Soccer nostalgia: After the lows of the early '80s, Cork City came to the fore

Soccer nostalgia: After the lows of the early '80s, Cork City came to the fore
Cork City, winners of the League of Ireland in '93. Back: Cormac Cotter, Stephen Napier, Johnny Glynn, Paul Bannon, Anthony Buckley, Liam Murphy, Dave Barry and Tim Carey, Physio. Front: Pat Morley, Fergus O'Donoghue, Declan Daly, Gerry McCabe, John Caulfield and Phil Harrington. Picture Eddie O'Hare 

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 third part, he reflects on 1980 to 1993, which started disappointingly before Cork City emerge to challenge for glory...

Joy for Cork City in '93.
Joy for Cork City in '93.

LIMERICK bridged a two-decade gap to edge out Dundalk in 1980 and the new champions’ manager, Eoin Hand, was deservedly honoured.

In 1980-81, Athlone Town player-manager Turlough O’Connor was a shoo-in; he began a dazzling five-year spell, claiming two League Championships, three League Cups and an All-Ireland Tyler Cup.

The only threat to him being elected Personality of the Year came from the Town’s striker Eugene Davis.

Liam Keane of Cork United was chosen in January. Remember 1981/82 – four points for an away win, three for a home win, two for an away draw, one point for a home draw.

Dundalk won yet another League Championship and veteran Tommy McConville was the popular choice for the big cheque.

The points experiment was dispensed with after one year. Athlone won the league by a staggering 16 points and striker Noel Larkin waltzed away with the coveted 1983 POY accolade.

History was made when Eddie O’Halloran (Cobh Ramblers) became the first non-league player to win a monthly award in recognition of Cobh Ramblers' memorable FAI Cup run.

Jim McLaughlin was honoured for the second time in 1984 after ending Shamrock Rovers 19-year barren spell without a league title.

With no LOI soccer in Cork, most of the players continued their careers elsewhere and Liam Murphy was honoured in February for his performances with Limerick.

Liam Murphy was honoured in February 1984 for his sterling displays with Limerick. Here he's exchanging pennants for Cork City with Stefan Effenberg (Bayern Munich).
Liam Murphy was honoured in February 1984 for his sterling displays with Limerick. Here he's exchanging pennants for Cork City with Stefan Effenberg (Bayern Munich).

In 1985 Shams became the first team to win the double since Dundalk in 1979 and skipper Pat Byrne’s selection as POY was a popular call.

Rovers claimed their third successive title in 1986 and Manchester United-bound Liam O’Brien topped the poll to win the prestigious personality award.

First:

Pat 'Ginger; Healy earned the distinction of becoming newcomers Cork City’s first monthly winner when chosen in February.

Cork City’s first recipient was Pat 'Ginger' Healy in February 1986.
Cork City’s first recipient was Pat 'Ginger' Healy in February 1986.

Embroiled in controversy over their tenure at Milltown, the Hoops made it four-in-a-row in 1987 and it was brilliant striker Mick Byrne’s turn to mount the rostrum to receive the writers' supreme accolade.

In 1988, Dundalk’s Dessie O’Gorman was the hero of the night as he swooped to score a brilliant equaliser at Oriel which was enough for the Lilywhites to win another title, denying St Pats who needed a win.

However, it was Terry Eviston who impressed the soccer writers with his pace, stamina, and selflessness over the course of a demanding season.

On Leeside the fans found a new hero as John Caulfield was honoured in February.

There was no denying Jim McLaughlin the POY in 1989 as he added a seventh League championship and sixth FAI Cup to his astonishing CV.

It was hard to keep track of his movements and on this occasion, his reconstructed Derry brought off a cup and league double.

They were taken to replay by Cork City in the FAI Cup final and the Leesiders might have won it but for the goalpost denying a Dave Barry effort.

Dave had the small consolation of entering the monthly award list for the first time when taking the April gong while Terry Kearns’ (Cobh Ramblers) goalscoring saw him announced as the December recipient.

Monthly award winners: Terry Kearns (Cobh), Liam Keane (Cork Utd), Jan '81, and Bryan McSweeney (Cork Celtic), Feb '76, after stealing the limelight from George Best.
Monthly award winners: Terry Kearns (Cobh), Liam Keane (Cork Utd), Jan '81, and Bryan McSweeney (Cork Celtic), Feb '76, after stealing the limelight from George Best.

1990 will be best remembered for the fairytale FAI Cup final between non-league St Francis from Dublin’s Liberties and Bray which attracted 30,000 fan to Landsdown Road.

And, for the coming again of Brian Kerr’s St Pat’s who ended 34 years of pain by winning the league, emulating the men of 1955 and 56, Shay Gibbons, Tommy Dunne, Ronnie Whelan, Ginger O’Rourke, Fergie Crawford, and Dinny Lowry.

The soccer writers had a tough job in nominating a winner and they went for Pat’s defender Damien Byrne ahead of Bray’s cup final hat-trick hero John Ryan.

Phil Harrington (Cork City) picked up the February award.

Were you there in 1991 in Turner’s Cross when Tom McNulty’s lone goal cancelled Cork’s coronation and gave Dundalk their eighth title?

Cork City stars Paul Bannon and Pat Morley earned monthly awards as their side topped the table for lengthy periods while the writers opted for Dundalk striker Peter Hanrahan as their Personality of the Year.

Emulated:

Morley’s selection was the first time a son emulated a father (Jack) who had been honoured in 1972. Galway won the FAI Cup defeating Rovers thanks to a Johnny Glynn goal, but they went unrewarded for their valiant efforts with no monthly award.

Shelbourne laid the ghosts of their last championship-winning team of ’62 to rest when, under the managership of Pat Byrne, they ended a 30-year barren spell by capturing the elusive league crown in ‘92.

Byrne, who lifted the Personality award as a player with the Hoops six years earlier, once again tasted success.

Dave Barry’s outstanding display, his silencing of Effenberg and a stunning goal against Bayern Munich in the Uefa Cup at Musgrave Park guaranteed him the September award, while prolific striker Caulfield picked up another in January.

For end of season drama, 1993 was hard to beat; the title looked destined for Dalymount, but Dundalk’s Tom McNulty became a party-pooper scoring the lone goal which ensured a three-way-round-robin between Cork City, Bohs and Shels.

The sides couldn’t be separated following that series and after Bohs had been defeated in Turner’s Cross, City went on to win the title by beating Shels 3-2 following a thriller at the RDS.

Pat Morley landed the October monthly award followed in November by Gerry McCabe as winter kicked in. It was a question of who from Cork City would be the first to be named Personality of the Year – would it be Noel O’Mahony, McCabe, Caulfield, Morley or Harrington. 

It went to Morley whose 20 league goals earned him the Golden Boot as well as the Personality award.

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