The Leeside legends series: Noel O’Mahony was figurehead of Cork soccer

The Leeside legends series: Noel O’Mahony was figurehead of Cork soccer
Former Cork City manager Noel O'Mahony in 1994. Picture: Lorraine O'Sullivan\INPHO

WHEN the list of great Cork soccer players is written, the late Noel O’Mahony, as a player and manager, will be right up there among the very best.

Soccer wasn’t immediately on O’Mahony’s agenda as GAA was his first love where he played Gaelic football with Coláiste Chríost Rí before turning his attention to soccer.

Noel began his soccer career with Ballyphehane United but sadly the club folded in 1955.

Tramore Athletic was Noel’s next club and he was soon playing a major part in the club’s success as the clinched the U16 National Youth Cup.

There was more success to follow for O’Mahony at the famous southside club two years later when he was one of the stars of the team that were crowned FAI Minor Cup champions.

O’Mahony continued to play for three more seasons with Tramore Athletic before his outstanding talent at full-back was spotted by Cork Hibs whom he joined in 1960.

Amby Fogarty took over the reins at the Cork club in 1967 and soon the fortunes of the club changed.

“Amby brought a lot of professionalism to the club and also got the ball rolling by bringing top-class cross-channel players to Cork,” said O’Mahony.

“Luckily of all the players that Amby inherited I was the only one he kept on, so I was always grateful to him for showing me loyalty.”

There is little doubt Fogarty sowed the seeds for the future success of the Cork club.

The story took another twist in the 1969/70 season when under new boss Austin Noonan they won the Shield which gave them a place in European competition for the first time in the club’s history.

Another new manager was appointed in 1970 as Dave Bacuzzi took over the hot-seat.

In his first year, Bacuzzi brought success to Cork Hibs with a league crown following a playoff with Shamrock Rovers for the title.

Noel recalled that famous day for Cork soccer.

“it was a tremendous game with Miah Dennehy scoring both goals and playing in front of 35,000 people at Dalymount Park is something I will never forget.”

The rest of the glory years of Hibs are now well documented especially the 1972 FAI Cup final win over Waterford as they won five trophies in that season.

Cork Hibs after winning the FAI Cup in the 1973 replay with Shelbourne at Flower Lodge. 
Cork Hibs after winning the FAI Cup in the 1973 replay with Shelbourne at Flower Lodge. 

There was a major shock for Cork soccer fans in 1976 when Cork Hibernians went out football as Noel reflected on that time with a tinge of sadness.

“I felt the decline started in 1974 when Dave Bacuzzi left the club in controversial circumstances as it never recovered where crucial mistakes were made within the club.”

The role of the manager soon beckoned for Noel as he took over the newly formed Cork Alberts in 1979 but it was a rough baptism for him.

Albert Rovers' first match v Shamrock Rovers was at Flower Lodge on October 3 '76: Back: Alec Ludzik, John Brohan, Barry Notley, Noel O'Mahony (player-manager), Billy Field, Ken McGrath. Front: Pat Horgan, Pat Morley, Paddy Daly, Pat Kirby, James Quinn (c), Brendan Draper, Dom Kenny. Picture: Plunket Carter
Albert Rovers' first match v Shamrock Rovers was at Flower Lodge on October 3 '76: Back: Alec Ludzik, John Brohan, Barry Notley, Noel O'Mahony (player-manager), Billy Field, Ken McGrath. Front: Pat Horgan, Pat Morley, Paddy Daly, Pat Kirby, James Quinn (c), Brendan Draper, Dom Kenny. Picture: Plunket Carter

The collapse of both Hibs and Cork Celtic left Cork football fans with a bad taste in the mouth and as a result, any team that was going to try and take their place was going to find it difficult.

Alberts did try but after a few years eventually dropped out of the league.

Noel took over at Cork City in 1986 and yet again he had to pick up the pieces as the majority of the players had been released and it was his job to put a team together from what was left.

After one season Noel left the club but returned in for the 1989/90 as the club lost the FAI Cup final to Derry City but managed to qualify for Europe for the first time.

The icing on the cake came for O’Mahony in the 1992/93 season when he led City to the League of Ireland crown.

This was to be O’Mahony’s swansong as he bowed out of soccer at the very top.

Noel had fond memories of his playing days and particularly his cross-channel teammates.

“To be honest the majority of them were quality players but I had a special affection for Dave Wigginton as I don’t believe the League of Ireland will ever see a player of his talent again.”

When Cork Hibs won the FAI Cup final in 1973 his younger brother Declan played on the same team with older brother Pat lining out with Cork Celtic.

An incredible record by an incredible man as nobody could doubt the honour Noel O’Mahony brought the city both on and off the pitch.

FACTFILE:

  • Noel O’Mahony was a member of the Tramore Athletic team that won the FAI Minor Cup in 1958.
  • He joined Cork Hibs in 1960 and played with the club for 16 years.
  • O’Mahony was manager of Cork City when they won the league in 1992-'93.
  • Noel rated Dave Wiggington as the best cross-channel player to play in the League of Ireland.
  • After a short illness, Noel O’Mahony passed away in May 2013 at the age of 73
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