IN the long history of European competition, Cork teams have on occasions found themselves drawn against some of the top names in the early rounds of either the then UEFA now Europa Cup or the former European Cup Winners’ Cup competitions.
On Wednesday, September 30, 1964, Cork Celtic, in their first European encounter and the first Cork team to compete, took on the fancied Bulgarian side Slavia Sofia at their 18,000 Vasil Levski stadium in a first leg, first round European Cup Winners’ Cup tie. The Leesiders had qualified courtesy of finishing runners-up in the cup final to double winners Shamrock Rovers the previous season.
In a bruising encounter in which the visitors gave as good as they got in defence and had goalkeeper Kevin Blount to thank for a number of outstanding saves which drew applause from the home support, the hosts finally broke the deadlock in the 66th minute through Krastev.
Celtic stayed in the tie through heroic defence from Ray Cowhie and Mick Millington and an inspirational debut from John Clifford until nine minutes from time. Paul O’Donovan beat two defenders and passed to Austin Noonan who presented the lion-hearted Donie Leahy with the chance to beat Pashoolov, the shot going in off the far post for the best result by an Irish club in all three competitions that night.
Cork Hibernians qualified for the Cup Winner’s Cup in 1972/73 by winning the FAI Cup for the first time and after home and away wins over Cypriot cup winners Pezoporikos Larnaca in the first round, took on crack West German outfit Schalke 04 in the first leg of the second round at Flower Lodge on Wednesday, October 25, 1972.
Hibs topped their group in the shield at home at the start of the season but must have feared a repeat of the humiliating 5-0 defeat handed out by West German champions Borussia Moenchengladbach in the European Cup the previous season. However, their fears were somewhat relieved by the ultra-cautious approach of Schalke who never fully tested the host’s defence with their forward trio of Ehmke, Kremers and Braun.
A cagy first-half by both teams led to Hibernians enjoying their best spell before the hour mark when FAI Cup hat-trick hero Miah Dennehy was put away by Donie Wallace only to have his goal-bound shot rather luckily blocked by tall full-back Russman. Within a minute, Wallace pulled the ball around Lutkebohmert and forced a fine one-handed save out of Nigbur.
Two minutes later John Lawson capitalized on a poor throw-in by Huhse to sent Dave Wigginton in with another chance to break the deadline. Again Nigbur was equal to the task and denied the host’s top marksman. Hibernians’ replacements Matthew Donovan and John Brohan were outstanding on the day and played their part in the second leg two weeks later in Gelsenkirchen, the venue of the Republic of Ireland’s famous 1-0 win over England in the European Championship in 1988, despite going down 3-0.
For 16 glorious first-half minutes the part-timers of Cork City, without four key regulars through injury, led three times European Cup Winners Bayern Munich in a UEFA Cup first round, first leg tie on a balmy Wednesday afternoon at Musgrave Park on September 18, 1991.
Despite Munich’s out-spoken international midfield star Stefan Effenberg beforehand declaring that his opposite number Dave Barry ‘looked old enough to be my father’, Barry opened the scoring in the 26th minute by turning inside Grahammer and firing low past Hillringhaus.
Barry commented afterwards, ’Well Stefan Effenberg played like my mother out there. I won’t be giving him the money he’s getting. If Bayern are worth 30 million, then what’s the value of Cork City.
'I will have to talk to the chairman,’ he joked.
Six days later City became the first Irish club to play at the Olympic Stadium, holding out for 75 minutes before conceding two late goals, leaving the pitch to a standing ovation from the home supporters.
But Wednesday, September 18, 1991, will be fondly remembered as a red-letter day for Irish soccer. Irish and Scottish grit, courtesy of Mick Conroy, thwarted one of the aristocrats of European football on a rugby surface in a GAA-mad city.