Big Ben Hannigan tasted success at Cork Celtic and across the League of Ireland

Known as a great character, he also played for Shels, Dundalk, Rovers, Sligo and St Pat's
Big Ben Hannigan tasted success at Cork Celtic and across the League of Ireland

Cork Celtic League of Ireland champions 1974: Paul O’Donovan, Ben Hannigan, John McCarthy, Keith Edwards (c), John Carroll, Barry Notley, Alek Ludzik, Denis Ryan (groundsman). Front: Alfie Hale, Mick Tobin, Paddy Shortt, Bobby Tambling, Richard Brooks, Frank O’Neill. Mascot Don Moore.

BEN Hannigan, one of the great characters of Irish soccer in the 1960s and '70s, has passed away. 

Tributes and condolences are being shared widely across social media following the news of his death. 

Soccer fans in these times bemoan the lack of entertainers such as Ben who left an indelible mark throughout the league especially with fans of the six clubs, Shelbourne (three times), Dundalk (twice), Shams, Sligo, St Pat's and Cork Celtic, fortunate enough to have seen him in their colours. 

In the mid-'60s he played for Wrexham but missing the crack and camaraderie returned to Dublin after making seven appearances with the Welsh side. Ben had the distinction of winning League Championship titles with Shels, Dundalk and Cork Celtic and the FAI Cup with Shels and Shams.

Most Leeside fans would probably have noted him for the first time following his eye-catching display for Shels against Cork Celtic in a 'winner takes all' 1962 Championship decider at Turner's Cross. 

It ended all square and Hannigan's lone goal was enough to see the Reds triumph in a nail-biting Dalymount play-off. He broke Cork hearts again the following season when helping the outstanding Shels defeat Hibs in the FAI Cup final. 

With Ben everything just seemed to turn to gold. He picked up another championship medal with Dundalk in 1967 followed two years later by a second FAI Cup medal won with Shamrock Rovers when they defeated Cork Celtic after a replay. 

He then went on a bit of tour assisting Sligo, Pat's and Shels before being signed by Cork Celtic during their glory season in 1974.

After Bobby Tambling picked up a bad injury in the defeat by Hibs, manager Paul O'Donovan swooped to sign 31-year-old Big Ben. Blessed with all the footballing skills, Hannigan had exceptional ball control, was an immaculate passer and had a healthy appetite for goal scoring. 

Normally deployed in a deep-playing midfield role he could hold the ball indefinitely, creating time and space for his colleagues. 

Describing his temperament, one soccer scribe rather diplomatically reported that “he had an easily aroused disposition, often exploited by opponents”. 

Big Ben, who became a fan-favourite and was the character in the team, made 19 appearances and netted five times as Celtic, the Cinderella team, went on to win the League title for the only time in their history. 

May he rest in peace.

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