APRIL 23 marked a significant anniversary in Cork soccer history.
On that Sunday afternoon at Dalymount Park in 1972 local hero Miah Dennehy became the first player to score a hat-trick in an FAI Cup Final when he performed the feat for Cork Hibernians against Waterford.
Dennehy, who hails from Templeacre in Cork’s northside, was spotted by then Hibs’ manager Amby Fogarty in 1968 after scoring four times in his opening outing for the club’s reserves. His early pursuit of his first love, GAA, with St Vincent’s combined with run-outs with Northvilla and Wolfe Tones in the Cork AUL sharpened his natural ability and lethal pace.
He scored on his first-team debut against Cobh Ramblers in the Munster Senior Cup on December 26, 1968 along with Brendan Draper and Kevin O’Leary, son of former Cork Athletic great Paddy O’Leary.
From then on he became a crowd favourite as his partnership with Dave Wigginton helped secure the club’s first and only league success in 1971. Indeed, Miah grabbed two of the three goals against Shamrock Rovers in the 3-1 league play-off triumph at Dalymount.
Hibs were well in the title race in 1971/72 but needed to beat Waterford in their last home match at Flower Lodge a week before the cup final to force a play-off.
The Corkonians led two-nil with eleven minutes left. However, a remarkable revival swung the contest the Blues’ way, 3-2, as the title went back to Kilcohan Park for the fourth time in five seasons.
Hibs’ boss Dave Bacuzzi, the former Arsenal, Man City and Reading full-back, needed to call on his experience at the top level to get the defeat out of his players ‘ systems at the Quarry in Ballintemple at training on the Tuesday night before the final.
Indeed, Hibs’ great Donie Wallace and former centre-back Jackie Morley, then with Waterford, went into the tie knowing that it was to be their last chance of cup success.
At the end, both missed out as Donie broke his wrist at work two days before the match while Jackie ended up with a third loser’s medal after tasting defeat with Hibernians in 1960 and 1963 against Shelbourne.
Hibs accounted for Shelbourne 2-1 in round one, Drumcondra 6-0 in round three and St Pat’s 1-0 in the semi-final.
Waterford put 11 past non-league Rialto in their first outing which was followed by 4-2 wins over Drogheda and Dundalk respectively on the way to appearing in their second final in five seasons having only ever won the blue ribbon trophy once since 1937.
An attendance of 22,500 was anticipating a second thriller in a week and although Waterford played well in the first- half they capitulated once Dennehy opened the scoring in the 65th minute.
Bacuzzi made it possible when he dispossessed Alfie Hale before finding Dennehy in space. Using his considerable physical assets in pace and stamina and a penchant for doing the unorthodox, the 22-year-old blond striker skipped past Vinny Maguire and Tony Cottle before turning a shot past Peter Thomas from the narrowest of angles. Five minutes later, he struck again, this time flicking the ball over the advancing Thomas after being released by John Herrick. The canny striker was quickest to react to plunder his second of the day after the ball came back off the crossbar and rolled across the line.
With ten minutes remaining Waterford’s John O’Neill chased a deflection to the end-line before chipping the ball towards the near post. Hibs’ keeper Joe O’Grady could only parry the shot up in the air which presented Johnny Matthews with a headed opportunity.
However, as he had done many times in the past, Bacuzzi was in the right place to clear off the line.
Within seven minutes of the end, Dennehy completed his hat-trick after Tony Marsden dispossessed Thomas who had elected to beat the former Doncaster Rovers striker on the edge of the area.
While the day belonged to Hibernians and Dennehy, then Evening Echo columnist Dick Brazil summed up the victory in his Monday evening column, leading with, ‘Hibs Gain Sweet Revenge For League Defeat.’
CORK HIBS: Grady: Bacuzzi, Herrick; O’Mahony, Sheehan; Sweeney, Lawson, Finnegan; Marsden, Wigginton, Dennehy.
WATERFORD: Thomas: Bryan, Maguire, Cottle, Morley; O’Neill, McGeough, Matthews, Hale, Kirby, Humphries.