It’s been a while since we had a league game, and I’m still keen to carry on the series of former players who appeared for both us, and the upcoming opposition.
For Doncaster Rovers, I could have picked many, many players. I’ll let you into a secret – my main method of selecting a player is to search my own A-Z for the opposition team, and pick one people haven’t spoken about much in recent years. I only got to ‘D’ before finding the perfect player for this week’s article: Sean Dunphy.
When Dunphy first signed, his capture was thought to be a bit of a coup. He rose through the youth team ranks at Barnsley, before penning a full time deal. He played six times for them in the Second Division (now the Championship) in 1989/90, and when Allan Clarke took over at City, Dunphy followed him. |We’d basically signed a 20-year-old defender with second-tier experience, and even today it might be the sort of signing that fits ‘the model’.
Sadly, Dunphy’s Lincoln career was blighted with injury; he was stretchered off without kicking a ball in anger in the league. It was in a Yorkshire and Humberside Cup game against Leeds United when disaster struck; City lost 4-0, but more importantly, we lost Dunphy. He’d impressed in a game in the same competition against Hull City days earlier, looking sharp and committed.
Oddly, a programme piece just a few weeks later claimed Dunphy had been seen on his bike in the Lincoln area, and was set for a swift return. After a five-week lay-off, he did return, appearing for the reserves against Stockport County. That lasted just 20 minutes, before he was carried off again. This time, there was no biking around Lincoln; it was serious stuff.
He wasn’t seen in a City shirt until April 1992. I didn’t know this until now, but he made his Lincoln debut the day my Grandad passed away; April 11th, in a 1-0 victory against Maidstone United. He kept his place for the final five games of the season, and had the enviable record of having played six, won wix by the time the season ended. He even bagged a goal in his second appearance as we won 5-1 away at Chesterfield.
He got the bulk of his football in 1992-1993. That was the pre-season we thrashed then-Premier League side Middlesbrough 5-1; Dunphy scored in that game as well. all looked rosy, and he didn’t have a bad campaign playing 37 times in all competitions. He struggled with injury; he missed the opening two matches, and then most of January and February, but when he played, he put in a decent shift. He got another goal as well, the only one of the game as we won 1-0 at Scarborough in November. City finished eighth, level on points with Bury who made the play-offs, but outside on goal difference after losing 2-1 at the Bank in our penultimate home game.
Steve Thompson left the club in the summer and whilst new boss Keith Alexander did keep Dunphy in for a short while, his days were numbered. He started five of our opening six fixtures, but after defeats at home against Chester (3-0), Preston (2-0) and one on the road at Mansfield (1-0) Keith transfer-listed most of the squad and dropped a number of players; Dunphy included. He moved to Belle Vue, and made a single appearance for them against Bury on 16 October 1993.
He got back into the side towards the end of the season, playing eight times, but it was a struggle for the Imps; they won one of eight and struggled for form. When the 1994-1995 season started, Dunphy was loaned out again, this time to Scarborough. He didn’t feature for the Imps again, and by February 1995 he was in non-league football with Kettering. He later played for Gainsborough and Halifax, before finding a home with Stocksbridge Park Steels, for whom he appeared 130-odd times before the turn of the century.
I always liked Dunphy; we used to call him the brick shithouse at school (we weren’t at school with him, that’s how my friends and I referred to him) because he was well built during the second half of his Imps career. I can’t help but think that had he not been injured so early into his Imps spell, he could have gone on to have a far better career than he did; that’s not to say he didn’t have a decent career, but that 20-year-old that penned an Imps deal was certainly packed with promise, promise shattered by a near two-year absence from the game.