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Pioneer spirit

Twenty years to the day since Cliftonville and Bohemians last contested the Pioneer Cup, re-visits a popular feature from a few months ago examining more than a century of clashes between the Clubs.

The Reds won both the first and last of 44 fixtures that traversed Irish League, Irish Cup, City Cup, Inter-City Cup, Victory Cup, Pioneer Cup and friendly commitments between 1900 and 1999.

After lifting the Irish Cup with a 2-1 victory over Bohemians in 1900, Cliftonville’s relationship with The Gypsies would continue across 19 years of League action and also included a further Irish Cup success when goals from Thompson and McComb earned another 2-1 win when the 1909 Final went to a replay following a goalless draw at Celtic Park.

The Bohs’ final League outing at Solitude was notable for Cliftonville sporting pale blue jerseys and white shorts in a 2-0 win on September 27, 1919, with the Clubs’ last ever League exchange coming when the Reds were defeated 1-0 at Dalymount Park in November of the same year.

From 1925 onwards, the sides would contest occasional friendlies before Cliftonville were beaten in two-legged Inter-City Cup encounters in 1942 and 1945.

Also in 1945, the Clubs celebrated the end of the Second World War by contesting the Victory Cup when, following a 3-3 draw in Dublin, Bohemians triumphed 9-8 on corner kicks and, though further Inter-City and Victory Cup defeats would be inflicted three years later, Cliftonville enjoyed a corner kick win of their own when Solitude hosted another 3-3 draw in May of 1953.

That particular game would prove the last of just three Victory Cup ties, with the contests thereafter effectively morphing into the Pioneer Cup – a regular friendly challenge between the Amateur stalwarts of Ireland’s two main cities.

The Reds lifted the inaugural trophy (main image) courtesy of a solitary Bruce Shiells strike on May 1, 1954 and, little more than a fortnight on, the first match between the teams outside of Ireland saw Bohemians win 2-1 in a friendly on the Isle of Man.

From then on, the sides met exclusively in the Pioneer Cup up until 1969, however a further decade would pass until the Tyler Cup drew the Clubs’ paths together again; John Platt’s hat-trick and a single strike from Peter McCusker earning Cliftonville’s recently-crowned Irish Cup history-makers a 4-2 success at Solitude.

Platt was on target again when the Reds claimed another Tyler Cup win over the Bohs in 1980, since when the sides have met nine times – all in the Pioneer Cup.

Gary Higgins’ double in a May 1981 encounter at Dalymount Park saw Cliftonville win the trophy for the first time since 1967, with successive penalty shoot-out triumphs extending the Reds’ grasp on the silverware until 1984, when the Bohs were 4-1 victors on penalties.

Indeed, the contest went to spot-kicks for a fourth consecutive year when the Dubliners again emerged on top on 1985 before Cliftonville’s 2-0 win at Solitude in 1987 provided brief respite ahead of Bohemians enjoying another shoot-out success two years later.

The Bohs retained the trophy in 1991 but eight further years would pass until the next – and, to date, final – Pioneer Cup game saw Reds captain Mickey Donnelly score the only goal of an otherwise forgettable battle in Belfast 20 years ago today.

History of the Victory Cup
August 20, 1945: Bohemians 3-3 Cliftonville (Williams, Carroll, O’Neill) [Bohemians win 9-8 on corners]
November 6, 1948: Bohemians 2-1 Cliftonville (McCallan)
May 4, 1953: Cliftonville 3-3 Bohemians (Bell x2, McGarry) [Cliftonville win 5-3 on corners]

History of the Pioneer Cup
May 1, 1954: Cliftonville 1-0 Bohemians (Shiells)
April 23, 1955: Cliftonville 0-1 Bohemians
May 5, 1956: Cliftonville 3-2 Bohemians (Murray, McKeague, Forsythe)
May 17, 1958: Bohemians 0-1 Cliftonville (Adams)
May 16, 1959: Cliftonville 1-2 Bohemians (Beattie)
May 13, 1967: Bohemians 0-0 Cliftonville [Cliftonville win on penalties]
April 25, 1968: Cliftonville 0-0 Bohemians [Bohemians win 3-1 on penalties]
April 16, 1969: Bohemians 3-1 Cliftonville (Peacock)
May 4, 1981: Bohemians 0-2 Cliftonville (Higgins x2)
August 14, 1982: Cliftonville 0-0 Bohemians [Cliftonville win 3-1 on penalties]
August 13, 1983: Bohemians 2-2 Cliftonville (Higgins, Holden) [Cliftonville win 3-1 on penalties]
August 11, 1984: Cliftonville 2-2 Bohemians (McAlinden, Higgins) [Bohemans win 4-1 on penalties]
August 10, 1985: Bohemians 1-1 Cliftonville (McCusker) [Bohemians win 4-3 on penalties]
August 8, 1987: Cliftonville 2-0 Bohemians (McCusker, Higgins)
August 5, 1989: Bohemians 1-1 Cliftonville (Murray) [Bohemians win 4-3 on penalties]
August 10, 1991: Cliftonville 0-1 Bohemians
July 30, 1999: Cliftonville 1-0 Bohemians (Donnelly)