Reeling on the banks of the Lee: Neptune take off and Cork finally land Sam again

Derek Daly looks back at the history of Cork sport in the second half of the 1980s
Reeling on the banks of the Lee: Neptune take off and Cork finally land Sam again

Cork's Larry Tompkins and John Finn of Mayo battling in the 1989 final. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland

THE late 1980s was an extremely busy period for Cork sport. Here we look at the highlights:

1985:

New Year’s Day sees the opening of Neptune Stadium’s doors for the first time, as the northside of Cork city becomes the epicentre of Irish basketball. Quelle surprise Neptune go and win the league and cup double.

Burgerland's Ray Smith trying to get by Tim McCarthy, Team Britvic, during the National Cup final at Neptune Stadium in January 1985.
Burgerland's Ray Smith trying to get by Tim McCarthy, Team Britvic, during the National Cup final at Neptune Stadium in January 1985.

It all feels new on the soccer front as well, as Cork City complete their first campaign in the Premier Division, avoiding relegation by only two points, while Cobh Ramblers join the First Division.

On the 26th of May the Republic of Ireland host Spain in a friendly at Flower Lodge, although the match finishes scoreless.

It is the first year of the Nissan Classic. Sean Kelly would win the overall classification and he would finish second to Stephen Roche in the stage to Cork.

Ireland are the Five Nations champions again, although a draw with France would cost them the Grand Slam. In the crucial final game it took a famous Michael Kiernan drop goal to beat England 13-10 and secure the Triple Crown.

Marcus O’Sullivan announces himself on the international scene with a silver medal in the 1500m at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Greece, while in horse racing Vincent O’Brien wins his sixth and final Irish Derby with Law Society.

In the club championships the Barrs beat Clonakilty by four in the football, with Dave Barry kicking five points and JBM scoring 1-1, while in the small ball final the Rockies win their 29th title by beating Midleton by six.

In hurling Cork beat Tipp by 4-17 to 4-11 in the Munster Hurling Final, with John Fenton scoring 1-6 and JBM 1-3, although Galway proved too strong in the All-Ireland semi-final.

1986:

Cork City moved to Turner’s Cross and Noel O’Mahony took over as manager, as the fledgling club only avoid relegation on goal difference.

John McHenry from Douglas Golf Club wins the Irish Close and South of Ireland titles to truly announce himself.

The Cork U21 footballers complete a three-in-a-row of All-Ireland victories, as the Mick Slocum led side beat Offaly 3-16 to 0-12.

Cork are All-Ireland hurling champions once more, winning a classic final against Galway by 4-13 to 2-15. Kevin Hennessy bags 2-1, while Fenton scores 1-4. Tomas Mulcahy scored 1-1, with his goal being one of the greatest solo efforts in All-Ireland final history, while JBM knocked over two points in his final game for Cork.

Ger Fitzgerald scored six points as Midleton are crowned county champs at Blackrock’s expense, while 1-1 from Robert Swaine would prove decisive as Imokilly won a second football crown in three years, downing the Barr’s by 2-4 to 0-9.

1987:

Donal Lenihan from Cork Con captains Ireland at the first Rugby World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. Ireland would set a precedent by going out 33-15 in the quarter-final to Australia.

Neptune continued their dominance of Irish basketball by annexing another title, while John McHenry represents Britain and Ireland in the Walker Cup, alongside one Colin Montgomerie.

Marcus O’Sullivan wins the first of his three world indoor titles at 1500m at Indianapolis, while in the Five Nations Michael Kiernan scores a try, a conversion and a penalty as Ireland trounce England 17-0 at Lansdowne Road.

John Fenton scored one of the greatest hurling goals of all time in the Munster semi-final replay against Limerick, unleashing an unstoppable ground shot from fully 50m to the top right corner of Tommy Quaid’s net. Cork would lose a replay, after extra time, to a resurgent Tipp, despite Fenton registering 25 points over the two games.

John Fenton of Cork and Pat Creamer of Limerick in action in the 1987 Munster championship. Picture: INPHO
John Fenton of Cork and Pat Creamer of Limerick in action in the 1987 Munster championship. Picture: INPHO

It was a breakthrough year for the footballers, as Billy Morgan’s side downed the Kingdom in Killarney after a replay. 

The drawn match was the stuff of legend, when Kerry looked to have stolen it at the death through a Mickey Sheedy goal, only for the quick thinking of the late great John Kerins to get Cork down the field to engineer the equaliser. 

Cork would go on to lose the All-Ireland final to Meath by 1-14 to 0-11.

In the football club scene 18-year-old Steven O’Brien scored 2-1 as Nemo dethroned champions Imokilly by 2-11 to 0-9, while Ger Power captained Midleton to retain their title at Na Piarsaigh’s expense.

1988:

At the Seoul Olympics, Marcus O’Sullivan gets within touching distance of the podium, as he finishes sixth in the 1500 final.

Frank O'Mara, Marcus O'Sullivan, Ray Flynn and Eamonn Coghlan, who broke the world 4 x 1 mile relay record in a time of 15:49:99 in 1985. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE
Frank O'Mara, Marcus O'Sullivan, Ray Flynn and Eamonn Coghlan, who broke the world 4 x 1 mile relay record in a time of 15:49:99 in 1985. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

At home Neptune complete a four-in-a-row of league titles.

There is no stopping Nemo, especially with Eoin O’Mahony now in their ranks, as they beat Duhallow in the county final, while Brian Cunningham bangs over 0-12 as the Barr’s beat the Glen by 3-18 to 2-14, for their 24th title.

Christy Connery captained the Cork U21s to All-Ireland glory over Kilkenny by 4-11 to 1-5, with Dan O’Connell scoring 2-1, Mark Foley 1-1 and Ger Manley 0-4.

There is agony for the Cork footballers, who are denied an All-Ireland win over Meath by a controversial late free, and in the replay, they come up short by a single point, as Larry Tompkins scores eight points in both finals.

1989:

Flower Lodge is bought by Cork GAA. It would be renamed Páirc Uí Rinn.

Blue Demons break the Neptune stranglehold as they are crowned league champions, while Marcus O’Sullivan retains his world indoor gold at 1,500m in Budapest, while he also breaks the world indoor record that year with a blistering time of 3.35.4.

Castlehaven win their first county title, as five points from Larry help them to a 0-9 to 0-7 win over the Barrs, while in the hurling decider the Glen beat Sars in a shootout, by 4-15 to 3-13, with Kieran McGuckin, John Fitzgibbon and Tomás Mulcahy scoring 3-8 between them.

The Glen hurling team before winning the 1989 county.
The Glen hurling team before winning the 1989 county.

Redemption for the Cork footballers after losing two All-Ireland finals in a row. Two John Cleary penalties got them past the Dubs in the semi, and they had too much firepower for Mayo in the final winning 0-17 to 1-11, with Dinny Allen, who had debuted for Cork back in 1972, having the honour of lifting the Sam Maguire trophy.

Cork City lose the FAI Cup final to Derry City after a replay, as their promising young centre-half Brian Carey joins Manchester United in the summer.

And 1989 is the year that Cobh Ramblers sign a promising young midfielder from Rockmount named Roy Keane. We’ll hear more about him next week.

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