FIFTY years ago the Munster Senior League travelled to Wales to play the Swansea SL at Landore.
The match was organised with the help of Swansea resident, Cork-born Jackie O’Driscoll, who played with Cork City, Waterford, Cork United, and Swansea.
Jackie was transferred in 1948 for a substantial fee. He later married and settled in Swansea after he retired from football. He was holder of three League and FAI Cup medals with United and one of the few to represent Ireland, north and south, at International level, receiving three caps for each Association.
A little blemish on his brilliant career was being sent off along with Owen Madden while playing for Waterford against Cork Utd in the 1941 FAI Cup final.
That season the MSL welcomed three new entrants, Shearsville, Everton, and Wembley who were represented in the squad by Tony O’Sullivan, Peter Browne, Paddy Long (youth international), and Mick Riordan (Arsenal triallist).
The experience was provided by former Cork Hibs stars, John ‘Bootsy’ Lynch, Brendan Draper, Pat Goggin, Eddie Gosnell, Tony Kenneally, and Liam McSweeney, who was in his second season back after breaking his leg against Leicester.
Charlie O’Mahony, the vastly experienced former Cork Celtic star, was player-manager. The official travelling party included management committee members Freddie Hickey, Donie Forde, Jimmy Murphy, Jack McCarthy, and Johnny Riordan.
The Cork party travelled over on the Innisfallen on Friday and played the Welsh at 10.45am the following morning so that both teams could watch the FA Cup final between Chelsea and Leeds on TV. Munster were slow starters and went a goal down early in the game. Ah, well, maybe they were sea sick or hungover. They soon regained their composure and eventually took the lead with the help of two penalties netted by player manager O’Mahony. Draper made sure of victory when heading a brilliant third.
MSL team: Tony O’Sullivan (Shearsville), Pat Corkery (Crofton), Charlie O’Mahony (Cobh), Mick O’Riordan (Wembley), John Lynch (Glasheen), Paddy Long (Wembley), Peter Browne (Everton), Pat Goggin (Tramore), Brendan Draper (Blackrock), Liam McSweeney (Crofton), Eddie Gosnell (Ringmahon).
Subs: John Murray (Alberts) for O’Sullivan, Tony Kenneally (Crofton) for O’Riordan, Paul McCarthy (Ringmahon) for Goggin.
Recalling the occasion, Pat Goggin said: “Even though it all began with a hiccup — someone forgot to book our bunks on the boat — we had a brilliant weekend. A few of us sat around on chairs all-night and to pass away the hours we had a good craic with some drinks and tall tales. We berthed around 4.30am and after arriving at our hotel at 5.30am tried to snatch 40 winks on armchairs before heading for the early morning kick-off.
“I don’t know where we got the energy from but we played very well and deserved to win. Later we settled down to watch the FA Cup final on TV in colour which was a big deal as it was still only black and white back home.
“More drink and a sweepstake on first goal scorer in the cup final added to the enjoyment.
Now, without asking ‘Mr Google’, how many remember who scored the first goal at Wembley that day?”
The victory was a boost for the Cork League who were starved of representative fixtures with the only challenges coming from little testimonial games against the combined AUL and Munster Junior League. To the best of my knowledge, the only previous occasion the Munster Leaguers were engaged in a meaningful challenge against overseas visitors was 33 years earlier versus Motherwell.
Playing for the MSL then were former internationals Billy Harrington, Tom Burke, and Miah Lynch.
Despite the success of the Swansea venture, no reciprocal return took place as the Welsh were unable to keep the promise of a return match in Cork.
However, representative games later became a feature towards the end of every season and O’Mahony was at the helm again when the MSL defeated Leinster in an Interprovincial tournament in 1981.