Blarney United: New book celebrates rich and varied history of the thriving club

'A never say die outfit' by Richard Forrest documents Blarney's ups and down since its foundation in 1949
Blarney United: New book celebrates rich and varied history of the thriving club

Dane Murphy, Blarney United U19s, is fouled by Jack Naughton, College Corinthians, who received a yellow card for the challenge. Picture: Larry Cummins.

NEXT week, Blarney FC will launch a club book, a comprehensive look back over 70 years of the club's history and personalities, filled with stories, photos and facts.

' A never say die outfit' is a fantastic read and having caught up recently with author Richard Forrest, he is excited with the launch, and here is a synopsis that gives a great summary of a great club.

When Blarney United FC formed in 1949 soccer was essentially a city game with no such thing as a rural soccer club. Proximity to Cork though, meant people in Blarney weren’t entirely unfamiliar with the sport.

Indeed, visiting sports teams were often brought out on day trips to visit the famous castle. Manchester City, no less, came calling in 1909, and in 1946 Stanley Matthews, the David Beckham of his day, kissed the Blarney Stone.

Blarney United FC, before a game in 1951.
Blarney United FC, before a game in 1951.

One day, fed up with listening to 'auld chat' about GAA, Mort O’Driscoll, a foreman at the Woollen Mills, said, 'why don’t we start up a soccer club?'. That got the ball rolling and the newly formed club set itself the lofty aspiration of uniting the two districts.

Soon finding themselves hopelessly outplayed in the MSL, the club switched to the AUL. There, the highlight for the club in its first incarnation, was a 'shock victory' in 1953 over highly-rated Turner’s Cross, earning a semi-final AOH Cup appearance against Wembley (0-4).

The club continued in AUL Division two for two more seasons with mixed fortunes. Paddy Murphy (the only surviving ‘49er in 2021) was the first Blarney United player to score two goals in the one match. They still lost 2-1. But with emigration and a strong GAA, the club lost traction, and so folded the first edition of Blarney United FC.

The club rested for a dozen years but the seeds were well sown and, phoenix-like, it arose from the ashes in 1967. Led by an intrepid bunch of teenagers in Johnny MacNamara, Eoghan Moriarty and Con O’Riordan it was soon alive and kicking again with a youths team in addition to a junior team. The clubs refounders scarcely more than youths themselves. 

That Jack O’Shea named his two dogs ‘Pelé’ and ‘Busby’ says it all about the level of enthusiasm at the time. But despite looking snazzy in a 'newly procured outfit', the lads lost every game in the Shield up to Christmas.

Passion, however, remained undimmed and, incredibly, they reversed the trend completely in the new year for the League campaign and pipped Botanic for the AUL 3A title.

Furthermore, the club initiated its signature summer Square League tournament on the village green and now commenced the days of flying footballs striking the cars of bewildered tourists.

The Blarney United team that won the County Cup in 1989 at Turner's Cross.
The Blarney United team that won the County Cup in 1989 at Turner's Cross.

Every team wanted to be drawn against the Gardaí 'for the crack', though what crack was in mind wasn’t entirely clear. Even so, the tournament quickly became a club flagship and continues to flourish to this day in the same venue as the Blarney 5s.

The 1970s proved lean years for the club with a lot of mud but not a lot of glory. Soccer was now widespread but facilities remained primitive. On visiting Coachford (or was it Dripsey?) Blarney had to contend with an extra opponent on the field that could send the ball in any direction: an electricity pole. 

Their own pitch, now at Paud’s Cross, featured a river on one side and a water-filled ditch on the other. This could be hazardous but also had its uses. 

Once, when Blarney were 3-0 down, a player took an executive decision, he lifted up the ball and put it in the river. That was in the days when a replacement ball wasn’t always to hand. On another occasion, and this remains to be verified, a referee was said to have been put in.

The Reformed Club 1967 Blarney United
The Reformed Club 1967 Blarney United

A ‘70s highlight was the selection of local lad, Brendan Hyde, for a schoolboys international against Wales. Such was Brendan’s talent that the match was, in fact, his very first schoolboys game. Brendan was soon snapped up by Cork Celtic where his career culminated in a League of Ireland champions medal in 1974. 

Another highlight was when the club again won AUL Division 3 with goals from Teddy Madden, Kieran Gaffey and Mark Howell giving victory over Corkbeg. But after that Blarney United remained a long-term Division two fixture.

This was aided in no small part by the club’s own intransigence and inflexibility. 

Blarney United Sponsorship Presentation 1976
Blarney United Sponsorship Presentation 1976

A controversy featuring a refusal to release players for a GAA fixture and a sit-down protest in a goalmouth led to the popping up of two new local clubs: Waterloo FC and Killowen FC. 

Unfortunately for Blarney United, they did more than just pop up, they proceeded to outpace and outshine the old stagers, winning title after title and cup after cup. It was soon observed that if the talents of the three clubs were pooled, Blarney (as in the locality) would have had the makings of a successful Munster Senior League outfit. 

A Home of Our Own Blarney United's dressing rooms
A Home of Our Own Blarney United's dressing rooms

As it was, apart from some glimmers of youthful brilliance in 1983, the club had to wait till the very end of the 1980s for success to materialise.

That finally arrived in the form of promotion to AUL Division 1 and a County Cup triumph. The latter, against Bandon, was deemed one of the best finals ever in that tournament.

Blarney United captain Gavin O'Sullivan scores from the penalty spot against Carrigaline United in the Gussie Walsh U17 Local Cup at Turner's Cross. Picture: Larry Cummins
Blarney United captain Gavin O'Sullivan scores from the penalty spot against Carrigaline United in the Gussie Walsh U17 Local Cup at Turner's Cross. Picture: Larry Cummins

While many clubs focused on building teams and winning matches to the neglect of developing facilities, not so Blarney, and the club’s real strength at this time lay in its officers.

The club’s officers had the acumen to spot the potential of a swathe of County Council-owned ground at the back of the Riverview Housing estate. This resulted in Willie O’Shea and Mark Howell zipping off the next day on Willie’s Honda 50 to call to Denis Lyons TD. Soon the club had a brand-new home between Blarney and Tower with great development scope and the rest, as they say, is history.

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