Leeds divide the loyalties of Shels’ chairman Joe Casey
Casey says he was torn last year as to what he wanted for his two clubs
Lamine Fakho of Leeds and Thomas Morgan of Shels in action during the Dublin Tournament at Tolka Park in 2003. Photograph: Kieran Clancy/Inpho
There is the odd diehard out there who gives Joe Casey a slightly tough time on occasion over his devotion to Leeds United but most people who follow football, he says, understand the way these things work. Still, the extent to which his loyalties are divided can come as a bit of a shock.
The Shelbourne chairman spent a very great deal of his own money keeping the Dublin club afloat from the tail-end of the Ollie Byrne years until Andrew Doyle took over and yet he is stumped by the question of whose promotion would have meant more to him last season.
Shels made it back to the Premier Division of the Airtricity League but Leeds missed out on a return to the English top flight after losing out to Derby in the play-off semi-finals and that was a blow, admits Casey.
“I was in tears in the stand if I am being very honest with you,” says the Dubliner, who has been a season ticket holder at Elland Road for 20 years or so and who reckons he makes it over to 12-14 games per season.
“I’m turning 60 this year and I was wondering whether I’ll every see them back in the Premier League,” he says. “I was thinking back to my childhood because it is ingrained into you.
“People ask me whether I would have liked to see Leeds promoted or Shels promoted last year and it was a difficult one,” he continues before drifting off slightly into what appears to be silent contemplation of the question.
“I wanted to see both of them promoted,” seems to be the best he can do.
Casey adopted the Leeds cause after watching them lose the 1970 FA Cup final to Chelsea, deciding that he preferred to side with the underdogs; a slightly curious way, he acknowledges, to have viewed Johnny Giles, Norman Hunter and co.
His stepfather had brought him regularly to see Shamrock Rovers at Milltown before that but then took him over to Goodison Park to see Leeds play at Everton.
“There’s a scene in Fever Pitch (the film of Nick Hornby’s book about growing up an Arsenal fan) that reminds me of myself that day; it’s the first match you go to and you are walking up the steps and this expanse and sound just opens up. That still stays with me to this day; me as an 11- or 12-year-old child walking up into a stadium. It just lives with you ’til the end of your life.”
It would be Byrne’s ability to arrange lucrative friendlies for Shelbourne through connections at Leeds that ended up prompting his cross-city defection back at home.
“I was probably going to Rovers more than Shels but I kind of developed a bit of a grá for Shelbourne around that stage and Ollie built the new stand and was looking for sponsors. I met him one day and the rest,” he says with a knowing laugh, “is history.”