Christy McCormack put his heart and soul into Cork soccer side Wembley

Christy McCormack put his heart and soul into Cork soccer side Wembley
Wembley SFAI Evans Cup winners 1964. Back: John O'Driscoll, Con Ryan, Paddy Lane, Martin Harrington, Pat O'Donovan, Noel Cotter, Terry McCarthy, Alfie Knowles. Front: Paddy Shortt, Bobby Staunton, Christy McCormack, John Cahill, Alfie (Junior) Knowles, Jimmy Murphy.

APART from the FAI Junior Cup, which has not been won by a Cork team since 1945, the most elusive National trophy has been the Evans SFAI Cup which was won for the first time by Tower Rovers in 1958.

Six years later unheralded Middle Parish team Wembley brought it to Leeside for the second time and 53 years was to elapse before it returned in 2017.

The biggest ever attendance for a schoolboy final was present at Turner’s Cross on that gala occasion as Corinthians (winners) and St Mary’s battled for the Blue Riband.

Honoured that night were the surviving members of the great 1964 Wembley side.

Among them was a netminder who, after conceding in the 10th minute, time and time again afterwards, defied the best efforts of Dublin’s Stella Maris to increase their tally.

His heroism kept the Cork team’s hopes alive. Bobby Stanton netted an equaliser necessitating extra-time during which he scored again and Noel Cotter’s third assured Wembley of that historic Evans Cup victory.

Keeper Christy McCormack, who was 13 when he first played for Wembley, went on to better the Evans Cup win, if that was possible, when three years later they went up to Tolka Park as 10-1 outsiders to defeat the mighty, supposedly invincible, Home Farm 1-0 in the FAI Youths Cup final.

Christy who kept a clean sheet was one of five players who completed the Evans and Minor double which was probably never equalled before or after.

To win two National Cups before your 18th birthday was definitely something to crow about.

With the juniors, his excellent goalkeeping was a key factor in Wembley’s perpetual assaults on all the main trophies.

Newspaper reports in the early seventies laud him for his consistently outstanding displays which, unfortunately, didn’t result in outright triumphs.

Between 1971 and ’74 Wembley finished runners up in three premier competitions to Mary’s (twice) and Castleview.

A model of consistency he continually made the headlines in those years and one of his greatest performances was in defeat by Mary’s at Turner’s Cross in the Premier Shield final in 1973.

The same year Christy doubled as secretary of the club when they won the Munster Senior League Championship for the first time in their history after a three-way round robin play-off.

He went on to spend over 50 years with Wembley continuing to wear the number one jersey with the junior, senior (including versus Bohs in the 1977 FAI Senior Cup) and eventually their floodlit league over 35 side.

After a few seasons as secretary he went on to lend a hand as assistant manager and manager, vice chairman and chairman before spending the rest of his Wembley career as treasurer.

No task was too big for Christy and he carried out his own duties and many more with the utmost efficiency.

He became the Wembley founder and supremo Christy McGrath’s most trusted lieutenant.

When Wembley produced a booklet commemorating their 40th anniversary, all the key figures were interviewed and profiled except Christy who, shunning the limelight as he had always done, declined the opportunity.

He may have won very little medals after his teenage exploits with the famed club on the soccer arena, but recalls participating in an outrageous coup when, as Munster Senior League champions, they (Wembley) representing Patrick Hanley’s defeated Nemo Rangers in a City Division GAA Junior final. Fourteen soccer players mixed their own style with that of the national game to outsmart Nemo. The Gaels graciously complimented the foreign games players and had special praise for keeper Christy whose astonishing saves lit up Ballinlough.

Wembley entered a lean period in the middle eighties. Relegated in 1987 they slipped quietly out of the senior league in 1994.

It was a painful period for the two Christys, McGrath and McCormack, and other stalwarts who tried in vain to turn back the tide.

They continued to be represented by their youth and junior teams but as the new millennium was entered things got even worse.

The demographics of a fast expanding city made a difficult task even tougher.

Christy was one of those with the belief that what is cherished in life will be ever present, is safe, protected for all time.

Distinguished Service Award winner Christy McCormack with his son Chrstopher and niece Selina Goulding.Picture: Larry Cummins.
Distinguished Service Award winner Christy McCormack with his son Chrstopher and niece Selina Goulding.Picture: Larry Cummins.

This is an illusion similar to the conviction that the things we hold dear are indestructible.

Depopulation decades earlier had resulted in families moving out from the inner city. Continuing as they had done under such circumstances shows an abundance of strength and resilience and Christy for one was never lacking in that respect.

As mentioned earlier Christy won two National trophies while he was a teenager, but he was worth much more than the sum of his medals.

A badge of honour should have adorned the lapel of the one-club man for his loyal devotion to Wembley AFC.

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