BOYS who won a Dr Harty Cup medal during their school years were often in later life referred to by former contemporaries as a Harty boy which was considered by many to be as important as a good Leaving Cert.
Paul Crowley won a Harty in 1976 as well as Munster Colleges Football title and had little or no time for soccer. When he did play, it was with Tramore Athletic and Albert Rovers.
Then, very surprisingly Paul’s sporting preferences changed and he came to prominence with ill-fated Cork United in 1980 and was enjoying League of Ireland football when the club’s membership was cancelled in 1982.
He even got to play with Trevor Brooking and Terry McDermott who were brought in to add thousands to the attendances.
United’s only success was the winning of the Munster Senior Cup in 1982 when, captained by Paul, they defeated Waterford 5-4 on penalties after extra time.
Alec Ludzik was the hero as he saved five penalties in the shoot-out and Paul, who rarely missed, netted his.
Interestingly, Donie Madden and Miah Dennehy played for Waterford and Johnnie Matthews lined out with Cork.
It was United’s second match in 24 hours, they were involved in a gruelling 2-2 draw the day before when Paul was on the score-sheet. Dinny Allen, a penalty scorer in the shoot-out, was also playing his second match as he helped Cork at Croke Park on the Sunday.
With no league football in Cork for the first time since Fordson’s entry in 1924, Paul moved down the harbour to play with Cobh Ramblers in non-league soccer.
Cork people will never forget that Ramblers team which breathed new life into the whole county. They defeated League Champions Dundalk in the FAI Cup first round and followed by also putting Finn Harps to the sword after which Billy George wrote,:“A day this, quarried from the folklore of the game, an achievement to be etched in history, Cobh Ramblers the magnificent, Cobh Ramblers the history makers, Cobh Ramblers the FAI Cup semi-finalists”.
By the way, 6,000 squeezed into Colman’s Park that day. While they were awaiting the semi-final against Sligo they contested the Intermediate Cup final against Bluebell in Dublin and Paul proved to be the hero when scoring the match winner.
Naked as far as League football was concerned, Cork was cloaked resplendently in glory thanks to the exploits of Ramblers.
Flower Lodge hosted one of the biggest crowds in its history for the match with Sligo. Gate receipts of £30,000 were returned which was twice the cumulative total of all games played at the venue in the previous two seasons.
Ramblers were leading 1-0 when Sligo snatched a late equaliser. As you all know the sides met four times before the saga ended in Sligo where Ramblers did everything, but score and sank to their knees at the final whistle as the Westerners scraped through by the skin of their teeth.
Incidentally the second replay in Flower Lodge was watched by an attendance of 18,000 who paid £37,500 for the pleasure.
When League football was restored, Paul became one of Bobby Tambling’s signings for Cork City and made 32 league and cup appearances that season. He might not like to be reminded that he was red- carded in the last game of the season against Galway.
Paul captained Cork in the early stages of the following season, but results were poor and there was unrest in the dressing room. In January 1986 he was transferred to First Division Newcastle and made his debut in a 3-0 defeat away to Derry City.
In the summer of 1986 Paul re-joined Cobh Ramblers from the Limerick side. He enjoyed one his best seasons in 1987-88 and helped Ramblers earn promotion to the League of Ireland Premier Division.
Paul, the only Ramblers player, later lined out with the Munster team which played the European Championship-bound Republic of Ireland at Turner’s Cross.
Work commitments interrupted his Cobh career and little was seen of him until his return again during the 1990-91 season. After a break from the game he returned to play in the MSL with Rockmount and afterwards with Hillington in the AUL.
With the AUL side he was on the losing team in three finals. Despite scoring twice in the League play-off he still finished on the losing side as Kanturk doubled the city team’s tally and was out of luck too in the St Michael’s Cup when Hillington were beaten finalists in 1995 and ’99.
Paul, who is as passionate about the game as ever, is a very popular figure on the sidelines and shares a record for the number of matches he attends annually. And it is a pleasure that he is to be inducted into the list of sports people honoured for distinguished service to Cork soccer.