The ball was present at one of the most famous fixtures in Shamrock Rovers’ history. In October 1957, the then League of Ireland champions were drawn against the star-studded English league champions in the European Cup — the first time a League of Ireland side played in the competition. United easily won the first leg at Milltown 6-0, but Rovers played brilliantly at Old Trafford, narrowly going down 3-2.
Now Dublin auction house Whyte’s has listed a football for sale from that second leg, signed by Matt Busby, Bobby Charlton, Duncan Edwards and all the United squad, including Dubliner Liam Whelan, who was among the 23 who lost their lives in the Munich air crash a few months later.
Stuart Purcell of Whyte’s confirmed the football had been put up for auction by a descendant of a Rovers player who played in the match. In response, Shamrock Rovers last night launched a ‘Give us our ball back’ campaign, aimed at retrieving it for the Shamrock Rovers Heritage Trust collection.
Mark Lynch, Rovers Marketing Director, says the Trust would love to add the ball to its collection of memorabilia, which already includes a silver salver presented by United directors on the night of the game.
The club insisted it wasn’t staking a claim for the ball, rather hoping a benefactor might secure it for them.
Lynch also suggested the Trust may consider bidding at auction.
The football should be of significant interest to Manchester United collectors too and is expected to fetch between €6,000 and €8,000 when it sells on December 13-14.
While Rovers are under the impression the ball was presented to the club by United, the owner, who prefers to remain anonymous, insists this is a different ball their enterprising father had signed by the Manchester United team on the night.
Either way, Rovers would like it.
“If it comes into the possession of the club, it will certainly never be sold again,” said Lynch.
The memorabilia auction also features the oldest existing Irish international rugby jersey, worn by William Grant Byron in 1899, when Ireland won a second ever Triple Crown. It is expected to fetch €25,000-€30,000.