ON Sunday, May 18, 1986, 35 years ago, Roches Stores won the Byrne Cup, now the Jackie O’Driscoll Premier Cup, for the first time after a 4-3 penalty shoot-out win over Postal Workers.
The clash at Pfizer Park was the first knockout final to be decided on penalties.
After being initially trialled in the now-defunct Watney Cup pre-season competition in England in 1971, penalties weren’t introduced in the World Cup finals until 1982. Four years later the CBSL adopted the method to decide the outcome of cup ties and avoid the replays which prolonged many seasons in the past.
Roches, founded in 1976, began the 1985-'86 season by reaching the Shield semi-final for the first time. Despite having home advantage at Rational Park, Little Island, Roches lost 5-1 to Postal, whom they hadn’t beaten in nine attempts stretching back September 28, 1976, before embarking on a league campaign which would end in promotion to the top flight behind champions Byrnes.
By the time the Byrne Cup competition came around in late March, Postal had won back the shield they lost the previous season to Penn Chemicals by beating CIE Athletic 2-1 and remained unbeaten in league and cup. The competition was split into two sections with teams from the first and second divisions grouped in section 1 while teams from division three battled it out in section 2.
Four teams were drawn in round one where OLH United came out against Roches and Postal against ESB. On Good Friday, March 28, goals from Noel McCarthy, Laurence Owens and Don Sheehan sealed a 3-0 win for Roches at St Ann’s Park before Postal opened their account eight days later at the ESB Grounds. John Reid and Pat Hurley were among the goals in a comprehensive 5-1 win.
As Roches prepared for their second round tie against another First Division opponent Garda on the morning of Sunday, April 13, the match was postponed and re-fixed for Wednesday night at the same venue. Understandably vexed by the lateness of the postponement, Roches did their talking on the pitch by racing into a 4-0 half-time lead courtesy of goals from McCarthy (2), Owens and Sheehan to ease into round three.
On the following Sunday, the Workers locked horns with their second-string Postal United at Blackpool Park. Goals from Phil Clifford, John Reid, Pat Hurley and Harry Harte outscored the two scored by Ger Frahill and Pat Lester.
Roches were again first into action in round three against third division City Hall and went one up through McCarthy after 20 minutes. The Hall responded by going 2-1 through Liam Cummins and Pat Hurley only for Jim Cummins to take the tie to extra-time. When no further goals ensued, the tie went to sudden death penalties, full-back Joe Buckley tucking away the decisive spot-kick.
Postal edged home 2-1 with goals from Denis O’Leary and John McGrath. Dave Cronin replied for Examiner.
Both teams went through to the last four without conceding as Roches accounted for Co Council (4-0) and Postal saw off Irish Steel (2-0) while Roches had the expected 3-1 win over Hickey’s in the semi-final while Postal accounted for Bank of Ireland 4-3 on penalties after a three-three draw.
The final scheduled for Pfizer Park on Sunday afternoon, May 18 drew a sizeable attendance and burst into life on the half-hour when Roches’ Anthony O’Reilly sent Kevin Callanan through to rifle the opener past Tom Archer.
The Workers dominated the second 45 and got back on level terms with twenty minutes remaining when John McGrath converted a penalty after Pat Hurley was taken down. Extra-time failed to separate the teams and for the first time a cup decider went to a shoot-out.
Noel McCarthy sealed the tie with the decisive fifth penalty for a nailbiting 4-3 win.
Roches keeper Liam O’Callaghan was rewarded for his heroics between the posts by being nominated as Man of the Match. The victory was a triumph for manager Aidan Draper who had only taken over the previous season and would go on to guide the club to the Shield Final in 1989 and the AIB Cup final in 1991.
Other long-serving stalwarts Jim Cummins, Laurence Owens, Finbarr O’Brien and Theo McAuliffe basked in the glory of an unforgettable day.