Reeling on the banks of the Lee: Cork stun Kerry and Cork City are formed

Derek Daly looks back at the history of Cork sport in the first half of the 1980s
Reeling on the banks of the Lee: Cork stun Kerry and Cork City are formed

Cork wing-forward Tadgh Murphy celebrates scoring with Dave Barry, while Kerry goalkeeper Charlie Nelligan disputes the decision in the 1983 Munster football final. 

IN the latest of our Reeling in the Cork sports years pieces we take a look at the early 1980s, which saw Cork become the dominant force in Irish basketball, the Cork hurlers winning the Centenary final, and Cork City FC coming into existence.


What a year for St Finbarr’s!

On Paddy’s Day they are crowned All-Ireland club football champions when seeing off Galway champions St Grellan’s by 3-9 to 0-8, while later in the year they show no sign of their hunger dissipating, as they win the double in Cork.

The Glen are dispatched in the hurling decider, by 1-9 to 2-4, while UCC are no match for them in the football final, as the Christy Ryan led side won 3-8 to 1-9.

Cork win the U21 football All-Ireland with a 2-8 to 1-5 win over Dublin, while on the senior front Cork lose to Kerry in the Munster Final by 0-12 to 3-13, while in the Munster hurling decider Cork are beaten 2-14 to 2-10 by Limerick.

In rugby Cork Con’s Noel Murphy has the honour of being the Head Coach to the British and Irish Lions in their extremely controversial tour of South Africa, with the tourists losing the Test series 3-1.


Blue Demons had won the inaugural National Basketball League back in 1974, and they won their second Men’s National League Championship title in this year.

Former Liverpool legend Ian Callaghan played two games for Cork United (formerly Albert Rovers).

The Barrs retain their All-Ireland club football crown, beating Meath side Walterstown by five in the final. On the local front Nemo Rangers are convincing champions, with 2-1 from Ephie Fitzgerald inspiring them to a 3-11 to 0-6 win over the Bantry Blues.

The hurling decider is a repeat of the year before, with the Barr’s once again beating the Glen, with Christy Ryan’s 1-1 and John Meyler’s 0-3 being instrumental to the three-point win.

The U21 footballers are All-Ireland champs again, with Galway being seen off by six points after a replay.


A year on from receiving the Wooden Spoon, Ireland are Five Nations champions, with Moss Finn’s brace of tries against Wales and Ginger McLoughlin’s famous try at Twickenham being the highlights.

Cork United go the same way as Hibs and Celtic, as they are declared bankrupt, and Cork no longer have a club in the League of Ireland.

In football, Cork drew 0-9 apiece with five-in-a-row chasing Kerry at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, but are no match for them in the replay in Killarney.

In hurling, Seanie O’Leary scores four goals in a Munster Final rout of Waterford, as Cork win by 5-31 to 3-6. Unfortunately, they came undone in the All-Ireland Final, losing 3-18 to 1-13 to Kilkenny.

John Blake captains the Barr’s to a three-in-a-row in hurling, despite a hat-trick in the final from Ray Cummins, as the Togher side win 2-17 to 3-9.

They complete the double by winning the football also, as Jimmy Barry-Murphy bags 1-2 in a 1-5 to 0-5 win over Duhallow.

Across the city Nemo Rangers were celebrating an All-Ireland triumph, as they easily beat Mayo outfit Garrymore by 6-11 to 1-8.


Munster Senior League side Cobh Ramblers went on an amazing FAI Cup run, beating Dundalk and Finn Harps to qualify for the semi-final. Here they would become embroiled in a legendary four-game saga with Sligo Rovers, with two matches at Flower Lodge being played out in front of 20,000 people. Ramblers were two up in the fourth game but Sligo came back to win in extra time, to end the fairytale.

Neptune won their first Men’s National Basketball League Championship. It would be the first of seven they would win in nine years.

Neptune's Tom Wilkinson in action in 1983.
Neptune's Tom Wilkinson in action in 1983.

Ireland share the Five Nations title with France, with Moss Finn scoring another crucial brace in the 22-16 win over the French in Dublin, while Dolphin’s Michael Kiernan scored the crucial try in the victory over Scotland. Kiernan would later tour New Zealand with the Lions alongside Cork Con’s Donal Lenihan and Shannon’s Ginger McLoughlin.

Glanmire’s Tadhg Murphy wrote himself into immortality with a seismic last-minute goal, as Cork go from two points down to being Munster champions with one famous kick past a sprawling Charlie Nelligan. Murphy scored 2-2 on the day while Castlehaven’s John Cleary registered 1-6.

Cork’s All-Ireland bid would come up short in the semi-final, where they lost a replay to eventual champions Dublin in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

In hurling, Cork would again maul Waterford in the Munster final, but would go down by two points to Kilkenny, again, in a frustrating All-Ireland final loss.

Locally, Midleton ended St Finbarr’s four-in-a-row bid with a 1-18 to 2-9 win in the county final, with 10 points from captain John Fenton being key to their first county title in 67 years.

Jimmy Kerrigan captained Nemo to county glory, as the Capwell side saw off Clonakility by 4-12 to 2-3.


This year sees the birth of Cork City FC. Bobby Tambling was their first manager, although he would be replaced by Tony Allen after only 13 games.

Cork City FC in 1984.
Cork City FC in 1984.

Blue Demons are the kingpins of Irish basketball again, while the Mardyke sees a truly remarkable day in athletics in July when Yuriy Sedykh and Sergey Litvinov broke the world record for the hammer throw six times in one evening.

At the Los Angeles Olympic Games, Marcus O’Sullivan ran the first of four Olympics he would contest.

In the football Munster final, Dave Barry scored 1-4, but it was not enough to beat Kerry who won 3-14 to 2-10.

In hurling Cork won what is regarded as one of the greatest Munster finals as they come from four points down with seven minutes to go to win by four. The game is famous for Tipperary goalkeeper John Sheedy batting down a Tony O’Sullivan point attempt, only for it to fall perfectly for the loitering Seanie O’Leary to goal.

Action from the 1984 Munster senior hurling final, when Cork came from behind to stun Tipp.
Action from the 1984 Munster senior hurling final, when Cork came from behind to stun Tipp.

This set Cork up to win the Centenary All-Ireland final in Thurles, as they saw off Offaly by 3-16 to 1-12, with O’Leary scoring 2-1, and with Fenton scoring seven points and O’Sullivan six.

The Barrs win the hurling again, as they beat surprise packets Ballyhea, 1-15 to 2-4, despite 2-3 from Willie Shanahan, while seven points from Billy Ahern inspire Imokilly to a four-point win over the Barrs in the football decider.

Nemo Rangers were All-Ireland champions again, as they beat Walterstown by 2-10 to 0-5.

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