IN their tenures in the League of Ireland, throughout the 1950s, '60s and '70s, Cork Hibernians and Cork Celtic both featured dramatic debuts by cross channel and local players whose exploits dazzled the home fans and would live long in the memory of the clubs’ histories.
The first to make a spectacular mark was John McCole who scored four goals on his league debut for Hibernians against Waterford in a 5-3 win on Sunday, February 21, 1965.
The Donegal native had played with a host of clubs in England including Leeds United and demonstrated his goal-scoring prowess in his first outing at the Lodge to be affectionately christened afterward, ‘Four Goal’.
After Waterford’s Peter Fitzgerald headed in Coad’s corner in the first minute, McCole took advantage of a mix up at the back to equalise within a minute.
The centre-forward was in again in the 35th minute to finish off Jack Fitzgerald’s shot which was parried by the keeper. Ryan pulled the team’s level with a second for the visitors in the 61st minute only for Fitzgerald to restore the host’s lead for 3-2.
Once again, the Déise replied with Purcell grabbing a third but with 11 minutes left, McCole pounced with a lob and a header to complete a remarkable four-goal haul on his first outing for the Leesiders.
In a year with Hibs, he scored 20 goals in 34 appearances.
If ever a debut captured the imagination of the Cork public, it was that of former Cork Celtic goalkeeper Alec Ludzic on Sunday, November 30, 1969.
The Derby County keeper, clad in all black, was thrown into the cauldron of a local derby against Hibernians at Flower Lodge and as early as the 28th minute of a fearsome contest, endeared himself to the near-capacity attendance.
He acrobatically caught a Donie Wallace belter destined for the top corner and later brilliantly palmed away a Carl Davenport penalty with two minutes remaining.
Cork Examiner reporter Bill George generously recognised the contribution of the young custodian commenting: ‘They (Hibs) would probably not had to wait until the 70th minute for the decisive goal but for the magnificent play of Celtic’s new signing, goalkeeper Alec Ludzic.’
The 19-year-old electrified the crowd with a series of heart-stopping saves.
Born in the coalmining town of Derby to a Polish mother and Italian father, Ludzic was recommended to County’s assistant manager Peter Taylor and came to the attention of Celtic manager Amby Fogarty who, through his friendship with Brian Clough, had previously persuaded Dave Wigginton to join Hibs.
Fogarty promised the young keeper first-team football after Ludzic had decided not to wait for his chance with the soon to be crowned Second Division champions and went straight into the first team in place of McGovern.
Bobby Tambling’s debut for Celtic in a memorable 6-2 win over champions Waterford at Kilcohan Park on Sunday, October 28, 1973 was made all the more remarkable when you consider the Leesiders suffered their worst ever league defeat, (7-0), the week before to Bohemians.
The former Chelsea, Crystal Palace and England international, inspired his team-mates by scoring once himself and having a hand in two others to complement a display worthy of his international standing.
While he and his wife Kath had come to Cork to spread the Truth as Jehovah's Witnesses, he was the catalyst for the revival in Celtic’s fortunes which would be realised later that same season with a first and only title success.
While Denis Allen is best remembered for his exploits on the GAA field and in captaining Cork to their All-Ireland Senior Football success of 1989, he contributed handsomely to first, Hibernians, and later, Celtic’s teams, of the early and middle ’70s. He made his debut for Hibs in an FAI Cup tie against non-league Rialto at Flower Lodge on Sunday, March 18, 1973.
Hibs were defending the cup they won the previous season and in a lacklustre display came through courtesy of goals from Dave Wigginton (two) and Martin Sheehan after Kevin Norton had given the Dubliners a 29th-minute lead.
The 21-year-old Allen impressed with his imaginative play and passing and came close to scoring himself on a number of occasions. He went on to play in the 1-0 cup final win over Shelbourne, winning the Man of the Match accolade before moving onto Celtic after 58 games and 19 goals.