Cork soccer fans mourn the passing of Patsy Dorgan

Starting out with Glasheen, the Corkonian played for Blackburn Rovers, Cork Hibs and Cork Celtic
Cork soccer fans mourn the passing of Patsy Dorgan

A highlight of the early local derbies were the duels between Celtic's Donal Leahy and Patsy Dorgan of Hibs.

LEESIDERS were saddened to hear that former Cork Hibs pivot Patsy Dorgan, known as the Gentleman of Irish Soccer, passed away in Trinidad on December 27.

Patsy starred on the Glasheen team who became the first Cork AUL side to bring a national trophy to the league when they outclassed previously invincible Home Farm in the FAI Minor Cup final at Dalymount Park. Jackie Carey, former Manchester United and Ireland captain and then manager of Blackburn, was up in the stand and went into the Glasheen dressing room to seek out Patsy. 

Within weeks Patsy and Donie O’Leary (another Glasheen star on the day) were on their way to Ewood Park, while Donie Wallace declined for family reasons.

“To play in the first team it was £12 a week, the second team was £9, and the third team was £6. It was great money and I was sending some home. Donal O’Leary made the first team, but one day he got a letter. I don’t know what it was about. But he had to go home. I was lost. I was all on my own,” Patsy told Larry Ryan of the Irish Examiner in a poignant interview.

After three years at Blackburn and shortly after the start of the 1957-58 season he signed for League of Ireland newcomers Cork Hibernians. Those years were by no means the glory days as young Hibs battled valiantly to stay in touch with brilliant sides such as Shams, Waterford, Drums and Cork Celtic. 

He established himself as one of the finest pivots in the league and his memorable battles with Jimmy Hasty, Donie Leahy, Eric Barber and more still evoke cherished memories.

Cork soccer legend Patsy Dorgan.
Cork soccer legend Patsy Dorgan.

A magnificent half-back line of Tony O’Brien, Patsy Dorgan and Jackie Morley was the springboard for Hibs unexpected title challenge in 1960. Challenging along with Hibs were local rivals Cork Celtic and they led the chasing pack 3 points adrift of eventual champions Limerick. 

The Leeside rivals met in the third last match of the series, a game in which neither could afford to drop a point. Yet, they did just that in sharing six goals at a packed Mardyke. 

Those also were the 'Tully' days and there was heartbreak for Charlie, Patsy, Jackie and the rest of the lads when they were defeated by a brilliant Shelbourne team in the FAI Cup final at Dalymount Park. Two years later Patsy looked certain to pick up his first senior winners award with Hibs as they needed only one point from their concluding game with challengers Drums to take the Shield title. Roared on by a partisan 15,000 Tolka Park crowd the Dubliners snatched the trophy with a last-minute winner.

In 1966 Patsy moved to Turner’s Cross to help Cork Celtic when their centre half John Coughlan retired.

His classical sporting displays had endeared him to the hearts of even the fiercest rivals and there was widespread regret when later that year he retired from League of Ireland football. Such was the esteem in which he was held a galaxy of international stars travelled to Flower Lodge for his benefit match in 1963. Among those to thrill the big crowd were Ronnie Clayton, Peter Dobing, Mick McGrath, Derek Dougan, Charlie Hurley, Andy McEvoy, Pat Saward and Don Donovan.

Old soldiers never die but only fade away and he continued to inspire for a long time afterwards in the colours of his employers Aer Lingus. The Airport side were the last to avail of the outstanding qualities that Patsy Dorgan brought to every club with which he was associated during his memorable career.

CLASSY

“When I knocked lads down, they stayed down,” his old Cork Celtic rival, John Coughlan, used to joke, “but when Patsy knocked a man down he picked him up and said ‘sorry about that’.” 

“A gentleman, one of the nicest guys you could meet. A terrific guy, very easy-going, charming guy,” was old teammate Donie Wallace’s assessment. 

Later in life, Patsy bade farewell to home to spend the rest of his days in Trinidad. It was leaving Cork that unlocked something else in him: Poetry. Partly to cope with the distance. 

In his retirement, he produced three acclaimed books of poetry and fittingly I conclude with the last lines of his farewell poem: 

'God bless you dear Cork City, 

'You have made us what we are.

'Proud to be your children, 

Whether near or far.' 

Patsy was one of life’s gentle souls.  May he rest in peace.

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