IN almost 70 years of competition, no season has encapsulated the depth of talent within the CBSL than its 29th campaign, 40 years ago, in 1980-'81.
The big four of Postal Workers (First Division champions), Byrnes (Second Division champions) an emerging Cork Examiner (Mooney Cup), CIE Athletic (Shield) and Youghal Yarns (Byrne Cup) produced an array of talented individuals who came together at the end of the season to display their wares in the Wembley Tournament in aid of the Middle Pariah along with the then cream of local soccer, Cork Youth League, MSL U23s and Cork AUL.
Postal became the first team to win three top-flight titles in a row when they edged out CIE 1-0 in a memorable play-off at Rockmount Park. after both teams finished level on points. In another winner-takes-all contest, this time to stay in the top division, Lunhams sent AIB down when they won 3-2 at Bishopstown Community School. Byrnes and Cork Examiner gained promotion from division two but Examiner would later turn the tables on their opponents by winning the Mooney Cup for the first time in a 1-0 win at Hickey Pk. on Sunday, June 1.
Examiner knocked-out Examiner United (6-1) Roches Stores (3-1), Youghal Yarns A (3-2) and Lunhams (5-0) before Kevin Hayes’s 42nd-minute headed winner sealed the final.
CIE retained the shield by beating Youghal A 1-0, Pat Downey scoring the only goal in the 58th minute, having won it for the first time the year before by overcoming Carpets’ second-string Youghal B. The A team would gain revenge by winning the Byrne Cup for the first time later in the campaign and denying Athletic a treble of successes in that competition. Goals from Denis O’Sullivan, Martin Cremin and Harry Speight helped Byrnes clinch the Second Division title following a 3-0 win over Bank of Ireland leaving Penn Chemicals to see off WF Rational for the Third Division crown.
And so, to the end of season invitational Wembley tournament which pitted the CBSL against the Cork Youth League at Old Rockmount Park on Tuesday, June 9 in one semi-final while the fancied MSL U23s faced up to the Cork AUL in the other side of the four-team competition.
The Youths lined up with four of the successful Tramore Athletic FAI Youths Cup-winning team of the following season, namely, Dave O’Connor, Kieran Murphy, Mickey O’Sullivan and Tony Neiland, but were dismantled by two second-half goals from Downey to finish on the wrong end of a 3-0 defeat.
After the MSL U23 XI had eliminated the Cork AUL 1-0, courtesy of a late penalty, the winners met in the final at the Mardyke on Wednesday, June 17, 1981. On a superbly manicured pitch, the CBSL opened their opponents up at will in the opening 45 and Player of the Tournament UCC keeper Kieran Buckley produced a number of outstanding saves to deny Downey and later Fords’ Brendie O’Keeffe on the stroke of half-time.
However, the MSL put their lethargic first-half display behind them and bombarded keeper Peter Gregson and his heroic defence with waves of sustained attacks. With less than ten minutes remaining, Downey finally broke the deadlock when he exploded into action with another double strike.
On Thursday, June 25, the AUL challenged the CBSL at Flower Lodge in a benefit for Martin Curtin of Fords who broke his leg earlier in the season. While the AUL had an opportunity to beat the recent tournament winners, the CBSL looked to make it a hat-trick of successes over the cream of Cork soccer.
The sun certainly shone in favour of the underdogs who scored twice in the second 45 through Downey, who brought his total to five, and Tommy Searls to rightfully claim the mantle of kings of Cork soccer in the summer of ‘81.
Kieran Buckley (UCC): Frank Drummond (Tramore Ath), Terry O’Shea (Rockmount); Bernard Murphy (do, RIP), Mick O’Keeffe (Crosshaven); Barry Neiland (Wembley, c), Mattie Murphy (Tramore Ath), Myles O’Neill (Crofton Celtic), John Mulcahy (Crosshaven), Michael Long (Wembley), Martin Lyons (Ringmahon Rangers), Gerry Collins(Avondale Utd)
Peter Gregson (CIE Ath): Kevin Cannon (Aer Lingus), Jerry Browne (Postal Workers); Harry Speight (Byrnes, c), Noel Kelleher (CIE Ath); Tommy Searls (Youghal Yarns A), Tony O’Leary (Fords), Michael Feehan (Byrnes); Brendan O’Keeffe (Fords), Jim Atkins (Youghal Yarns A), Pat Downey (CIE Ath)
Eamonn Fitzgerald. John Bird and Finbarr O’Sullivan.