. In fact, they were probably too disciplined for their own good and it was probably the visitors who underestimated the Free State side.

The home side found themselves on the back foot for much of the game and Tom Farquharson in goal certainly earned his money, especially in the first half when the Belgiums were well on top. It was the Free State though who took the lead when Flood showed determination and no little skill in executing the first of his three goals. Ireland led 1-0 at the break and although they expected an onslaught from the visitors right from the resumption of the second half it didn’t come. David ‘Babby’ Byrne (then with Shelbourne) made it 2-0 to the Irish with Charlie Dowdall setting up Flood for his second and Ireland’s third. The Free State were now in control as Belgium collapsed and Jimmy Bermingham (Bohemians) laid the ball on for Flood for the Rovers’ man to complete his history-making hat-trick.

Afterwards, at a banquet staged at the Metropolitan Hotel, a representative of the Belgium F.A. praised the Free State team and described them as a “splendid, sporting team.”

Born and reared in Ringsend, John Joe Flood grew up in the area in which the Shamrock Rovers club itself was to grow. The family home was located on Irishtown Road at the time he was born. As a member of the team that won the Leinster Senior League and got to the first ever FAI Cup final played in 1922, he had well established himself with the club by the time Rovers entered the League of Ireland in 1922/23.

On the day Flood scored his three goals against Belgium the Free State team was captained by his Shamrock Rovers’ teammate John Burke. Also on that team were Jim Maguire and William ‘Sacky’ Glen, both also Rovers players. Flood himself captained his country when Ireland travelled to play Spain on 26th April 1931. Shamrock Rovers players have captained the Irish national team on a total of 31 occasions, the last being Paddy Mulligan against Belgium in October 1979.

John Joe Flood achieved a lot in his career for him to have been proud of. He passed away on 3rd July 1982 at the age of 85.