Obituary: Bacuzzi made an exotic impact on Cork Hibs and the game on Leeside

Obituary: Bacuzzi made an exotic impact on Cork Hibs and the game on Leeside
Captains Dave Bacuzzi and Billy McNeill exchange pennants while officials Eddie Mullins, Derry Barrett and Owen McCarthy smile for the camera, before Cork Hibs v Glasgow Celtic game in 1970.

THE IRISH football community was saddened to hear of the death of Dave Bacuzzi, the former Arsenal, Manchester City and Reading player, who will be forever remembered for steering Cork Hibs through their glory years in League of Ireland football. 

He made his debut for Arsenal in 1961 and after 46 appearances moved on to Man City for a fee of £25,000. It turned out to be a great career move for the Londoner as he was ever-present on the Man City team that won promotion back to the First Division. 

Bacuzzi, centre of the back row, in his Arsenal days.
Bacuzzi, centre of the back row, in his Arsenal days.

Midway through the following season Bacuzzi fell out with City boss Joe Mercer and moved nearer home to join Reading. He made 107 appearances for Reading and was to finalise a move to Club Brugge in Belgium when Hibs swooped.

In May 1970 Bacuzzi joined Cork Hibs as player-manager. Initially, Bacuzzi thought he had been approached from a mysterious exotic location when he received a misspelled telegram asking him to contact 'Cork Island' instead of 'Cork, Ireland'. 

Cork Hibs, champions in 1971. Back: Terry Young, Noel O’Mahony, Frankie Connolly, Joe O’Grady, Tony Marsden, Carl Davenport, Dave Wigginton. Front: Donie Wallace, John Herrick, Dave Bacuzzi, Sonny Sweeny, John Lawson.
Cork Hibs, champions in 1971. Back: Terry Young, Noel O’Mahony, Frankie Connolly, Joe O’Grady, Tony Marsden, Carl Davenport, Dave Wigginton. Front: Donie Wallace, John Herrick, Dave Bacuzzi, Sonny Sweeny, John Lawson.

Bacuzzi subsequently guided Hibs to the League Championship in 1971, beating Shamrock Rovers in a play-off. Then in 1972 and 1973 he also guided them to successive victories in FAI Cup finals. 

In 1972 Hibs were leading Waterford 2-0 in a virtual decider at Flower Lodge before a record crowd of 28,000 when the Blues struck three times to silence the mighty crowd. 

Alfie Hale and Dave Bacuzzi shake hands prior to the 1972 FAI Cup final, with ref Charlie O'Leary.
Alfie Hale and Dave Bacuzzi shake hands prior to the 1972 FAI Cup final, with ref Charlie O'Leary.

Hibs gained sweet revenge seven days later when defeating the champions 3-0 on a day when Miah Dennehy went down in history in becoming the first player to score a hat-trick in an FAI Cup final. 

Bacuzzi was honoured by the Irish Soccer Writers at the end of the season when he was named as the Personality of the Year. 

After a rare trophy-less season in 1973-74, Bacuzzi was sacked which led to major divisions within the board of directors and angry public demonstrations by the fans who marched in their thousands to a platform outside Flower Lodge where Hibs were playing a league game. 

The protest meeting in support of sacked Hibs manager Dave Bacuzzi outside Flower Lodge  in April 1974.
The protest meeting in support of sacked Hibs manager Dave Bacuzzi outside Flower Lodge  in April 1974.

The board refused to relent and Dave was snapped up by amateurs Home Farm who he guided to their first and only FAI Senior Cup victory when they sensationally defeated Shelbourne in the final.

As manager of Home Farm, Bacuzzi was responsible for the development of several irish internationals including Ronnie Whelan, Ken De Mange and Brian Mooney all of whom subsequently signed for Liverpool.

However, he also turned down the opportunity to sign a young Paul McGrath after a brief trial. He also managed the League of Ireland and Irish Amateur teams. May he rest in peace.

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