FLASHBACK: Game against Dundalk in 1989 laid vital foundations for Cork City's future

FLASHBACK: Game against Dundalk in 1989 laid vital foundations for Cork City's future
The Cork City team in March 1989. 

Cork City-Dundalk, FAI Harp Lager Cup quarter-final replay, March 15, 1989, Turner’s Cross. 

THE problem with nostalgia is that there’s only so much of it.

With a Cork City v Dundalk game looming, as with Saturday’s important SSE Airtricity League of Ireland Premier Division tie at Turner’s Cross, the natural go-to game is the 1991 title decider at the same venue.

The only problem is – we did that last month ahead of the President’s Cup tie. And, if we’re being truly honest with ourselves and, of course, yourself, dear reader, that wasn’t the first time we had recounted it either.

No, it’s time for something new and fresh and – most importantly – an example where City win, with no Tom McNulty in sight to be the party-pooper.

We’ll go back two years further, to 1989, when City had yet to fully become the club we came to know and love. 

While the club had won the league cup in 1987-88, the imagination of the Cork public hadn’t fully been captured – the first four league campaigns after formation in 1984 would see final placings of ninth, tenth, seventh and seventh. 

The 1988-89 season would see the missing eighth place added, but the FAI Harp Lager Cup would provide a spark, one which would have lasting effects.

A local derby victory over Cobh Ramblers had brought Noel O’Mahony’s side to the last eight of the competition, where they faced Dundalk, who were the holders, having beaten Derry Cup in the 1988 final.

At Oriel Park on March 5, the sides played out a 2-2 draw, with the replay set for the Cross the following Thursday, but poor weather conditions led to it being postponed. Wednesday, March 15 was the new date, with the semi-final draw made in the interim.

As it happened, three of the four quarter-finals had been drawn, so league leaders Derry, who had also won the league cup, were the only side definitely in the semis. They were paired with either Shamrock Rovers or Home Farm, meaning that the winners of the all-first division tie between Drogheda United and Bray Wanderers would oppose City or Dundalk.

The ground still wasn’t in ideal condition and so referee John Purcell had to undertake a 7am pitch inspection to determine if the game could ahead. Thankfully, it was up to the mark.

Dundalk hadn’t lost a cup tie in Cork since 1982 and for 45 minutes of this game they maintained that record.

With Dave Barry in inspired form, City were on top in the opening 20 minutes but couldn’t create too many clear-cut chances. In contrast, Dundalk had a couple of opportunities – Mick Shelley’s effort was blocked down after the awarding of an indirect free kick in the penalty area for obstruction (so rarely seen nowadays), while Larry Wyse shot wide soon after.

The game had moved into injury time when Patsy Freyne, as he did so often, made a significant contribution. Philip Long’s free kick from halfway was half-headed clear by Joey Malone as far as Liam Murphy. While the captain’s shot was blocked down, Freyne was on hand to swing his left foot at the loose ball, sending it past Alan O’Neill and into the corner of the net.

With the onus on them, Dundalk made the running in the second half and went close on more than one occasion. City right-back Paul Bowdren had to head clear from under his own crossbar when a Noel Healy’s attempted clearance looked to be heading in, while Terry Eviston was first denied by Phil Harrington in the City goal and then shot over.

Ten minutes from the end, Harrington was again on hand to make an important intervention, this time diving at the feet of Gino Lawless. City continued to defend well and in fact might have doubled their lead late on but Kevin Nugent’s header went the wrong side of the post.

It mattered little in the end as they held on to reach the semis, where Bray would oppose them, having beaten Drogheda.

Despite being in the penultimate round, City would have five more games to play in the cup – the two-legged semi was drawn 1-1 on aggregate after two away wins, but City triumphed 4-0 in the replay the Cross.

Then, the final against treble-seeking Derry was scoreless – Barry unlucky to see a shot hit the post – before Felix Healy got the only goal for the Candystripes in the replay. City ended the season without major silverware, but an important foundation had been laid.

CORK CITY: Harrington; Bowdren, Healy, Carey, Long; Freyne, Conroy, Barry, Murphy; Caulfield, Nugent.

DUNDALK: O’Neill; Lawless, Malone, Cleary, Lawlor; Shelley, Murray, Wyse (Gannon 84); O’Connor, Eviston, Newe (Cousins half-time).

Referee: J Purcell (Dublin).

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