Soccer nostalgia: Leeside clubs were to the fore in golden League of Ireland era

Soccer nostalgia: Leeside clubs were to the fore in golden League of Ireland era
Cork Hibernians' captain Dave Bucuzzi, right, holding the FAI Cup with hat-trick hero Miah Dennehy amid a group of jubilant supporters in 1972.

Cork sports historian Plunket Carter charts the annual Soccer Writers Awards and monthly prizes from their origin in the 1960/1961 season through to the modern era. 

In the second part, he reflects on 1966 to 1979, a period when Cork teams were flying high...

The great Dave Wigginton honoured in February 1975 was the last Hibs player to receive the honour before their in extinction in 1976
The great Dave Wigginton honoured in February 1975 was the last Hibs player to receive the honour before their in extinction in 1976

THERE could be no disputing the soccer writers choice in 1966 when they plumped for Liam Touhy, who took over as player-manager of Shams after the sacking of Sean Thomas.

His side defeated Limerick in the Cup final and were runners-up to Waterford in the League championship.

In 1967 Al Finucane, the most consistent player in the league and later capped 11 times, was a very popular winner.

Johnny Fullam’s brilliant performance for Shams in their 3-0 FAI Cup final defeat of champions Waterford earned him the Personality of the Year award in 1968 despite the claims of Waterford’s Alfie Hale and Jimmy McGeough.

The Blues finished five points ahead of the Hoops in the 1969 Championship, but their stars were again overlooked.

Not surprisingly Mick Leech who equalled Dan McAffrey’s record of 56 goals in all competitions and scored in three consecutive FAI Cup finals was an automatic choice for the Personality gong.

Waterford’s wait ended the following season (1970) when keeper Peter Thomas, the first Englishman, was honoured for his vast contribution to the Blues' three-in-a-row league titles.

In 1971 Hibs won the League Championship for the first time, ending a 20-year wait for a Cork team, and Limerick won the FAI Cup, defeating Drogheda.

Results which suggested that the contenders for Personality of the Year were likely to include Dave Wigginton the league’s leading scorer, Noel O’Mahony and Dave Bacuzzi (Hibs) along with Finucane, Paddy Shortt and Andy McEvoy (Limerick).

However, the writers opted for Mick Meagan, manager of Drogheda and the Republic of Ireland.

The Player of the Month Award which has been one of most coveted prizes in Irish football and is synonymous with the Soccer Writers’ Association of Ireland (SWAI) was introduced in 1971.

From League of Ireland icons to fathers and sons, brothers, and some of the best foreigners to grace the domestic game, the award has recognised the excellence, consistency and passion of so many great players.

Each winner is selected by the SWAI members and they have come from clubs who still dominate to those who have fallen away, yet their memory will always live on through this unique award.

Miah Dennehy, FAI Cup final hat-trick scorer, won monthly awards in January and April in the inaugural season.

In 1972 Waterford were crowned champions for the fifth time in seven years after a dramatic 3-2 away win over challengers Hibs at Flower Lodge.

Seven days later Hibs gained revenge when destroying the Blues 3-0 in the FAI Cup final when Miah Dennehy became the first player to score a hat-trick in the decider.

Dennehy, who was twice awarded the SWAI Player of the Month in the inaugural series, was tipped for the personality honour, but dangers lurked in Munster with Bacuzzi, Shay Brennan and Alfie Hale also having their supporters.

Player-manager Bacuzzi got the nod and it was probably the correct choice.

Waterford won the League Championship again in 1973 and this time there could be no denying Alfie Hale’s entitlement to receiving the accolade.

Jack Morley, Player of the Month November 1972.
Jack Morley, Player of the Month November 1972.

Miah Dennehy and Richard Brooks took the monthly awards in January and March respectively.

History-making managers were always deserving of serious consideration and this was the case again in 1974 when Golden Boy Paul O’Donovan was honoured for his massive contribution to Cork Celtic’s first-ever title.

His nearest challengers were Brooks, Bobby Tambling and Alex Ludzic although monthly nominees Frank 'Sniffer' O’Neill and Ben Hannigan also had a squeak.

Bacuzzi, sacked by Hibs, immediately hit the jackpot by guiding babes Home Farm to their first FAI Cup victory in 1975 which in any other year would have guaranteed a second Personality Award.

However, Bohs won their first League Championship since 1936 and their Messiah was Johnny Fullam who was deservedly honoured.

Dave Wigginton took the February award. In 1976 Dundalk won the League and Bohs the FAI Cup but their marquee players were pipped for the top award by Finn Harps goal machine Brendan Bradley.

Carl Humphreys (Athlone) was a shoo-in for the October prize after his scintillating performance against AC Milan at the San Siro.

Brian McSweeny was honoured in February by stealing the limelight from George Best at Cork Celtic while Bobby Tambling picked up the cheque in January. 

Bobby Tambling is a Chelsea and Cork soccer legend. Picture: Dan Linehan
Bobby Tambling is a Chelsea and Cork soccer legend. Picture: Dan Linehan

Mick Smyth, a by-word for consistency in a goalkeeping career spanning 30 years, was a surprise choice for Personality of the Year in ‘77 ahead of Paul McGee, leading scorer with League Champions Sligo and Ashley Grimes of Bohs.

John Herrick representing beaten cup finalists Limerick was honoured in April.

Johnny Giles returned from England to take charge of Shams in 77-78 and brought along former international colleagues Eamon Dunphy and Ray Treacy too.

They attracted the crowds but finished runners-up in both league and cup. Yet, Giles picked up the consolation of being named POY ahead of the unlucky Eamon Gregg (Bohs).

Alec Ludzic (Cork Alberts) earned the January award. 

Alex Ludzik, POM in 1978, later saving a penalty from John Aldridge in Turners Cross.
Alex Ludzik, POM in 1978, later saving a penalty from John Aldridge in Turners Cross.

There could only be one winner in the following season (1979) as Jim McLaughlin, already a league and cup winner with Dundalk led the Lilywhites to their first double.

The October gong went to Cork Celtic’s former Irish Youth international Tommy O’Brien who, despite being visibly unfit after a three-year injury absence, was a unanimous choice.

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