Bohemians are a side with a rich history in the League of Ireland. Many legendary players have put on the famous black and red of The Gypsies since the club’s inception in 1890. Only one man has the honour of been known as The Great Man and that’s Jackie Jameson. Truly a player before his time Jameson stood out in the League of Ireland. Back during his playing days in the 70s and 80s the league was very no nonsense with everyone opting to go for a classic 4-4-2 formation with two butchers for centre backs battling it out with big front men. This wasn’t Jackie’s game he was much silkier and more skilful with excellent dribbling ability compared to many others in the league at the time. He wasn’t even an out and out striker preferring to play in what would now be known as the number 10 role in the modern game. Never gifted with natural pace but certainly gifted with natural ability Jameson was a nightmare for all defenders he came up against.
Spending most of his playing career in Dublin he was idolised by many in his day and is still a hero at Bohemians. So, let’s look at the career that gave Jackie Jameson legendary status and the title of The Great Man.
Born in Dublin on the 27th of March 1957 like a lot of kids in the capital football was the best way to past the day for a young Jackie Jameson. His natural gift for football was evident from an early age as he played his schoolboy football with two of the biggest teams at that level Cherry Orchard and Lourdes Celtic. It was at Lourdes where he would be noticed by Shamrock Rovers in 1975 aged 19. He would be offered the opportunity to play League of Ireland football with Rovers the same year thus starting his career as a footballer.
In 1975 he also made his senior debut for Shamrock Rovers in a league cup game where Jameson found himself on the score sheet hitting the ground running with his new club. It was a great start for him with the Hoops but ultimately it was a frustrating three years for Jameson. He really struggled for game time under then Rovers manager John Giles only making five league appearances and not scoring a single league goal. He wanted to go elsewhere and get regular playing time to really kick start his young career. He made a short and very uneventful loan move to Dundalk but got a permanent move away from Rovers to Dublin rivals St. Patricks Athletic.
It was during his three-year spell with St. Pats where Jameson began to really establish himself as a player in the League of Ireland. The peak of his career with the Saints was in the 1980 FAI Cup final against Waterford in Dalymount Park. Unfortunately for both player and club it would one of the many losing finals for St. Pats as Waterford won the game 1-0. His time in Inchicore came to an end in 1981 as then Bohemians manager Bill Young wanted to bring him across the city to his side. Overall, he made 68 league appearances for St. Patricks Athletic scoring 17 goals.
Jackie decided this was the right step up for him in his career becoming a Bohemians player for the 1981/82 season on a free transfer. He made his league debut on the 13th of September against Sligo Rovers. It was another scoring debut for Jameson who found himself on the score sheet with a fellow debutant and league legend in his own right Paul Doolin. He finished off his first season with a very respectable 11 league goals.
Jameson quickly got comfortable with Bohemians due to the great team spirt many have noted was at the club during this time. Many have speculated this been the reason why Jackie made Bohs his home for nine years. Even though he had the natural gift to accept one of the many offers he received to play abroad and become a more household name. He certainly could of went and won some sort of silverware in his career and earn caps at international level. In the opinion of many fans Jackie Jameson is probably the best League of Ireland player to never win any silverware or international caps especially during a time when players in the league got more chances at international level. He found a family at Bohemians and that was more important and even now he’s rightfully looked on as a Bohs legend rather than a constant runner up.
His first runners up medal for Bohs came in the 1982 FAI Cup final where they where beaten 1-0 by Limerick United in their own home of Dalymount Park. The following years Cup final also came with the same bad luck with Bohs once again been beaten in Dalymount Park this time against Sligo Rovers in a close 2-1 game in the 1983 final. It wasn’t all bad on a personal note for Jackie as he finished both seasons as Bohemians top goal scorer an achievement, he would go on to do during five of his nine seasons at the club.
While FAI Cup finals came for Jackie in his first two seasons league success never did. Bohs didn’t do to bad they finished in the top four during Jackie’s first two seasons but never mounted a decent title push. That all changed during the 1983/84 league campaign as they finished 2nd that season narrowly missing out on the top spot by six points against their rivals Shamrock Rovers. The following season was pretty much identical with Bohemians finishing 2nd just six points behind rivals Shamrock Rovers in the 1984/85 season. Again, Jackie finished both seasons as Bohs top goal scorer with 13 and 15 goals respectfully.
Despite finishing behind their bitter rivals these second-place finishes gave Jackie a chance to play European football. He made all six of his European appearances with Bohemians in the UEFA Cup. The first one was in 1984 against Rangers getting beaten 4-3 on aggregate in the first round with Jackie getting praised for his performances in both games of the tie. He caused real trouble for Rangers defenders like Ally Dawson and Dave McKinnon. A familiar name who scored an early goal for Rangers in the first leg in Dalymount Park was a young Ally McCoist. The following year Bohs got eliminated once again by a Scottish team in the first round getting beaten 7-4 on aggregate by Dundee United. Jameson grabbed his one and only European goal in the tie scoring in the second leg in a 2-2 draw in Scotland. That Dundee team went on to become runners up in the following years UEFA Cup. Jackie’s finally European adventure was much closer, but history was set to repeat itself. Once again Bohemians lost in the first round to a Scottish team narrowly losing out to Aberdeen 1-0 on aggregate in 1987.
Even though Jameson never had silverware to celebrate he had plenty of fantastic memories to look back on fondly. He certainly wasn’t unsuccessful by any stretch out the imagination even now the spirt of Jackie Jameson is celebrated much more than any piece of silverware. Like many good teams from this era they just happened to come along during the league domination of Shamrock Rovers during the mid-80s. During his time at Bohemians a side that Jackie Jameson was involved in never finished lower than 6th place with his goals going a long way to contribute to that.
Jackie Jameson made his final League of Ireland and Bohemians appearance on the 28th of January 1990 against UCD in a league game. He played 205 league games for Bohemians scoring an impressive 70 goals and 275 league games overall in his career with his total league goals coming to 87 upon his retirement.
While he never represented Ireland during his career Jackie did play for the League of Ireland XI once in 1984. However, he did represent Ireland at some level playing some qualifying games for the Olympics.
Even though Jackie Jameson was a big name in our League of Ireland world he went very under the radar when he hung up his boots. He was always a quite and private man off the pitch and in the time before social media if you wanted to stay low you could. Rumours always done the rounds that he played some amateur football for Newbridge Town, but no photographic evidence has ever confirmed this.
Jackie gave so much to the game and he struggled with retirement. Now it’s a bit easier with the PFAI having retirement pathways for players but back then unfortunately not. He gave so much to the game as I said but its only now, we understand that we as fans must give back to the players for all they gave us once they hang up their boots.
Tragically Jackie Jameson passed away on the 28th of October 2002 at the young age of 45. His memory lives on at Bohemians and within the entire league. Bohs have a function room named after him in Dalymount Park called the Jackie Jameson Bar. The fans also still sing his name in the stands until this day. Tributes still get paid over on the Jackie Jameson tribute page on Facebook to The Great Man a who was a hero to so many and a legend of the League of Ireland to all.