THE highlight of Aer Lingus’ more than 50-year tenure in the Cork Business League was the treble success of league, shield, and premier cup in 1993/94.
The airport outfit had only once won the top division, nine years earlier, when they pipped Postal Workers to the championship and prevented them from winning an unprecedented eight titles in a row.
Aer Lingus, under the guidance of Paul Whelan, were drawn in section six of the shield along with twice-winners Our Lady’s Hospital Utd, Janssen, and CIE Utd, and began with a comprehensive 5-1 win over CIE on Sunday, September 4, 1993 at Alsa Park.
The following Saturday, Janssen were defeated 2-1 at the same venue, to set up a group decider with OLH two weeks later.
Richard Long gave Janssen a first-half lead but two goals either side of the 84th minute from Martin Sugrue and Aidan O’Sullivan sealed their fate.
OLH made the journey across the city to Alsa Park on Saturday, September 26 to decide who would progress to meet AIB in the quarter-final. In between, a first league win over Garda, 2-0, kept the season ticking along. Up against a physically imposing Garda 11, Terry Trindles opened the scoring and Martin Walsh blasted in the second.
The last quarter-final to be decided was played at the Greyhound Track on Saturday, November 6, with Martin Walsh (2), Aidan O’Sullivan, and Martin Sugrue scoring in a thumping 4-1 win.
The following week Aer Lingus lit up Pfizer Park in their afternoon semi-final against Smurfits, netting four without reply through Sugure (2), Walsh, and Damien McCarthy to set up a final date with ESB at the same venue a week later.
Once again, Aer Lingus were in superb form, romping to a 4-0 victory after a stunning Sugrue hat-trick and a fourth from Damien Carty sealed the club’s first silverware of the season.
With the airport side now installed as firm title favourites despite being a massive nine points adrift of leaders Liebert with seven matches in hand in the era of two points for a win, a 1-1 draw with mid-table Bank of Ireland meant they still had it all to do.
Incredibly, a number of postponements due to weather and the Christmas break resulted in Airport’s next league encounter coming at the end of January against early leaders Liebert.
Looking invincible at home, a 3-1 win, all the goals coming in the second 45, kept Aer Lingus in the title race after goals from Walsh, Sugrue, and Brendan Farrell came ahead of Eugene Cooney’s 90th- minute consolation.
A 5-1 win in the second round of the Mooney Cup was followed by a crucial 3-2 away win over champions Youghal Yarns in the league, O’Sullivan and Martin and David Walsh among the goals.
After Dave O’Donoghue set up Owen O’Callaghan and Ivan Murray added a second for OLH, it looked like Aer Lingus would lose their 100% home record until goals from Carty and Martin Walsh salvaged a point.
At the end of February, Aer Lingus still lagged seven points behind new leaders AIB but despite losing 3-0 to Postal Workers, they kept in touch with another best of five-goal win, this time over CIE Athletic.
A penalty shoot-out win over Postal Utd in the cup was followed by a 5-2 league win over Garda.
With fixtures beginning to pile up, Pat Collins’ fifth-minute winner eliminated Craig Gardner in the cup quarter-final, with Ridge Tools going down 5-0 in the league in the first of the night fixtures.
However, defeat to ESB in the cup semi-final focused attention back on the title race as wins over Bank of Ireland, Roches Stores, CIE, Ridge, Liebert, and a 0-0 draw with ESB pushed the Airport to within touching distance of leaders AIB.
Wins over Ridge and Garda set up a premier cup final date with Postal Workers before a 1-1 draw away to AIB in the league put the title in their own hands with victory over ESB at the ESB Grounds on Tuesday, May 31.
Dave Walsh netted the all-important goals which landed Aer Lingus the premier cup on the Sunday and the title on a wet night two days later.
The club would go on to change its name to Cork Airport and enjoy further success before resigning from football, following more than 50 years of dedicated service.