Echo 130: Local paper at the heart of 130 years of Cork soccer

Dylan O’Connell looks back at 10 standout moments in Cork soccer over The Echo’s 130 years of reporting on the game
Echo 130: Local paper at the heart of 130 years of Cork soccer

Dave Barry celebrates his goal against Bayern Munich with John Caulfield at Musgrave Park.

SOCCER in Cork has a long illustrious history dating back to the late 1800s.

Through every decade of the last 130 years The Echo has reported on the game; everything from local cup finals in Turner’s Cross to the Champions League.

No matter what was happening, a reporter was there to make sure the people of Cork knew the story.

The paper started life by archiving the growth of the sport on Leeside and it quickly became the main source of soccer news in Ireland’s second city. They reported on how clubs were formed, how some teams died, and how some flirted with extinction.

The Echo documented everything, preserving the history of one of the most popular sports in Cork.

Some of the stories go beyond history, they give truth to legends. If anyone dared doubt that Dave Barry scored against Bayern Munich in the Uefa Cup, a copy of the paper was straight away consulted.

For every major soccer story in Cork, a story in The Echo followed. To achieve this, journalists travelled to far-off places like the USA, Italy, Germany, and Sweden.

This gave an international reach to one of Ireland’s greatest local papers. There are many publications in world sport that try to tell the story of the beautiful game.

Roy Keane with Republic of Ireland assistant manager Maurice Setters at the USA World Cup in 1994. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Roy Keane with Republic of Ireland assistant manager Maurice Setters at the USA World Cup in 1994. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

The ones that truly matter are the local papers as they truly scratch the surface of what goes on inside the dressing rooms and on the pitch. It’s no wonder why books like Provided You Don’t Kiss Me by Duncan Hamilton, the beat reporter for Nottingham Forrest during the 1970s and 1980s, won Sports Book of the Year in 2007.

The publication gave an insight that only a local paper could deliver.

One hundred and thirty years of the game have supplied The Echo with more than enough local stories written by some of the best sports journalists in Ireland. Reporters such as Noel Spillane covered everything from teams winning leagues to the financial crises which crippled many Cork clubs.

One of the paper’s newest recruits, Graham Cummins, is a former professional footballer who played in England and Scotland. He gives an expert view on the game, from a perspective only a former player would have.

This diversity only enhances the paper’s ability to tell gripping stories that range from the Cork Schoolboy Leagues to the Champions League.

Here we look at some of those stories and how they impacted the Rebel County.

1. Fordsons win the cup: 

In 1926 Fordsons beat the odds and defeated Shamrock Rovers 3-2 in the FAI Cup final at Dalymount Park. It was the day that the new Munster Football Association asserted itself nationally.

The organisation, which was founded in 1922, was the brainchild of former Irish international Harry Buckle. The Belfast native settled on Leeside in the early 1920s and saw an absence of structure for his favourite sport.

He set up Fords FC and helped form the South Munster Football Association. This later became the Munster Football Association, an organisation which still exists today. The most successful team in the province at that time was Fordsons and they were elected to the League of Ireland 1924.

They were Munster’s sole representatives in the competition and they made the country step up and take note when they beat Rovers in the cup final. Buckle received a winners medal after their victory in the capital and the trophy capped years of hard work done by the Munster Football Association.

2. Ireland at the Mardyke: 

The first Irish international game held outside Dublin was held at the Mardyke in March 1939.

This was a special game as the country welcomed one of the most in-form teams in world football to the banks of the River Lee.

At that time, Hungary were recovering from their defeat to Italy in the 1938 World Cup final. No official figure was given for the attendance, but pictures show the Mardyke packed with spectators. The only blip on an otherwise perfect day was that local player Tim O’Keeffe could not play. The forward from Cork was with Raith Rovers at the time and he did not make it home in time for kick-off.

The friendly got underway at 3.30pm on Sunday, March 19, and Ireland took an early lead through Addy Bradshaw. After Gyula Zsengelle and Ferenc Kollath scored for Hungary, Johnny Carey put in a late equaliser.

3. 1953 FAI Cup final: 

The biggest day on the Irish football calendar was an all-Cork affair in 1953 when Cork Athletic and Evergreen both reached the FAI Cup final.

Twenty thousand people made the journey to Dalymount Park from Cork. A lot of the talk leading up to the final was about Raich Carter, who had joined Cork Athletic from Hull City. The forward arrived on Leeside as a two-time FA Cup winner after spells with Sunderland and Derby County. He got three goals during Athletic’s run to the final, and he scored the first in the final.

Florrie Burke, right, who played in four FAI Cup finals in a row between 1950 and 1953, three with Cork Athletic and one with Evergreen United, with legendary England and Middlesbrough striker Wilf Mannion.
Florrie Burke, right, who played in four FAI Cup finals in a row between 1950 and 1953, three with Cork Athletic and one with Evergreen United, with legendary England and Middlesbrough striker Wilf Mannion.

The game ended in a 2-2 draw and a replay was needed. Only 6,000 went to the second game in Dalymount Park, which was decided by a Carter goal Raich Carter 10 minutes into the second half. Cork Athletic won 2-1 and their new recruit from Hull became the first player to win both the FA Cup and FAI Cup.

4. Cobh’s FAI Cup hat-trick: 

The early 1980s was a grim era for football in Cork.

In 1982, Albert Rovers were expelled from the League of Ireland because of debts incurred from a friendly against Manchester City. This meant that the country’s biggest county did not have a representative in the League of Ireland. Then Cobh Ramblers, who played in the Munster Senior League, qualified for the FAI Cup.

The first round paired them with Dundalk and they won 2-1. Finn Harps were then beaten and this qualified the club for the semi-finals, where they were drawn against Sligo Rovers. Flower Lodge hosted the tie and 29,786 people turned up to see a 1-1 draw.

In a replay at the Showgrounds, 10,100 spectators watched a 2-2 draw. A second replay which brought 37,000 people to Flower Lodge ended in stalemate. This epic cup clash came to an end at the Showgrounds when Sligo won the third replay 3-2.

The Bit O’Red went on to beat Bohemians in the final, and Cobh were elected to the League of Ireland in 1985.

5. Cork City’s first trophy: 

League of Ireland football returned to Leeside in 1984 with the formation of Cork City.

City began life in the Munster Senior Cup and crowds were paltry that day against Avondale United. Everything changed in 1988 when City beat Shamrock Rovers in the League of Ireland Cup final. This was the first trophy won by the club, and it made the people of Cork step up and take note. Soon after the final, hundreds of people turned up to watch the club play.

This inspired the squad, who also won the Munster Senior Cup that season. The taste of success led to City reaching the 1989 FAI Cup final, where they lost to Derry City in a replay.

This qualified the club for Europe for the first time and the Cup Winners Cup paired them with Torpedo Moscow. It was a whirlwind couple of years at Turner’s Cross and all of that can be attributed to their 1-0 victory in the 1988 League of Ireland Cup final.

6. Cork City 1-1 Bayern Munich: 

It is a game that needs no introduction. Cork City, who up until that point, had only played in one European match, were drawn against the most successful team in German football in the Uefa Cup.

Liam Murphy in action during the Cork City and Bayern Munich UEFA Cup match at Musgrave Park.
Liam Murphy in action during the Cork City and Bayern Munich UEFA Cup match at Musgrave Park.

Bayern travelled to Leeside with three European Cups to their name and two World Cup winners in their squad. Musgrave Park was selected to host this David versus Goliath clash and on a grey Wednesday afternoon, thousands flocked to the rugby stadium. Their dreams of an upset were realised in the 27th minute when Dave Barry scored.

Stefan Effenberg equalised just before half-time and the two teams could not be separated in the second half. For one day, City were as good if not better than one of the greatest teams in European football. In the away game in front of 13,500 fans at the Olympiastadion, the Bavarians scored twice in the final 15 minutes to progress to the second round.

7. Keane and Irwin’s Treble: 

In 1999 Roy Keane led Manchester United to a historic treble.

The midfielder from Mayfield, alongside Togher’s Denis Irwin, had a near-perfect season with Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford. The feat was something which eluded some of the greatest teams in English football and it took two Corkmen to help get them over the line.

They won the Premier League title on the final day of the season and a week later, Newcastle United were beaten in the FA Cup final. In the Champions League, Roy Keane scored in the semi-final win over Juventus.

Unfortunately, he missed the final but Denis Irwin played at the Camp Nou against Bayern Munich. The United captain had to watch from the stands as his side scored two injury-time goals to win the biggest prize in European football.

Roy Keane and Denis Irwin after they received Jury's Sports Star awards.
Roy Keane and Denis Irwin after they received Jury's Sports Star awards.

The three trophies turned into four that December after United beat Palmeiras 1-0 in the Intercontinental Cup final. Roy Keane scored the goal in Toyko that crowned United world champions and won them their fourth trophy in 1999.

8. Sapian: 

The nation was split in 2002 after Roy Keane was sent home on the eve of the World Cup in South Korea and Japan.

This was supposed to have been Keane’s World Cup. In the USA in 1994 he was still a novice, but in 2002 he was a bonified star. He was also a serial winner, as shown in 1999 with Manchester United.

Before the World Cup, Ferguson described him as ‘’the most influential player in the world’’. Keane’s dismissal from the squad split the nation and pitted families against one another.

Nowhere felt the story more than Cork, were Keane’s biggest supporters had to choose between their local hero and their country. The incident ended up altering the course of Irish football.

The Genesis Report that followed led to John Delaney’s ascent and, as Kieran Cunningham reported, Steve Staunton became Ireland manager on the back of the leadership he showed after Keane left. Irish football was forever changed by the Cork man’s dismissal.

9. Derry City 1-1 Cork City 2010: 

Never has a draw felt so much like a win.

It was the opening night of the 2010 First Division season and Cork City were recovering from a tumultuous few weeks in the High Court, which ended with Foras getting control of the club. It was a new start for the club, which went dangerously close to extinction that winter.

To complicate things, the new owners only had a couple of days to get a squad together for the new season. Three thousand fans attended this game and they were treated to a stunning strike from Davin O’Neil that made it 1-0 to City.

Derry hit back and equalised through Emmett Friars on the hour mark.

While both teams shared the points, the travelling Cork fans left ecstatic. After a long winter of discontent, they had a football club to support and represent their city.

10. Double-Double Success: 

November, 5 2017 is a day that will live long in the memory of football fans on Leeside.

It began with Cork City Women facing UCD Waves in the Women’s FAI Cup final. This was the club’s first day out at the national stadium and Clare Shine scored the all-important goal to win City the cup.

Tthe FAI Cup final between Cork City and Dundalk followed. City had the better chances in normal time but it finished 0-0. Dundalk took a shock lead through Niclas Vemmelund in extra-time and moments later, Achille Campion knocked in the equaliser for City.

The game went to penalties and after Mark McNulty denied Michael Duffy, Kieran Sadlier converted and City won the cup.

Cork's Kieran Sadlier celebrates scoring. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Cork's Kieran Sadlier celebrates scoring. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Those two trophies joined the U17 National League title, the Munster Senior Cup, and the Presidents Cup at Bishopstown. It was the perfect end to one of the greatest seasons in Cork football history.

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