CORK’S Ancient Order of Hibernians or the AOH as it is better known is an established sporting organisation in Cork for many decades and is one of the most respected associations in the country.
Morrison’s Island was the spiritual home for decades, but now into 2020 the club has moved to the South Douglas road, but the memories and the stories will live forever in the minds of people involved in snooker, billiards, and soccer forever.
Founded in the mid 1940s on Morrison’s Island the building was mainly a place for plays, musicals, and dances and it was in the 1950s that the billiards tables came in with card rooms, meeting rooms, and table tennis.
Being part of a national organisation founded at the start of the Irish Free State meant that the traditions and the rules within the AOH in the early days were very strong and with former AOH associations like those in Kanturk, Parliament Square in Dublin, and Drogheda now all gone, the Cork AOH the only operating association left in the Republic of Ireland.
There are still strong ties with the AOH in Belfast, Derry, and Newry and at Easter every year there are still All- Ireland AOH Billiards and Snooker championships held.
Lloyd Myers, the current AOH treasurer and Munster Snooker chairman, explained how it’s gone from strength to strength.
“There were some great men involved in the AOH over the years who had incredible influence in the game and a particular influence over people like myself.
“People like the late Timmy Murphy Snr, Martin Horgan, and Aidan Houlihan who were dedicated AOH men and others who were so important to the AOH such as Kevin Kenny, Mick Field, Gerry Sullivan, Dan Duggan, Pat Leisk, and Ger Kearney, plus members like the former Cork CBSA chairman Derek O’Neill and famous new friends to the AOH like Aaron Hill.
“Those members were part of the whole fabric of the AOH and we can’t thank them enough for their huge contribution over the years.”
It wasn’t just billiards, snooker, and song and dance at Morrison’s Island, the Cork AOH were of course also the organisation that founded Cork Hibernians soccer club in the city to play in the Cork AUL.
Cork Hibs then went on to play at the AOH-owned Flower Lodge in the League of Ireland for many years up until 1977.
Billiards certainly dominated proceedings in the AOH up until the mid-80s, then snooker really took off in the club. Snooker was becoming so popular in the city at that time with clubs like the Regal, the Mardyke, the Pyramid, the 147, and the Cork Victoria catering for the large numbers that wanted to play in championships and tournaments.
“I think the Cork Vic was one of the earlier clubs that started to create events and the first Cork league came out of that era.
“There were Cork leagues and at that time qualifying for Killarney was a very big deal indeed with the top six Cork clubs getting the privilege to go down to the Gleneagle. Nowadays any club can play from Cork really, but back then the competition places for Killarney was vicious and if you lost your first match you were pretty much out of it.
“It was 1996 when we first qualified with Sonny Stack, Aidan Houlihan, Shane O’Mahony, Timmy Murphy Jnr, Terrence McSweeney and myself and it was the place to be and still today the magnetic draw for Killarney is as strong as ever and hopefully it will go ahead next January.”
The Cork snooker league, up to 2010, was a bit erratic to say the least with years of competitive snooker missing and the occasional tournament or manufactured league competitions, but when the Cork Billiards and Snooker Association was formed in 2010, Cork snooker suddenly re-invented itself.
Clubs like the ever present Youghal CYMS and Fermoy CMWS were joined by the young guns of the Crucible, Douglas, Shooters, and the Quayside really made the league the top class snooker league it is today and right from the start, Myers was at the top table as treasurer.
The league, to be, honest has been dominated by the very talented Crucible team, but the first ever league title went to Shooters and only one other side has won the league besides the dominant Crucible side and that was in 2015 when the AOH lifted the title, defeating Youghal CYMS in the final held at Douglas Snooker Club.
“I remember that night very well. After losing a few finals it was great to eventually win the league alongside Shane O’Mahony, Gary Bracken, David Forde, and my old mate Sonny Stack.
“It was a big team effort that year and after decades of billiards success in the AOH and even though we had a few years of Orme Shield victories, it was really great to bring the league title home. Currently we are on the South Douglas Road after finally leaving Morrison’s Island after nearly 80 years and the move has made the Cork AOH financially secure.
“Our new premises is different, but modern and secure and it will take time for us to bed in, but thankfully the future looks bright for the AOH and in these turbulent times that is all we can ask for. Cork snooker dominates the game in Ireland and in this new era our club is still very much part of that.”