Roches Stores were one of the best teams to ever participate in the Cork Business Soccer League

Roches Stores were one of the best teams to ever participate in the Cork Business Soccer League

Roches Stores, Byrne Cup winners in 1986-'87. Back: Aidan Draper (manager), Joe Buckley,Noel Cummins, Kevin Callanan, Rory O'Shea (RIP), Jim Lynam, Don Sheehan, Finbarr Buckley, Danny Goulding (RIP), Noel Woods, Anthony O'Reilly. Front: Finbarr Harris, Ray Brackett, Finbarr O'Brien, Paul Heelan, Noel McCarthy (c), Tadhg Ryan, Jim Cummins. Picture: Finbarr Buckley.

THROUGHOUT Postal Workers’ successful run in the 1980s, their silverware collection might have extended to three trebles instead of the one achieved in 1987/88 had Roches Stores not beaten them in two consecutive Byrne Cup finals.

Roches’ first penalty shoot-out win in 1985/86 as a then second division outfit was against the odds and by the time the competition came around again in 1986/87 the Workers were well on their way to a seventh title success out of eight and had earlier in the campaign picked up a fifth shield honour.

For Roches Stores, defeat in the first round of the AIB Cup to champions elect Postal Workers was followed by a disastrous league run which only yielded two points from a possible 12. Victories over Aer Lingus and Cork Examiner secured another season in the top flight for the Patrick Street outfit. 

The Byrne Cup defence began on a humid Tuesday evening in mid April at Rational Park against fellow first division opponents CIE Athletic. Prolific striker Pat Downey opened the scoring for Athletic in the first-half before Joe Buckley ghosted in behind CIE’s back-four to turn Don Sheehan’s cross past Peter Gregson in the 56th minute for 1-1. Ten minutes later, Sheehan ran from the half-way line to round Gregson for what proved to be the winner.

The following night, Postal got their campaign underway with an impressive 4-1 win over Bank of Ireland at The Farm. John Reid (2), Pat Hurley and Pat Lester netted for the visitors. Roches next opponents in round two were fellow relegation strugglers Garda ‘A’ on Sunday, April 26 who they turned over at the same stage of the competition last season. Buckley and Sheehan were again among the goals to set up a quarter-final clash with ESB, again at Rational Park.

CBSL registrar Jackie O'Driscoll presents the Byrne Cup to Liam O'Callaghan (Roches Stores) following his team's victory over Postal Workers in 1987. Picture: Finbarr Buckley.
CBSL registrar Jackie O'Driscoll presents the Byrne Cup to Liam O'Callaghan (Roches Stores) following his team's victory over Postal Workers in 1987. Picture: Finbarr Buckley.

Postal had to wait until Wednesday, May 6 for their second round tie against Cork Examiner at Ringmahon Park. After Examiner’s Keith Anthony and Postal’s Andy Maher exchanged first-half goals, John Reid headed the Workers in front, a lead they held till full time to advance to the last eight for the fifth season in-a-row.

Both teams quarter-final ties were scheduled for the same day, Sunday, May 17 with the Workers travelling to Ringaskiddy to face Second Division promotion hopefuls Irish Steel while Roches enjoyed the benefits of a third consecutive home draw. Postal required a late Pat Hurley winner to advance leaving an Anthony O’Reilly brace to seal Roches’ last four qualification.

Both semi-finals took place at the ESB Grounds on Sunday, May 24. Lower division opponents provided the opposition with Modcom of Division 2 taking on Postal and third division Concurrent Computers squaring up to Roches. With both favourites expected to triumph, Postal weren’t duly troubled in their 3-0 win but had to wait to see who they would face in the final as Concurrent hadn’t read the script and decided to make a game of it in the other semi.

Joe O’Riordan’s penalty five minutes before half-time gave the underdogs a deserved lead. With goalkeeper Adrian O’Leary in excellent form for Concurrent a shock result looked very much on the cards. Roches’ manager Aidan Draper sprung injured striker Laurence Owens from the bench with 15 minutes remaining in a last ditch attempt to save the tie.

With O’Leary and his beleaguered back-four under incessant pressure from a succession of corners, Owens finally delivered the perfect free-kick for Paul Heelan to stoop and head the equaliser with less than ninety second remaining. Don Sheehan finally broke free of the shackles of constant close marking to round O’Leary and fire in the winner with penalty kicks looming. 

A crest-fallen O’Leary lay prostrate on the ground, commenting afterwards, "To have victory snatched from your grasp was heartbreaking. I just could not get to my feet after the goal."

In the final on Sunday, May 27th the pattern of play was a reverse to the previous year’s encounter with Postal going on the offensive in the early stages and taking a 5th minute lead through Pat Lester. 

The introduction of Kevin Callanan at half-time helped a struggling midfield to be more dominant in the second 45. With defenders Finbarr O’Brien and Tadhg Ryan playing out of their shins and the middle now in the ascendancy, the pacey Don Sheehan kept the ball in on the right-hand touchline despite assistant referee Kevin Coughlan putting his flag before quickly taking it down. 

Referee Jim O’Leary was quick to anticipate what occurred and correctly allowed play to continue which resulted in Sheehan picking out Laurence Owens who drilled in the equalizer with just over a minute remaining. Roches prevailed 5-4 in the resultant shoot-out after extra-time to leave Postal assistant manager Harry Harte shattered. 

"To lose once on penalties is cruel but twice in succession to the same opposition is gut wrenching." 

ROCHES STORE: Liam O’Callaghan (c, RIP); Tadhg Ryan, Paul Heelan, Finbarr O’Brien, Noel Cummins; Pat O’Sullivan, Noel McCarthy, Finbarr Buckley (Kevin Callanan); Laurence Owens, Jim Cummins, Don Sheehan. 

Sub: Joe Buckley.

POSTAL WORKERS: Tom Archer (c, RIP): Philip Clifford, Connie O’Callaghan, John Brackett ; Timmy Donovan, Tony Guest; Pat Lester, Andy Maher, John Brackett, Pat Hurley (c), John Reid, John Keane (John McGrath).

Referee: Jim O’Leary. 

Assistants: Kevin Coughlan and Robbie Gregan.

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