UNBELIEVABLY, it is now 75 years since a Cork team won the FAI Junior Cup.
In 1945, Rockville were the last Leeside team to win the coveted trophy emulating Spike Island-based Coastal Defence who won it the previous year.
These two excellent teams could not be classed as ordinary junior teams which I will explain later. Southern Rovers who were beaten in consecutive FAI Junior Cup finals 1933 and; ’34 upgraded to Intermediate and won the Munster Senior Cup in 1936, a victory considered a poor consolation for their junior cup defeats — an indication, if one was needed, of the importance of the Junior Holy Grail.
Evergreen were the classiest junior side to emerge from the southern capital since the second coming of Association Football in 1921-22.
They swept the boards in ’35 claiming every trophy in the province but were defeated 3-0 by Athlone in the FAI final when they did not endear themselves to the Evening Echo soccer columnist who implored them to cut out the fancy stuff (Arsenal of the 30s) as their superiority was rarely reflected on the scoreboard.
“Goals, no matter how they are scored, win matches”, was the advice again given to Evergreen as they returned to Dalymount 12 months later in an attempt to end Cork’s Free State Junior Cup drought.
It was worth the wait and Evergreen were acclaimed as one of the trophy’s best ever winners when they outpointed a quality Shelbourne side.
Evergreen (a senior side in all but name) were too good for junior soccer and upgraded to senior which they did in style by waltzing away with the Munster Senior League title.
By the autumn of 1943 football was badly disrupted by the war and further changes were enforced. A new Munster Regional League, with 11 teams competing, began in September.
The Intermediate Cup competition had been suspended between 1943 and ’44 so the teams turned their attention instead to the Free State Junior Cup with the following Cork teams entering — AOH, CCYMS, Coastal Defence,
Cobh Ramblers, Cork Utd B, Crosshaven, Greenmount, Richmond, Rockville, St Kevin’s and Southview. All except newcomers Coastal, which included several former Free State League players, and CCYMS, were previously regarded as senior clubs. Coastal, a military team, were a very welcome addition as they had the use of a pitch on Spike Island which relieved an acute problem.
With so few teams competing there was an abundance of quality players available. Rockville, which included several former League of Ireland player and two future Inter League stars, defeated Wembley (Limerick) in an all Munster FAI Junior final at Dalymount.
Of course, the begrudgers were quick to point out that Rockville were not a bona-fide junior team; they actually finished runners-up in the Senior Shield that season and even though the Intermediate Cup resumed the northsiders choose to play in the junior equivalent. What matters is that the record books and the trophy plinth bear the names of Coastal Defence and Rockville.
A hypothetical explanation of a similar situation would be, for instance, if a top senior team, say Avondale or Rockmount, withdrew from senior for one season and entered as juniors in an attempt to win the FAI Junior Cup, obviously a more difficult trophy to win.
Seventeen years passed before another Cork team, the locally invincible Castleview, reached the decider. Those unaware of Cork’s dire record in the competition believed that the classy View would be adding another cup to the trophy cabinet.
They were up against top Donegal side Swilly Rovers who, on the day, showed that they were no ordinary outfit — there was no senior soccer in Ulster.
Even though defeated 3-1 Castleview, who played as good as they were allowed, were a credit to the Cork league and Swilly’s most partisan supporters admitted they were flattered by the scoreline.
CASTLEVIEW: W Healy, J Barry, A Curtin, S O’Leary, J McHale, J Frawley, T O’Flynn, D Morris, P Murray, L Higgins, N Barry.
Twelve months later renowned cup fighters Blackrock, who had won more Provincial Cups than any other Leeside team, were chasing the biggest one of them all, the FAI Junior Cup.
Battling hard all through the campaign they qualified for the semi-final against hot favourites Drogheda who were elected into the League of Ireland in July. The Boynesiders were considered certainties but were denied victory by International Tom Fitzgerald who brilliantly saved a penalty kick to earn the Rockies a replay in Cork.
Blackrock’s supporters were resigned to a drubbing as the Boynesiders went two goals ahead, but that redoubtable spirit soon became evident as the Rockies were devastating in the second half and went through with a 5-3 victory.
Spirit alone will not always be enough as was the case in the final, again played in Dublin. Even though they had the tonic of an early Pat Ahern goal to settle their nerves Blackrock could not survive persistent pressure from TEK who were deserving 3-1 winners.
BLACKROCK: T Fitzgerald, E O’Mahony, L O’Driscoll, P O’Mahony, C Ahern, P Ahern, B Shine, S McNamara, D Ahern, A Draper, R O’Connor. 12th man T Chambers.
At long last an FAI Junior Cup final was played in Cork, the first all-Munster decider since 1945 became a reality, when Douglas and Fairview (Limerick) reached the National final.
This time common sense (toss of a coin) prevailed as the final was booked for Turner’s Cross with a replay if required being fixed for Limerick. I watched my first ever FAI Junior Cup final from the well-populated Kop — St Anne’s end hill which then could accommodate nearly 5,000 spectators.
Douglas with a nice blend of youth and experience began brightly and when seasoned campaigner Jimmy Kelly gave them the lead hopes of a fourth Cork success were high.
But Fairview eventually wore Douglas down and deserved their equaliser. Outstanding for the winners were Eamon Heffernan, Seamus McCarthy, and Sean Byrne who the following year wore the colours of Cork Celtic.
Afterwards, the general opinion of those leaving the Cross was that Douglas had left it behind which is exactly how it turned out as, in the replay at the Market’s Field, Fairview exploded from the traps and after Seamus McCarthy had given them a 16th-minute lead, there was always going to be only one winner.
Further goals from Power and McCarthy flattered Fairview and did not do justice to the Cork side’s brave effort who got one back through Finbarr O’Sullivan.
DOUGLAS: D O’Leary, F O’Sullivan, W Downey, J Ford, M Canty, T Collins, B Bird, J Cummins, J Kelly, J Calnan, G Barry. J Quinn played in the drawn game.
Next to try their luck were Everton FC from Bandon Road who beat St Mary’s at the first attempt in the area final (1966), but had things much tougher against Ballynanty (Limerick) who only succumbed by the odd goal in seven.
Slow starting Everton had to come from behind before completely outclassing Davis Celtic (Dublin) in the semi-final at Flower Lodge.
We had a Cork finalist for the third time in four years and I had the pleasure of watching from the terrace in front of the Dalymount stand. Four thousand spectators were unable to generate any kind of atmosphere at the Phibsboro venue, unlike the previous year when a similar-sized attendance created a real buzz at the Cross.
East Wall Utd, Everton’s opponents, were attempting to regain the trophy which they won in 1964 and were at short odds to do so.
East Wall centre forward Eddie Tyrell was the best seen in junior soccer in many years and his excellent hat-trick was the highlight of a very sporting final.
They led 2-0 at the break and Denis Kenefick briefly raised Everton’s hopes when reducing the gap early in the second period. But within minutes Tyrell completed his hat-trick and Peter Browne’s injury-time score for the Cork team came too late to unduly worry the excellent Dubs.
The newly named AUL Premier League Championship and its first champions St Mary’s were on the road a year later in their bid to end Cork’s 27-year wait for the Holy Grail.
With over 1,000 names in the hat when the first round draw was made most of the clubs were saying Hail Mary’s for an easy passage.
Six months later the northside soccer public were instead hailing St Mary’s who had restored faith in Cork junior soccer with dazzling displays en route to their first appearance in the decider.
Mary’s had to travel to Dublin twice where they beat Home Farm and CYM before crossing swords with Talbot Utd in an excellently supported final at Tolka which yielded gate receipts of £500.
The Cork team, unbeaten in 35 games, contributed enormously to a classic final with home advantage being the key factor in Talbot’s flattering 3-1 victory.
Mary’s went into the game without ace Dinny Allen who had a GAA match with Nemo, while man of the match John Healy had the misfortune to miss a penalty in the opening half.
ST MARY’S: N Stokes, M Lyons, J O’Neill, P O’Keeffe, L Hawkins, L O’Donoghue, J Healy, K Murphy, T Hennessy, D Healy, T Healy.
Sub: N Delea for K Murphy.
Would Allen have made a difference? We’ll never know but it was a decision Denis always regretted.
A Cork AUL team won the cup in 1974. However, it was their Tipperary representatives St Michael’s to which the honour went, “It’s a long way to Tipperary” being sung as Michael’s marched to glory.
The large Cork AUL contingent have wonderful memories of the momentous events which unfolded: the deafening roar which greeted Mick Lonergan’s opening goal, the sickening Tolka Rovers equaliser, the nail-biting closing minutes, Micky McDonnell’s scorcher in extra-time and Micky Morey’s insurance goal which initiated the most spontaneous outpouring of joy ever witnessed at Tolka.
With falling standards — quantity replacing quality — our chances of success were diminishing yearly.
Then in 1987 an outstanding Temple, with a lesser number of quality teams to worry about, reached the final with victories (11 to reach decider) over Grangevale, Castleview, Greenmount, Douglas Hall, Mallow (replay), Tramore (penalty shoot-out after two draws), Orchardville (replay), and Usher Celtic.
Temple had scored two dozen goals en route to the final but, unfortunately, when it mattered they couldn’t find the one which might have given them the equaliser their gallantry deserved.
As it turned out Cherry Orchard, the most decorated team in junior soccer history, needed just one solitary goal to become the first-ever three-in-a-row achievers.
TEMPLE: T Horgan, A Ryan, J Ricken, A Butler, A Ring, G Manning, M Hurley, S Walsh, D Devereaux, A Ricken, D Keane.
Sub: D Hussey.