WITH the eagerly awaited start to the new season under a month away, the Sports Gear Direct Shield competition will once again get proceedings underway.
Since its inception in 1956-'57, the shield has remained the opening competition in the league’s calendar, where teams are drawn in sections before progressing to the knockout stages. For new and existing clubs, a batch of new signings, even a new manager is looked upon as a fresh start.
The first few matches are usually greeted with a mixture of pent-up adrenaline and uninhibited optimism. More often than not they do not live up to the hype... but sometimes they do.
Our Lady’s Hospital Utd (OLH), in only their second season, set their shield campaign of 1981/82 alight by going through to their first final unbeaten after topping their shield section. Despite still being a third division side, Declan O’Riordan opened the scoring in their first shield outing against first division Roches Stores on Sunday, September 6, at Hickey Park.
Although Jim Cummins equalised early in the second half, Jer Leahy banged home the winner with five minutes remaining. Another top-flight outfit, Fords, were also beaten 2-1 a week later before a goalless draw with Postal Utd and further wins over True Temper (4-0) and CMP (4-1) set up a group decider with second-placed Ridge Tools at Victoria Park on Sunday, November 1.
Goals from O’Riordan and Leahy were enough to send OLH into the last four and register the best start ever by a third division team in the competition.
In 1987-'88 an aging Postal Workers side were attempting to win the shield for a record sixth time with newcomers Tom Barry, Tim McCarthy, Ger Frahill, and player-manager Sean O’Donovan replacing experienced campaigners like Derry Hartnett and Andy Maher. Having won trophies with regularity for the previous 10 years, the Workers faced up to CIE Utd in their opening section 2A encounter at Hillington on Sunday, September 13, 1987.
The youthful CIE threw everything at their renowned opponents but found no way past Tom Archer in the opening half. A brace from John Reid, one either side of halftime, and second-half strikes by Jerry Browne and Frahill made it comfortable for the holders at the finish.
Three weeks later goals from Jerry’s brother, John, and Tom Barry edged out second string Postal Utdwhile goals from O’Donovan, Barry and John McGrath against Garda Utd on October 11 made it three wins out of three, with nine goals scored and none conceded. Further wins over Byrnes (3-1), SHB (2-1) and a draw with Youghal Yarns (1-1) laid the platform for the Workers to go on and win the competition with a replay victory over CIE Athletic later in the year as well complete the league and cup treble for only the second time in the league’s history.
Two seasons previously, the appointment of Aidan Draper as manager and Dave Sheehan as his assistant breathed new life into Roches Stores, who were on the brink of going out of the football the year before. The Patrick Street outfit began the 1985/86 season at a canter, firing eight past Naval Dockyard in their opening encounter at their new ground at Rational Park, Little Island, on Sunday, September 1, 1985.
Noel McCarthy notched a hat-trick with Jim Cummins and Laurence Owens grabbing two apiece before Don Sheehan completed the rout to record the club’s biggest margin of victory. A week later Modcom were put to the sword, conceding six with four of the goals coming in the final 25 minutes.
McCarthy helped himself to two on this occasion with Cummins, Owens, Sheehan, and Kevin Callanan getting in on the act.
The following week it was the turn of Cork Examiner to be turned over, once again the Roches’ strike force showing no mercy, scoring another eight for the second time in a month while conceding only once.
McCarthy, Sheehan, and Liam O’Callaghan claimed two each, with Cummins and Tim Cullinane also among the goals. In the following weeks Government Services were defeated 4-0 and Ferrero 5-0 to complete the section on top with five wins, scoring an incredible 31 while conceding just one.
Although Postal Workers proved too strong in the semi-final, winning 5-1, in the semi-final, Roches early season form was the spring-board to promotion and Byrne Cup victory over the Workers later in the season.