The John Horgan column: Great days following Cork Hibs at Flower Lodge

The John Horgan column: Great days following Cork Hibs at Flower Lodge
Action between Cork Hibernians and Cork Celtic in 1974 at Flower Lodge. Included are John Herrick (second from right), Alfie Hale (on right, behind Herrick), Ben Hannigan (third from right) and Martin 'Fada' Sheehan (left).

AT a time like this nostalgia plays a big part in our sporting lives, memories of the days of our youth.

Growing up in East Cork in the 60s and 70s the GAA dominated the sporting landscape and it was during that time our love of Gaelic Games kicked into overdrive.

That love has endured to this day and will to the end. However, in those times we had a great affinity to Cork Hibernians FC, Hibs as they will be forever known.

Trying to get from East Cork to Flower Lodge on the Boreenmanna Road was fairly difficult back then. There was no regular bus service and if there was you might not have been able to afford it.

We had to use another means, our thumb, hitching a lift Sunday after Sunday or for a midweek game on Wednesday afternoon after our half-day from school.

You could be waiting for an hour for a lift, checking your watch every minute knowing that the kick-off time in the Lodge was coming nearer and nearer.

When you did get a lift, nine times out of 10 you would be dropped at The Coliseum corner and it was then a race against the clock to make the start of the game.

Somehow you nearly always got there, out of breath and for the next two hours you stood behind the Blackrock goal in front of the pavilion and roared on the boys in green and white.

What a team they were, some of the best soccer players ever to grace the playing fields of this country.

They were household names back then. Wiggington, Lawson, Sweeney, Noel O’Mahony, Frank Connolly, John Herrick, John Brohan, Terry Young, Donie Wallace, Miah, Martin Sheehan, Joe Grady in goal, Deccie Mahony, small Tommy Henderson, Gerry Finnegan, Dinny Allen and so many others.

Hibs were box office in those times and when Dave Bacuzzi arrived as manager he changed everything on and off the field. There was of course, the George Best of his time, Carl Davenport, the fans real favourite.

The football played was flamboyant and you could describe it as sexy as the crowds flocked to the Lodge.

Cork Hibs League of Ireland champions 1971. Back: Terry Young, Noel O’Mahony, Frankie Connolly, Joe O’Grady, Tony Marsden, Carl Davenport, Dave Wigginton. Front: Donie Wallace, John Herrick, Dave Bacuzzi, Sonny Sweeny, John Lawson. Missing from photo is Miah Dennehy.
Cork Hibs League of Ireland champions 1971. Back: Terry Young, Noel O’Mahony, Frankie Connolly, Joe O’Grady, Tony Marsden, Carl Davenport, Dave Wigginton. Front: Donie Wallace, John Herrick, Dave Bacuzzi, Sonny Sweeny, John Lawson. Missing from photo is Miah Dennehy.

There were those wonderful European afternoons against the cream of the crop of European teams, Valencia, Schalke 04, Borussia, Monchengladbach with Bertie Vogts and Gunter Netzer.

Joe Grady was hugely underrated as a goalkeeper, Noel O’Mahony, John Herrick and Martin Sheehan were teak tough defenders who had the motto ‘Thou Shalt Not Pass’.

John Lawson, John Brohan and Sonny Sweeney were masters of the midfield. Terry Young going down the flanks was a joy to behold and up front you had ‘The Dav, ‘Wiggy’ and the wonder Tony Marsden scoring some spectacular goals.

The banter on the terraces was award winning and no player was spared if he had a bad day at the office.

When the team played away in Dundalk, Dublin and Donegal you’d be on tenterhooks waiting on the result. In those days there was no live commentary and if there was it was very much Dublin orientated, the great Phillip Green on the mic and his affinity with Shamrock Rovers was well documented and he did not try to hide it.

The days of the Blaxnit Cup were memorable too, Linfield, Glentoran and Coleraine coming to the Lodge and bringing an extra dimension.

Local derbies were extra special, Hibs against Celtic was nearly as big as The Glen and The Barrs.

Celtic had a fine team too, Kevin Blount followed by Alex Ludzic in goal.

One of the best midfied players I ever saw, Ben Flanagan, Barry Notley, Paul O’ Donovan, Austin Noonan, Pat O’Mahony, Frank McCarthy, Donal Leahy, Charlie O’Mahony, Richie Brooks, Keith Edwards and of course in latter years Bobby Tambling.

The rivalry between Hibs and Celtic was intense, the bragging rights so important when you were going to work on the Monday morning down the Docks and on The Centre Park Road.

Two days, one week apart defined our love affair of Hibs, the league decider between themselves and a great Waterford team in 1972 and the FAI cup final between the same teams.

One was a heart-breaking loss to the best league of Ireland team of all time and the other a memorable victory.

26,000 crammed into the Lodge for the league decider.

Cork Hibs League of Ireland champions 1971. Back: Noel O’Mahony, Tony Marsden, Joe O’Grady, Martin Sheehan, John Lawson, Donie Wallace. Front: Miah Dennehy, John Herrick, Dave Bacuzzi, Dave Wigginton, Gerry Finnegan, Sonny Sweeney. 
Cork Hibs League of Ireland champions 1971. Back: Noel O’Mahony, Tony Marsden, Joe O’Grady, Martin Sheehan, John Lawson, Donie Wallace. Front: Miah Dennehy, John Herrick, Dave Bacuzzi, Dave Wigginton, Gerry Finnegan, Sonny Sweeney. 

Hibs led by 2-0 going into the final stages of the game only for Carl Humphries, Alfie Hale and Johnny Matthews to strike for Waterford.

We left the Lodge that day in a state of disbelief and wondering how this Hibs team could pick it up again a week later against the same Waterford team.

But somehow they did, inspired by the managerial brilliance of Bacuzzi. Dalymount was packed to the rafters for the cup final and what transpired is now the stuff of legend.

A hat-trick for Miah Dennehy denied Waterford the double and the cup was bound for Leeside to a tumultuous homecoming.It was retained a year later when Dinny Allen was a very big figure on the team.

Shelbourne were the beaten team that day in Flower Lodge, the first time the final was played outside of Dublin.

But the good times were to end three years later and Hibs were no more, financial shortfall forcing the club out of existence. It was a shocking blow at local and national level. A club with a short but great history was no more, nothing left but memories of those great days of going through the turnstiles after that trek from East Cork to what was for us, a shrine.

Donie Wallace, Alfie Hale, John Herrick, John Brohan, the author Michael Russell and Dinny Allen at the launch of the book Hibs! A History of Cork Hibernians FC 1956-1976. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Donie Wallace, Alfie Hale, John Herrick, John Brohan, the author Michael Russell and Dinny Allen at the launch of the book Hibs! A History of Cork Hibernians FC 1956-1976. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Thankfully, we still go there now most weekends for GAA games and the Cork sporting public should be in debt to the Cork County Board for having the foresight to retain this wonderful venue as a sporting facility.

Otherwise, it would have gone the way of Glenmalure Park in Miltown, the former home of Shamrock Rovers, now a housing estate.

Hibs will always be part of Cork’s sporting folklore, Cork Celtic too and the memories we have of those wonderful days continue to enrich us.

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