NINETEEN days after winning the FA Cup for the third time, Wolverhampton Wanderers’ manager Stan Cullis brought his successful team to a packed Mardyke in May 1949, to play a Munster selection containing four prominent Cork-based players.
It wouldn’t be the last time Cullis would bring his black and gold charges to Cork. In February 1963 with England gripped in a big freeze that forced an abandonment of the league and cup programme, Wolves entertained fellow midland opponents Coventry City at Flower Lodge in what proved to be another successful outing for the Wolves, this time at Flower Lodge.
In between his two visits to Leeside, Cullis enjoyed tremendous success with midland club both at home and abroad instilling in his players the fitness, drive and discipline he was renowned for as a player who had the distinction of captaining England at 21.
Match referee Jack Baylor was no stranger to the big occasion having played for Fordsons in the 1926 FAI Cup Final triumph over Shamrock Rovers at Dalymount Park. The full-back went on to become the first cup winner to referee a decider when he took charge of the 1937 final between Waterford and St James’s Gate. His assistants on the day were the popular Charlie Duggan and Danny O’Callaghan.
The home team began well with Tony McKeown finding Jackie O’Reilly breaking on the right. The former Cork United favourite, now with Athletic, clipped his centre too close to Wolves’ number two keeper Dennis Parsons who quickly got the Midland giants moving. A great tackle by the experienced Davie Noonan stopped the burly Jessie Pye in his tracks as the England international burst through the centre of the Munster defence.
The hosts immediately replied with a thrust down the left from Middlesboro’s Irish international Peter Desmond who turned his man cleverly but then centred tamely. Nine minutes in, Plymouth Argyle’s Johnny Haltery swept the ball forward to Waterford’s Billy Barry on halfway and he, in turn, laid it off to McKeown advancing from right-back.
He hit a swinging cross from deep towards Cork Athletic’s Paddy O’Leary as he sprinted forward. The ball eluded him but Eddie Russell had been drawn towards the striker and stumbled as he attempted to clear, the ball running through for Desmond coming in off the right flank. His first-time shot was firmly struck, but Parsons got down well to save.
The cup holders woke from their early slumber to force a reply. The ball ran out to the visitor’s Northern Ireland star Sammy Smyth on the left who tried to shape a pass for Jimmy Dunn. Noonan got ahead of the forward to prevent a clear scoring opportunity. Another fine passing movement involving Smyth, Dunn and Sammy Clews ended with the young Wolverhampton striker firing in a low drive which Hayes did well to turn around the post.
The idol of the crowd, centre-forward Pye, who had scored twice in the cup final triumph, opened the scoring in the 25th minute with a blistering drive that Limerick goalkeeper Billy Hayes could only touch onto the near post before entering the net. Peter Desmond, who would go on to play a starring role four months later in the famous two-nil win for the Republic of Ireland over England at Goodison Pk., equalized ten minutes later.
Taking a pass from Paddy O’Leary, the winger turned inside Angus McLean at the corner flag. Running along the end-line he drew reserves Parsons whose lunge failed to gain possession of the ball. The speedy front man coolly slotted to the back of the net despite Laurie Kelly’s outstretched leg almost keeping the ball out.
The home crowd had barely had time to catch their breaths when O’Leary got on the end of a Billy Barry free-kick to head powerfully past Parsons to put the Munster eleven 2-1 up. However, the lead was only to last for two minutes when Pye beat Noonan in the air to send the ball forward to Dunn.
Although Georgie Warner held him up as he got into the penalty area, he turned back before rolling the ball to Pye who had continued his run. With Noonan in hot pursuit, the centre-forward shot powerfully past Billy Hayes for 2-2.
Both teams received a standing ovation at half-time such was the enjoyment of the fare provided. The second 45 continued where the first had begun with the Munster Selection taking the contest to their illustrious opponents. Jackie O’Reilly, O’Leary, Desmond and Evergreen United’s Patons Keating all had chances to break the deadlock before the visitors obliged with the goal of the game on the hour. Pye was again to the fore, twisting on the edge of the box before firing in a a superb shot which Hayes brilliantly parried. However, Les Smith was on hand to knock in what proved to be the winner.
Billy Hayes (Limerick): Tony McKeown (Limerick), Dave Noonan (Cork Athletic), Georgie Warner (Freebooters), Johnny Haltery (Plymouth Argyle); Billy Barry (Waterford), Jackie O’Reilly (Cork Athletic), Peter Desmond (Middlesboro), Paddy O’Leary (Cork Athletic), Patons Keating (Evergreen), Willie O’Grady (Limerick).
Dennis Parsons, Laurie Kelly, Angus McLean; Eddie Russell, Bill Shorthouse; Billy Crook, Les Smith, Sammy Smyth, Jessie Pye, Jimmy Dunn, Sammy Clews.
Jack Baylor. Charlie Duggan and Danny O’Callaghan