The Leeside Legends series: Carl Humphries was a terrific talent

The Leeside Legends series: Carl Humphries was a terrific talent
Carl Humphries in action for Cork Celtic against Drogheda United at Turners Cross.

NOT many soccer players in Ireland can boast of playing alongside the legendary Bobby Moore of West Ham, as Cork man once Carl Humphries did.

He had three seasons in London, but his best days were on his native shores, where he became a hero for supporters of Cork Celtic, Hibs and Waterford.

Cork Hibbs at Salt Lake City 1976. Back: Martin Sheehan, Damian Richardson (guest), John Brohan, Noel O'Mahony, Gerry Finnegan, Bobby Tambling, Dave Kirby, Brian McSweeney, Pat Kirby. Front: Peter Gregson, Paul Daly, Carl Humphries, Peter Thomas, Ger Spillane, Pat Morley, Adrian Walsh.
Cork Hibbs at Salt Lake City 1976. Back: Martin Sheehan, Damian Richardson (guest), John Brohan, Noel O'Mahony, Gerry Finnegan, Bobby Tambling, Dave Kirby, Brian McSweeney, Pat Kirby. Front: Peter Gregson, Paul Daly, Carl Humphries, Peter Thomas, Ger Spillane, Pat Morley, Adrian Walsh.

Carl was born and reared in Ballyphehane where his early schooling began at the South Monastery in Douglas Street.

During Carl’s early days he played hurling and football with Ballyphehane and was a very talented GAA player, but his first love was for soccer and he joined the local Tramore Athletic club.

At the age of 16 he played for Wolfe Tones in the Cork AUL before one of London’s glamour clubs offered him a trial in 1967 as he set off for the bright lights of the English capital along with fellow Leesider Paddy Shortt

“We played a game on Saturday and I was supposed to report back for training on Monday morning, but I went to visit relations of mine and did not return until Thursday morning as it was evident I wasn’t focused on the job in hand plus the fact I was homesick.”

Carl only lasted three years at the London club before returning to his home city of Cork.

During his time at West Ham, he had the distinction of playing with players of the calibre of World Cup winners Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters and Bobby Moore.

When you throw in the names of Trevor Brooking, Frank Lampard, and Harry Redknapp you get the idea of the level of players that Humphries was playing with at the club.

Cork Celtic’s ball artist Carl Humphries jinks his way past Shelbourne defenders Dunning and McDonnell in  1971.
Cork Celtic’s ball artist Carl Humphries jinks his way past Shelbourne defenders Dunning and McDonnell in  1971.

He joined Cork Hibernians for the 1969/70 season before moving to Cork Celtic and after a season with Celtic he moved to Waterford.

Many Cork people will remember the epic clash between Cork Hibs and Waterford in 1972 that was played in front of a crowd of 25,000 at Flower Lodge.

Cork Hibs looked to be coasting when leading 2-0 but inspired by a Humphries goal they fought back to win the game 3-2.

“We had a great team at Waterford and the spirit we showed that day against Hibs on their own patch with 10 men showed the mettle of the team.”

However, Hibs got their revenge the following week at Dalymount Park when a Miah Dennehy hat-trick brought the FAI Cup to Cork.

Ironically Carl joined Hibs the following season and another FAI Cup final beckoned for him and after a drawn game against Shelbourne, the replay went to Flower Lodge before another capacity attendance.

In another twist, Carl, having been on the side that lost the final the previous season, scored the only goal of the game that secured the Cup for Hibs for the second year running.

Carl Humphries and Denis Allen celebrate the winning goal. Also Included is Sonny Sweeney.
Carl Humphries and Denis Allen celebrate the winning goal. Also Included is Sonny Sweeney.

In 1975 Humphries was in the Athlone team that played against the Italian giants AC Milan.

Athlone played some great football in the first leg and held their Italian counterparts to a scoreless draw.

Humphries stole the show in the second leg with a display that had the Italians raving about him.

After being substituted with 10 minutes remaining in the game he received a standing ovation from the Italian crowd as Athlone lost 2-0.

The following day the Italian press raved about his performance with one scribe describing him as: “The Irish football genius who lit up the San Siro with his football skills.”

At the young age of 29, Humphries had enough of football and decided to call it a day and not surprisingly to the present day he regrets his lack of commitment to his beloved sport.

“You could say I was young and foolish coupled with my lack of commitment and I do regret not focusing myself on the game more especially in my younger days.”

Carl from his time in London became friends with Bill Darby the then Arsenal scout to Ireland.

On one of his regular phone calls to Carl about local talent in Cork Humphries recommended that they should take a look at Roy Keane.

Carl had told Darby he thought Keane could be the next Ronnie Whelan. Arsenal watched Keane five times but didn’t follow up on their interest and the rest is history!

Carl Humphries, John Lawson, Sonny Sweeney, Dave Bacuzzi, Gerry Coyne and Dave Wigginton celebrate winning the FAI Cup.
Carl Humphries, John Lawson, Sonny Sweeney, Dave Bacuzzi, Gerry Coyne and Dave Wigginton celebrate winning the FAI Cup.

  • Humphries, at the age of 16 signed for West Ham in 1967 and spent three seasons with the London club.
  • He won a league medal with Waterford in 1972 and a cup medal with Cork Hibs in 1973.
  • He finished his career with St Louis in the USA where he played against the legendary Brazilian footballer Pele.
  • Humphries became an avid greyhound trainer since he retired from football.

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