OF all the imports who have played with Cork teams over the years, no signing aroused more interest among soccer followers on Leeside than that of former England inside-forward Horatio ‘Raich’ Carter for Cork Athletic in January 1953.
Carter was the only man to win an FA Cup on either side of the war, the first with Sunderland in 1937 and the second with Derby in 1946. But, the war cut like an axe through the prime years of his career, meaning he only won 13 peacetime caps for England, his first and last caps coming more than 13 years apart.
He was a cultured inside-forward, who as intelligent both on and off the ball, and capable of hitting a blistering shot with either foot. He had an enormous presence on a football pitch, revelling in his role as star and entertainer, an approach which led to some labelling him as arrogant.
‘He was a nice man but he loved himself," was how the Gentle Giant John Charles summed him up.
When he decided to leave the Rams in 1948, there was no shortage of interest. Carter wanted a role as both a player and coach, with a view to taking the reigns as first-team manager once his playing days were numbered. There were offers from Second Division duo Leeds United and Nottingham Forest, but he dropped down into the Third Division North, becoming Major Frank Buckley’s assistant at Hull City.
However, within two weeks of Carter’s arrival, Buckley was gone, taking the vacant job at Leeds.
So, Raich was fast-tracked into the top job, and in 1948, aged 34, the ‘Silver Fox’ became player-manager at Boothferry Park. He proved to be as confident and calm a manager as a player and brought a delightful style which won the Tigers the title as well as being the top-scorers in England in his first full season in charge.
A rift with chairman Harold Needler led to the player-manager’s departure in January 1953 and offered enterprising Cork Athletic secretary Donie Forde and director Dan Fitzgibbon an opportunity to approach the former international, who at the time was running a sweet shop, with a view to signing for the Leesiders in time for the first round of the FAI Cup.
The journey to Yorkshire proved fruitful for Athletic’s officials who made the unprecedented offer at the time of £50 a game plus £20 expenses which Carter couldn’t resist.
After making his debut in the league against Waterford, an objection by Drumcondra, Athletic’s opponents in the cup, regarding Carter’s residency in the country two weeks before the tie was upheld, the new signing earned his match fee by scoring the only goal at Tolka Park. Davie Noonan exchanged passes with Paddy O’Leary who beat Robinson before passing back for Carter to net the winner in the 11th minute.
Winger Johnny Vaughan described his presence as, ‘giving us a great boost. It took two men to mark him all the time.’
He was again among the goals along with Paddy O’Leary with a brace in a 3-2 to set up a semi-final duel with Munster neighbours Limerick on Saturday, March 28.
Two goals from another Englishman, Jackie Lennox, in a 2-1 win, sealed Athletic’s fourth final appearance in a row.
The final at Dalymount Park on Sunday, April 26, against local rivals Evergreen United was the first all-Cork decider and Carter again proved influential when he opened the scoring in the 37th minute. After Billy Venner and Liam O’Neill put Evergreen ahead by the 69th minute, Davie Noonan sent the tie to a replay at the same venue three days later with the equaliser four minutes from time.
Carter netted Athletic’s second in the replay after Lennox opened the scoring in the 17th minute. O’Neill reduced the deficit with 16 minutes remaining but Athletic held on to win the cup for the second time in four years.
The gamble to recruit Carter proved successful in saving Athletic’s season as he became the first man to win FA Cup and FAI Cup winners medals to bring the curtain down on a glittering career that totalled 392 goals in 703 appearances.