The Shamrock Rovers four-in-a-row team of the 1980s was peerless; league champions from 1984 to 1987 with three FAI Cup wins resulting in a triple double for the Hoops.
Remarkably it was UCD who prevented the quadruple, as they caught this emerging Rovers side off guard, after a replay, to win the Cup in 1984.
Four years later and the team were arguably at its absolute peak, strolling to the 1986-87 title, beaten just once in 22 games and nine points to spare by season's end, in the era of two points for a win – it would equate to a 15-point gap in modern times.
Unstoppable on the pitch, the club turned out to be the author of its own downfall with the sale of Milltown, bringing down one of the greatest sides in League of Ireland history.
The next ten years would produce seven different title winners, with many of that famous Rovers side adding to their medals collections as they dispersed around the country, with the reborn Derry City one of the main beneficiaries, as manager Jim McLaughlin and five former Hoops helped the Candystripes to a historic treble in 1989.
Four-in-a-row stalwart Peter Eccles would return from Leicester to help the Hoops win the league again in 1994, but no team managed to win back-to-back titles until St Patrick’s Athletic secured their third title in four years in the late 1990s, coinciding with another spell of Dublin dominance, as the title only left the capital once in a ten-year spell.
But the wealth would be shared around Dublin’s three other teams with Rovers floundering about mid-table, the club changing hands and changing grounds almost as often as a change of sponsor or jersey.
That era led to one of the most memorable rivalries of recent times, as Shelbourne and St Pat’s dominated amidst a feud that was certainly stoked by Dave Campbell’s transfer between the sides after the Saints won the title under Brian Kerr in 1996 - the Pat's' player of the year awards got a bit lively when word got out of Campbell's imminent move from the banks of the Camac to the Tolka.
By the turn of the millennium, the fixture had become quite toxic as the fight was led from the sidelines with the infamous battles between chief executives Ollie Byrne of Shels and Pat Dolan and his Supersaints.
Bohemians then got in on the act as Glenn Crowe, Bobby Ryan and Colin Hawkins’s transfer to Shelbourne was announced under a headline 'Heroes to Zeroes’ on the club website, which added fuel to the fire of the oldest derby in Irish football, and the monotony of the title staying in Dublin was certainly softened by the potential for tension that was served up with every encounter.
Rivalries remained off the pitch, of course, as geography can dictate, and are not necessarily dependent on success on the pitch.
Rovers and Drums were the originals and their rivalry was legendary throughout the 1940s, 50s and 60s, before the north Dublin club faded away and former amateur outfit Bohemians filled the void off the pitch, while Waterford took over on it.
The County Louth rivalry between Dundalk and Drogheda has generally been a one-sided affair, until 2007 when the United Park outfit put together a league-winning side, while their Oriel Park equivalents were somewhat soul-searching.
Derry and Finn Harps can be lively, not forgetting El Clasico, which somehow became the label for the midlands meeting of Athlone Town and Longford. The two clubs share the colours of Milan’s AC and Inter, so surely, Derby della Madonnina would be more apt.
By the time Rovers had reached the promised land of Tallaght Stadium in 2009, their rivalry with Bohemians was the most intense in the land, both on and off the pitch, as the Gypsies won back-to-back titles in 2008 and 2009 and were just prevented from landing a three-in-a-row by Michael O’Neill’s Hoops in 2010, who would then repeat the feat in 2011.
Sligo Rovers then became the Hoops’ main rivals on the pitch, taking the title in 2012, while St Patrick’s Athletic got involved in 2013 to win their first league in 15 years.
Meanwhile, Dundalk were rising from the ashes and would become the first side since the Rovers team of the 1980s to really put themselves head and shoulders above the rest.
The three-in-a-row was achieved in 2016 and the Lilywhites looked odds-on to match the famous Hoops in 2017, but Cork City finally bridged the gap between the two teams to take the title after three consecutive second-placed finishes.
This great Dundalk side ended up with five titles in six years, and while they were well off the pace this season, they must still be spoken about in the present tense as they would argue that they have not yet relinquished their moniker of top team in the country, despite Rovers ending up with the invincible tag, having gone unbeaten throughout the season – a feat that neither Dundalk nor the great Rovers side of the 80s could complete.
Dundalk’s rivalry with Cork was always a lopsided affair, but to Cork’s credit, they were the only side to be in the same ballpark as Stephen Kenny’s side.
Sunday’s FAI Cup final sees a repeat of last season’s encounter as the country’s two top teams – Bohs might argue that point at the moment – come head-to-head.
A club in turmoil just a few short months ago, Dundalk are starting to look every bit of their old selves in recent games, aided in large amounts by facing top-quality European teams in the Europa League.
Rovers are assumed to have taken the baton from Dundalk and many see them as the best side in the country, yet one quick glance south shows that snatching the league title from Dundalk does not necessarily guarantee sustained success.
Cork City will play their games in 2021 in the First Division having fallen from grace since taking the title in 2017, and while the same fate is unlikely to be bestowed upon Dublin’s green and white, Stephen Bradley’s side will need to ensure that they do not suffer from second season syndrome.
Dundalk and Rovers only got to play twice in the league this year as a result of the coronavirus, and while there was very little between them in what has come to be known as the Jordan Flores game, it was Rovers who took the points.
And when the Hoops were closing in on the title and went to Oriel Park looking to assert themselves as best in land, the home side put out a reserve team due to European commitments - a 4-0 stroll for the Hoops was the result.
As mentioned, those European games have helped Dundalk rediscover their form this year, however, it remains to be seen if they have also hindered their chances of silverware as they take on Rovers in Sunday’s showpiece, sandwiched by Thursday night’s game in Norway, while Arsenal lie in wait on Thursday night.
Dundalk have dominated for the best part of the last decade, however, the overall health of the game has also come on, both on and off the pitch, at the top end of the table at least.
Three Europa Group stage qualifications since 2011, football academies thriving with clever mergers and partnerships, while underage national leagues have also added to the overall picture offering a pathway for players to stay at home.
The year ahead will see Rovers as the team to beat, while Dundalk’s business and recruitment policy will determine whether they match the Hoops, push back ahead or fall further towards the bunch.
Sunday’s Cup final should give a clearer view as to what to expect from the Lilywhites next season, and if Rovers show that the gap between the two sides really is widening, another period of Dublin dominance may lie in wait for the years ahead.