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Cork City fans at the Champions League tie in Turner's Cross.  Picture: Denis Minihane.
Cork City fans at the Champions League tie in Turner's Cross.  Picture: Denis Minihane.

Cork City fans savoured a special evening if they didn't get the Champions League result they deserved

THE Rebel Army live to fight another day in the UEFA Champions League, and there's going to be one hell of a crowd to try and push them over the line in Warsaw next week.

If only for Michał Kucharczyk’s glorious strike, curling into the top left-hand corner of the net, and underlining the type of quality contained in this Legia squad, the Rebel Army would have had achieved what no Irish side had done before, keep Legia scoreless.

That Dean Klafurić praised the home atmosphere - which unnerved his players and made giving instructions difficult - is a testament to the kind of rip-roaring crowd that got in early, and used every opportunity possible to unsettle their opponents.

Matched by the fantastic noise made from Legia fans that not only came from the Polish capital but indeed across the water and closer to home.

Legia Warsaw players celebrate with their supporters. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Legia Warsaw players celebrate with their supporters. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

However this was an evening for the city of Cork, but more importantly, Cork City the club. 

It's been 12 long, often turbulent years since the Champions League music last rang out, and in a resplendent Turner's Cross, under a baking Leeside sun, it couldn't have been a more fitting stage.

"Their lads came into our dressing room, to be fair to them, trying to swap jerseys. 

"And we had to say 'sorry lads can we do it next week?' and I'm not being smart because that's the level we're at (financially),” said City boss John Caulfield following the game, who surprised everyone by dropping both Graham Cummins and Kieran Sadlier in favour of Karl Sheppard and McNamee as the Leesiders looked to hold more possession.

It was a bit of a masterstroke, despite the cries of despair from some City games pre-game, as the Rebel Army were forced to move away from the long ball football that's characterized this season, and try and play in Sheppard trying to hit the channels.

How fantastic was it to see Damien Delaney dictating things from centre-back after a start which the former Crystal Palace captain admitted himself was nervous, as he proved why he has had the career he's had, while Sean McLoughlin alongside him showed that he's a likely candidate to follow in Delaney's footsteps.

The midfield trio of Buckley, McCormack and Morrissey were covering savage ground in between the lines, upsetting a settled Legia midfield of Krzysztof Mączyński and Michał Kucharczyk who have been the backbone of Legia's side which have won four Polish titles in the last five years.

Once they got into the City half they were choked of space, forced to play back to their back three, who - as City continued an extremely organised press - were making mistakes. One which should have resulted in McNamee putting the Leesiders ahead.

Cork City supporters including John Kennedy cheering on their side.Picture: Denis Minihane.
Cork City supporters including John Kennedy cheering on their side.
Picture: Denis Minihane.

The enormous crowd were undeterred, as all four stands - following the Shed’s prompt - rose to their feet and reduced Legia’s infamous visiting support to absolute silence.

We were in the gantry, providing commentary to a live stream for the club which supposedly had its issues. 

When you're stuck in the business of commentating on the game, you're completely out of the loop with how things are going, but apparently the sheer number of connections was simply too much for the club website to sustain - over 5,000 connected in the first minute - simply too much for a site that isn't built to deal with the enormous influx of Legia and exiled City fans alike.

However for myself and David Kent, when the stream did get back online to around 5k regular viewers, bringing this big slice of Cork City history to viewers around the world was a real privilege and something which we hope the club continue to pursue in the future.

It's now a case of planes, trains, and automobiles for the sizeable Rebel Army travelling party making the journey to the Polish capital next week.

They'll travel with jerseys, scarves, some zloty, and after this performance, a glimmer of hope.

A shock performance against Legia would pave the way for the most unlikely crack at the group stages of both the UEFA Champions League and potentially Europa League.

If they could do it, refusing their jerseys could be a thing of the past.