Soccer nostalgia: From tough times to silverware for Cork City in modern era

Soccer nostalgia: From tough times to silverware for Cork City in modern era
Cork City's Colin Healy scores his sides winning goal against St Pat's. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

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 fifth and final part, he reflects on 2006 to the current season, with Cork City's double in 2018 an obvious highlight!

SHELBOURNE overcame severe financial difficulties to win their third title in four years in 2006 on goal difference from Derry.

However, Shels did not get to play in the Champions League as they were relegated on foot of financial difficulties. Their prolific striker Jason Byrne became the leading scorer for the fourth successive season and it was a toss-up for the Personality award with departing manager Pat Fenlon pipping the predator.

Paul Doolin, the personality recipient in 2002 in disappointing circumstances, mounted the rostrum again in 2007 guiding Drogheda to their first title victory.

Damien Richardson.
Damien Richardson.

In Damien Richardson’s last game as Cork City manager, he collected his second major trophy when Denis Behan’s lone goal was enough to see off the challenge of Longford in the first FAI Cup final to be played at the RDS.

The managerial merry go round continued in 2008 with Pat Fenlon’s Bohs running away with the league title and adding the FAI Cup for good measure.

Owen Heary was chosen ahead of a posse of team-mates for the personality award.

Cork City won the Setanta Cup and their striker Dave Mooney won the June award. Bohs retained the league in 2009 and Liam Buckley, manager of FAI Cup winners Sporting Fingal, won the Personality Award.

Liam Kearney and Dave Mooney.
Liam Kearney and Dave Mooney.

Colin Healy won the May award for third-placed Cork City who faced a winding-up order and were refused a licence for 2010.

They were readmitted to the first division as Cork City Foras Co-op. Derry owed huge debts and were expelled and they, too, after a name change to Derry City were granted a first division licence.

Shamrock Rovers won the league on goal difference from Bohs in 2011 and were deprived of the double when beaten on penalties by Sligo in the first FAI Cup final to be played at the Aviva before an attendance of 36,000.

Sligo’s win was instrumental in boss Paul Cooke receiving the Personality gong.

The Hoops retained the league title the following year and reached the Europa League group stages which helped manager Michael O’Neill win the SWAI Personality award.

The soccer writers were making a habit, a boring one, of awarding the personality accolade to managers. This time it was Ian Baraclough who inherited Paul Cooke’s hardened Sligo and went on to guide them to their first league title since 1977. That trend continued in 2013 when Liam Buckley lifted the league title after his St Pat’s side held off the late challenge of Dundalk.

Ciarán Kilduff became the first Cork player to claim a monthly award since their winding-up.

It’s great for the fans when the destination of the League title goes down to the wire as in 2014 when leaders Cork City travelled to Oriel Park to play the home team who needed a win to secure the crown.

Dundalk won 2-0 and manager Stephen Kenny won the personality award for the first time. Cork City surprisingly, apart from Mark McNulty being named Goalie of the Year, were given just a single monthly award when Mark O’Sullivan got the nod in June.

Mark O'Sullivan.
Mark O'Sullivan.

The following year (2015) Dundalk retained the league and added the FAI Cup as well.

They finished 11 points clear of second-placed Cork City and the choice of the brilliant Richie Towell as Personality of the Year was a no brainer.

It was hard to believe that the players of runners-up City failed to win any monthly award.

Dundalk made it three-in-a-row League championships in 2016 ahead of City who were becoming perennial bridesmaids.

Kenny’s side also made a big breakthrough in Europe reaching the Champions League play-off round.

Cork City too made great strides in Europe when they reached round three of the Europa League after which they exited to Genk.

Sean Maguire, the league’s top scorer, ended Dundalk’s double hopes when he scored in the last minute of extra-time in the FAI final.

Seanie Maguire.
Seanie Maguire.

Greg Bolger and Alan Bennett earned monthly awards but it was Kenny again who was chosen for the biggy.

In 2017 Cork City turned the tables on rivals Dundalk as they claimed the double by steam-rolling over all-comers; they did not drop a point until the unlucky 13th and a loss wasn’t recorded until their 23rd match.

There was no stopping Maguire who netted 20 goals before moving to Preston in July. Maguire, Conor McCormack, Ryan Delaney, Alan Bennett, and Mark McNulty (Goalkeeper of the Year for the third time) picked up monthly awards.

Cork City goalkeeper Mark McNulty was key to the club's successful period under John Caulfield. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Cork City goalkeeper Mark McNulty was key to the club's successful period under John Caulfield. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Maguire, McCormack and manager John Caulfield were among the six nominees for POY but there could be no questioning the gaffers entitlement to the award.

The wheel turned again in 2018 as Dundalk won another double. The Lilywhites were unstoppable and won the league with a record-breaking 87 points. 

And, for the fourth year in succession, they met the Rebels (league runners-up again) in the FAI Cup final. McEleney’s late headed winner gave Dundalk the double and Personality of the Year Stephen Kenny the perfect send-off as he left to take charge of the Irish U21s. 

Dundalk, under new management in 2019, stuck to their old habits retaining the league and contesting a fifth cup final in a row.

The Hoops were a match for them in a cracking decider and won on penalties ending a 32-year FAI drought.

New manager Vinnie Perth continued where Kenny left off by collecting another Personality of the Year Award for the Lilywhites.

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