CORK CITY’S loss to Shelbourne on the opening day of this season’s top flight at Turner’s Cross mirrored the mixed fortunes enjoyed by the two resident teams in the city, Cork Celtic and Cork Hibernians, 50 years ago on the opening day of the 1969/70 season.
Celtic, who faced Athlone Town at Flower Lodge on Sunday, October 5 1969, had finished in the bottom two on three occasions out of the previous four seasons while Hibernians, fresh from winning the shield, harboured high hopes of consigning debutants Finn Harps to defeat at Ballybofey, after finishing in the top three in 1968/69.
Celtic got off to a flyer when their new signings from Derby County, Richard Brooks and Tommy Kane combined for the latter to score inside the opening five minutes. The hosts played it tight early on with Amby Fogarty operating in the sweeper’s role alongside Madden. Kane and Pat O’Mahony anchored the middle with Liam Ronayne, Donie Leahy and Frank McCarthy raiding up front.
After Leahy headed McCarthy’s cross narrowly wide in the 27th minute, Brooks found Leahy on the half-way line three minutes later and he, in turn, laid the ball off to the advancing Ronayne. Ronayne kept the move going when he played in Kane whose cross picked out O’Mahony. The midfielder’s flick over McGrath’s head was handled by the centre-half and presented Celtic with the chance to double the lead.
However, Athlone goalkeeper Mick O’Brien threw himself at Fogarty spot-kick before scrambling to complete the save.
Celtic would later rue the missed opportunity as the visitors, who had already hammered their opponents 5-1 in the shield competition at the same venue earlier in the season, piled on the pressure to equalize in the final quarter.
Celtic keeper Tommy Taylor brilliantly saved from Kingston and Rushe only to be finally beaten in the 75th minute by Kingston who had the simple chance of side-footing in after Rushe’s header came back off the crossbar.
CORK CELTIC: Tommy Taylor; Richard Brooks, Barry McGovern; Amby Fogarty, Seamus Madden; Tommy Kane, Pat O’Mahony, Liam Ronayne; Donie Leahy, Tony ‘Tucker’ Allen, Frank McCarthy.
On the same day, Hibs made the 600 -mile round trip to Donegal only to lose 3-1 to the 1968 FAI Junior Cup winners, Finn Harps. After stepping to compete in the FAI Intermediate Cup, the Harps’ management duo of Patsy McGowan and Richie Kelly canvassed clubs in Dublin, Dundalk and Drogheda for support to join the league. With five Dublin clubs already plying their trade in the capital, Harps got in ahead of Home Farm.
Hibernians were without the injured Carl Davenport, Martin Sheehan and left winger Terry Young, bringing in former Celtic stalwart Ray Cowhie in place of Sheehan and opting with Alan Aubrey in goal after Joe O’Grady had replaced him in the latter stage of the recent shield win.
The English born keeper seemed caught in two minds when he was slow to get to Brendan Bradley who opened the scoring in the 22nd minute at the second attempt.
Aubrey was injured in the duel with Bradley by somehow rode his luck with a few narrow escapes afterwards. Hibs got back level in the 28th minute through a Wigginton penalty after the striker was taken down by Nicholl in what appeared to most in the ground to have occurred outside the area.
The home team regained the lead five minutes into the second 45 when Aubrey failed to cut out a corner by Wright which was powerfully headed in under the crossbar by Norris.
Harps went on to wrap up their first points in senior football with a third in the 81st minute from Charlie Ferry who converted from the spot after Cowhie had taken down Norris.
CORK HIBS: Alan Aubrey; Frank Connolly, John Herrick; Noel O’Mahony, Ray Cowhie; Sonny Sweeney, John Brohan (Austin Noonan), Tommy Henderson; Dave Wigginton, Donie Wallace, Kevin O’Leary.
Celtic would go on to win the league championship and top four competition in 1974 under the guidance of Paul O’Donovan before bowing out of football before the end of the decade amid growing financial difficulties.
Hibernians would fare better in terms of success, winning the league title for the first and only time the following season, (1970/71), two FAI Cups in 1972 and 1973, the Shield in 1970 and 1973 and the Blaxnit All-Ireland Cup in 1972, beating Coleraine in the final. However, like their opponents across the city, they too would exit the stage in 1976 beset by money worries and without the services of their most successful manager, ex-Arsenal full-back Dave Bacuzzi.
Harps on the other hand would go on to become an established team in League of Ireland football after capturing their first FAI Cup in 1974 following a spectacular 3-0 win over St. Patrick’s Athletic at Dalymount Park.
The prolific Brendan Bradley, with 235 goals, remains the highest goal scorer in the history of domestic football. The Donegal based club has seen its share of changes over the years but who would think 50 years ago that they would outlive the two resident Cork clubs, Celtic and Hibernians, and live to tell the tale!
...who would think 50 years ago that they would outlive the two resident Cork clubs, Celtic and Hibernians, and live to tell the tale!