German soccer legend Uwe Seeler's epic debut for Cork Celtic at Turner's Cross

The late, great World Cup winning captain lined out in Cork against Shamrock Rovers in 1978
German soccer legend Uwe Seeler's epic debut for Cork Celtic at Turner's Cross

Former West German World Cup captain Uwe Seeler is surrounded by eager autograph hunters following his two-goal debut for Cork Celtic against Shamrock Rovers at Turner’s Cross on Sunday, April 23, 1978.

IN the long history of the League of Ireland in Cork, many a famous name has been loured to play on Leeside by the financial rewards being offered as local clubs strived to ignite a run in the league and in the cup.

While the contributions of Raich Carter in guiding Cork Athletic to FAI Cup success in 1953, and Bobby Tambling in inspiring Cork Celtic to their only league triumph in 1974, have been well documented, the tides of time have almost diluted the memories of some of the others.

Carter, Tambling, Best, Marsh, Seeler, Hutchinson, Callaghan and Brooking... it reads like an A list of some of the greatest players to have played in England and on the continent.

George Best’s arrival at Flower Lodge on Sunday, December 28, 1975, on £600 a match drew 12,000 spectators who paid an estimated £6,000 to see the former Manchester United star perform for Cork Celtic for the first time on Leeside. Opponents Drogheda United were not overawed by his presence and won a disappointing league match two-nil as an overweight Best only showed glimpses of his renowned ball control and passing. 

A week later, Best turned out at a packed Turner’s Cross against Bohemians and clearly benefited from the inclusion of Booby Tambling in Celtic’s starting 11. Bryan McSweeney was the Man of the Match as Tony Heery headed the only goal of the game as Tambling turned goal stopper when he replaced the injured Bertie O’Mahony between the posts in the 21st minute. 

George Best leading Celtic out at Turner's Cross followed by Bertie O'Sullivan, Paul O'Donovan and Keith Edwards. The youngster the at pitch entrance Ger O'Regan.
George Best leading Celtic out at Turner's Cross followed by Bertie O'Sullivan, Paul O'Donovan and Keith Edwards. The youngster the at pitch entrance Ger O'Regan.

Best returned for the trip to Harold’s Cross but failed to impress in a 2-1 defeat against Shelbourne. His services were dispensed afterwards as Celtic went in search of another import.

Hot on the heels of Best, Cork Hibernians flew in former England international Rodney Marsh who was looking for practice ahead of the NASL season with Tampa Bay Rowdies where he would register an impressive 11 goals in his first season in America. 

Marsh contributed handsomely to Hibs’ 2-1 win over Limerick at Flower Lodge, laying on the decisive pass for Dave Wigginton to notch the winner in the 38th minute.

A week later Marsh was again to the fore in the 2-1 away win over St Pat’s while neighbours Celtic gave a debut to England World Cup hat-trick hero Geoff Hurst. In a 3-1 win over Shamrock Rovers, Hurst headed a superb second from a Richard Brooks cross a minute before half-time. 

Hurst’s link-up play with McSweeney and Tambling up front was key to the 3-0 first-round cup win over Dundalk on February 15 before the two internationals played opposite each other in the second derby of the season at the Lodge on Sunday, February 22.

Marsh was first to lay down a marker when he blasted home a spectacular free-kick past Alfie McCarthy before Hurst flicked the ball up to have his volley deflected past Ger Spillane for the equaliser. Exits in the cup for Hibs to Drogheda and Celtic to Bohemians signalled the end of the experiment and left both clubs without the anticipated financial rewards.

Former West German captain Uwe Seeler, who passed away last week, turned out for Cork Celtic against Shamrock Rovers at Turner’s Cross on Sunday, April 23, 1978. The striker, still only 41, and a scorer of over 400 goals for his club SV Hamburg, was invited to play along with team-mate Franz Hoenig in what they thought to be an exhibition match. 

Uwe Seeler in action for Cork Celtic against Shamrock Rovers defender Mick Gannon in April 1978 at Turner's Cross. 
Uwe Seeler in action for Cork Celtic against Shamrock Rovers defender Mick Gannon in April 1978 at Turner's Cross. 

The pair were in Cork representing the clothing and footwear company Adidas and were unaware beforehand that they would be facing cup winners elect Shamrock Rovers.

Seeler must have thought what he had let himself in for as Celtic trooped in 3-0 down at half-time to goals from Steve Lynex, Ray Treacy and Mark Meagan. 

However, the legendary international displayed his renowned class by scoring two breathtaking goals and almost added an equaliser in a debut only previously matched by the exploits of Carter and Tambling.

The gifted centre-forward netted his first in the 57th minute after a Rovers’ defensive clearance was headed back by McDaid. With his back to goal, he swivelled on his left heel as the ball fell over his left shoulder. Throwing his body sideways until parallel to the ground, he volleyed right-footed into the far corner past O’Neill from 20 yards. 

With the visitor’s clearly rocked, the hosts threw caution to the wind, forgetting their 3-1 deficit, to storm forward.

Carl Humphries ran clear onto a pass from Charlie O’Mahony to drive a ball across the penalty area for Seeler to add his second from an audacious bicycle kick that hit the back of the net with force. With renewed confidence oozing throughout the home team, it looked like Seeler might just square up the contest but was impeded by his own teammate as he prepared to shoot. 

However, a defensive error let in Treacy for a fourth for Rovers which knocked the stuffing out of the hosts. In a one-sided finish, Lynex and Paul Myers added further goals to give the Hoops a comfortable 6-2 win and a place in the Top Four. Bill George in his match report in the following day’s Cork Examiner captured the effect Seeler’s goals as ‘living long in the memory when all else has faded’.

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