EARLY May is synonymous with the staging of the blue ribbon event of the Business League calendar, the Mooney Cup final.
Back in the 1980s when the competition was at its height not even the all-conquering Postal Workers team of that era had it all their own way as new teams shocked the established sides making it a decade to remember.
The first decade of the '80s at the Showgrounds on Friday, May 23, 1980 featured four-time winners Postal Workers and twice winners Youghal Yarns A. In a contest dominated by defences, Postal’s Jer Frahill beat Yarns’ keeper Seamus Cody in the 70th minute to open the scoring.
After Mick Daly’s later equaliser, extra–time failed to separate the finalists and the teams renewed rivalry a week later at the same venue in what proved a more exciting tie. Again Daly was among the goals for Youghal when he broke the deadlock in the 10th minute.
John Reid levelled with a fine solo on the stroke of half-time before John McGrath crossed for Pat Lester to head the winner for league and cup winners Postal with 10 minutes remaining. Afterwards referee Sammy Spillane and his assistants Denis Murphy and Robbie Gregan received lavish praise for their performances by league chairman Jackie Carroll.
Two second division teams made it through to the decider on Sunday, June 1, 1981 and resulted in Cork Examiner, courtesy of a 42nd minute Kevin Hayes header, lifting the trophy for the first time with victory over Byrnes in the only final ever played at Hickey Park. It’s chastening to ponder that, following the passing of former Examiner player and manager and BL treasurer and PRO, Frank Linehan, last week nine of Examiner’s panel on that historic June day have now passed on.
Youghal overcame a gallant Ridge Tools second division outfit in the 1982 showpiece again played at the Showgrounds on Friday, May 14. Goals from Cyril O’Mahony and Jimmy Byrnes left Ridge with a mountain to climb at half-time and despite Denis O’Callaghan pulling one back for the underdogs, the cup went back to Killacloyne for a third time.
Another team from the second tier, Bank of Ireland, made it all the way through to the 1983 decider against favourites Postal Workers and caused the upset of the season at The Farm on Saturday, May 14 by toppling the five time winners courtesy of a goal five minutes from time by Tomás Maher set up by Danny O’Leary.
Our Lady’s Hospital United in their first of four final appearances weren’t so lucky the following, losing out to Tom Barry first-half deflected strike which landed Postal their second league and cup double in five seasons.
OLH were back again at The Showgrounds on Sunday, May 5, 1985 but were rocked by a rampant AIB 11 who went three up inside the opening half-hour through Pat Ryan (2) and Paudie Dennehy. Dennehy ran in a fourth past Sean Cullotty in the second 45 to seal the Banks first blue ribbon success. Referee Tom Bradley and his assistants Denis Morley and Liam Walsh were complimented by league chairman Jackie Carroll at the trophy presentation.
Cork Examiner were back in the final on Sunday, May 4, 1986 to face Postal Workers for the first time at Turner’s Cross. The Workers were ninety minutes away from completing the treble but after Frank Drummond gave Examiner a first-half lead, goals from Don Bevan and Pat Hawkes stretched the lead before John Reid reduced the deficit.
After a Charlie O’Mahony penalty made it 4-1, another penalty from John McGrath completed Examiner’s 4-2 win. In the closing minutes, Examiner keeper Denis McCarthy made a superb, point-blank save from Philip Clifford.
OLH made a third time lucky on May 3, 1987 when they edged past Postal, 4-2 in a penalty shoot-out, after a 1-1 draw in a replay. Kieran Corcoran put OLH ahead only for Andy Maher to equalise in the second half. Postal gained sweet revenge over Examiner in their treble year of 1987/88, winning 3-1 at the Cross.
Tim Donovan and Sean O’Donovan put Postal two up at the interval before Pat Lester headed a third past George O’Sullivan. Michael O’Mahony grabbed a consolation in the 84th minute.
Examiner were back in the final the following year but fell to a Dan Healy penalty for OLH after a replay ending a decade of memorable finals played at four different venues.