Before Cork City there was Cork United

Before Cork City there was Cork United

Albert Rovers (pictured before the first match in the League of Ireland at Flower Lodge on Sunday, October 3rd 1976) : L to R (Back): Alek Ludzik, John Brohan, Barry Notley, Noel O'Mahony (player-manager), Billy Field, Kieran McGrath. L to R (Front): Pat Horgan, Pat Morley, Pat Daly, Pat Kirby, Jimmy Quinn (capt.), Brendan Draper, Dominic Kenny. (pic: Supplied)

CORK CITY have been the city’s longest serving senior club since their election to the League of Ireland in 1984.

After Cork United played their final league game of the 1981/82 season, just over forty years ago, a one-nil win over cup winners Limerick, it was apparent then that the troubled club would not be returning the following season.

And so, the country’s second city would be without a League of Ireland team for the first time since 1924. 

As if by divine intervention, the Cork public were not to be denied and were served a real treat by the exploits of non league Cobh Ramblers in reaching the dizzy heights of the semi-final of the FAI Cup in 1983.

United’s story goes back to August 1976 following the dissolution of Cork Hibernians who revealed a shortfall of £8,000 which was required to keep the club afloat. 

Despite the trojan efforts of Hibs’ fans to provide financial assistance, the Cork Examiner broke the dreaded news on Wednesday, August 18th that, ‘Hibs regrets its efforts to remain solvent have been unsuccessful.’ 

The application to replace them rested between the three Rovers, Cork’s Albert Rovers, Donegal’s Swilly Rovers and Galway Rovers. 

A consortium representing a bid from a new Cork club, Cork City, withdrew their application before Alberts were successful after being proposed by Cork Celtic’s Donie O’Halloran and Waterford’s Joe Delaney, late father of the former FAI CEO John.

After missing out qualifying for the knock-out stages of the League Cup, Alberts kick-off their league campaign on Sunday, October 3rd at Flower Lodge with a 2-1 defeat to a Mick Leech inspired Shamrock Rovers. 

Leech put the Hoops two up inside two minutes before Barry Notley, one of four starters with championship medals, goalkeeper Alek Ludzik and centre-backs John Brohan and Noel O’Mahony being the other two, headed a spectacular 59th minute equalizer. 

However, Leech set up Larry Wyse who scored a late winner to deprive the Rebel outfit a deserved share of the spoils.

Cork United (1980/81): L to R (Back): Denis Allen, Liam Murphy, Charlie McCarthy, Alec Ludzik, Liam Keane, Barry Notley, Brian McSweeney. L to R (Front): Jack Daly, Dave Waters, Barry Neiland, Paul Crowley, Miah Dennehy, Paudie Foley.
Cork United (1980/81): L to R (Back): Denis Allen, Liam Murphy, Charlie McCarthy, Alec Ludzik, Liam Keane, Barry Notley, Brian McSweeney. L to R (Front): Jack Daly, Dave Waters, Barry Neiland, Paul Crowley, Miah Dennehy, Paudie Foley.

While Alberts were grappling with Shams on the Lodge, Cork Celtic were going down 6-3 to Drogheda at Lourdes Stadium, Charlie McCarthy among the goals for Celtic. 

Indeed, McCarthy would have the distinction of scoring Cork United’s last goal in competitive senior football six years later. 

It wasn’t until the 1977/78 season that Alberts finally contested a final, the League Cup, where they faced holders Dundalk in a two-legged contest. 

After goals from McCarthy and Gerry Finnegan levelled the first leg at Oriel Park, 2-2, Finnegan was poised to land the club’s first trophy at Flower Lodge when he stepped forward to take an 87th minute penalty with the tie level at four apiece on aggregate. 

However, the width of the post denied the former Hibernians’ league and cup winner after which the Lilywhites prevailed in the resultant shoot-out to retain the trophy.

The following season, 1978/79 Alberts, now having had a name change to Cork Alberts, marched confidently to the semi-final of the FAI Cup assisted by former Chelsea star Ian Hutchinson. 

Wins over Wembley Rovers, (3-0,) and Drogheda United, (3-0 after a 1-1 draw), set up a semi-final clash with Dundalk on Sunday, April 1st. 

After Sean Byrne capitalized on an error at the back to give the champions elect a fortuitous lead, Alberts rallied for the remainder of the first-half to make a mockery of their lowly league position to equalize in the 34th minute.

Hutchinson held off a challenge on the edge of the area to play the ball into the path of Barry Neiland. 

The striker’s shot was deflected out to Hutchinson who played the ball again to his team-mate who managed to beat Blackmore with a powerful shot from twenty-five yards. 

The ball smashed off the crossbar for Junior Murphy to sweep the ball home.

As the second 45 descended into a tough, gruelling contest, a free-kick from Redmond Lane whistled past the post before a late push from their opponents produced a controversial winner. 

A corner from Jimmy Dainty was headed up in the air by Notley for Alek Ludzik to claim. 

The keeper was prevented from fisting the ball away by the hand of an opponent on his arm which allowed Paddy Dunning to rifle in a controversial winner.

United limped on into the 80’s under new manager Terry Delaney who integrated his emerging young side with the signings of former Bolton striker Ian Seddan and local hero Miah Dennehy who he enlisted from Trowbridge and made captain. 

However, a disastrous run in the league led to Delaney’s resignation with former Hibernians’ stalwart Noel O’Mahony taking over the managerial duties. 

A return to Turner’s Cross coincided with an improvement in league form which included a comprehensive win over defending champions Limerick United at the Market’s Field.

A drop in attendances at the beginning of the 1981/82 league campaign despite the signings of Don Tierney, Eddie O’Halloran and Waterford legend Johnny Matthews failed to maintain the league form of the previous season. 

The financial losses incurred by bringing Manchester City to Cork for a friendly in December and an exit in the cup to, who else but Dundalk, brought United’s financial situation to the attention of the League who expelled the club on June 18th and left the once proud soccer mad city without a team for the 1982/83 season.

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