OF all the rivalries that existed between the 100-plus clubs who played in the Business League in the past 70 years, none was been more passionate and keenly contested than that which existed between CIE Athletic and Postal Workers.
For over 30 years, between 1965 and 1995 both teams strived for supremacy. The very name Postal Workers is still held in reverence today, just as much as it was during a 50-year reign which garnered an incredible 29 trophies as well as finishing runners-up in numerous other finals.
The Workers were formed in 1948 and played in the Cork Inter House League before joining the then Shipping League in 1955/56. Despite winning the cup in successive seasons, 1958/59 and 1959/60, the club entered a barren period in the 1960s and could only watch in admiration as Athletic won the championship and shield at the first time of asking in 1964/65.
The club was founded by Jackie Carroll, Steve Murphy, Larry Murtagh and Paddy Gilley.
The two clubs first met in competitive action in a Munster Junior Cup first-round tie on Sunday, October 4, 1964 in Marina Park, when Athletic romped to a four-nil win. The debutants repeated the feat in their shield and league encounters later on that season, winning 3-1 and 2-1 respectively.
CIE continued to dominate in the latter half of the decade, going on to win another title as well as four consecutive cups and two further shield competitions, the treble included in 1968/69.
It wasn’t until 1972/73 that Postal ended a 13-year gap with a second title success, edging out, Fords in a close race.
While the Workers were in the process of building the team that would go on to dominate the 1980s, CIE went into transition as stalwarts like Donie O’Leary, striker Dommie Murphy and Henry O’Connor retired to be replaced by a new crop of outstanding talent which would include Hughie Barriscale, Davie Desmond, Chris McCarthy, goalkeeper Peter Gregson, Noel Kent and prolific striker Pat Downey.
Following an inaugural Fred Hickey Memorial Cup win for CIE (on pens.) at the Farm on Sunday, June 10TH 1979, the two heavyweights went headlong into the title race of 1980/81 with Postal crossing the finishing line first to win the title for the third time in-a-row.
The following season there was more heartbreak in store for Athletic, who lost out on a penalty shoot-out following a play-off. There was a measure of compensation with success in consecutive shield finals following victories over the two Youghal Yarns teams, A and B in 1979/80 and 1980/81.
Downey, Jim Leahy, Willie Keane and Noel Meaney registered Athletic’s goals in the 4-2 win over Youghal B.
While their league encounters were evenly shared, often played with the intensity of a cup tie, it wasn’t until the shield final of 1985/86 that the sides met in a major final. Postal did enough to win 2-1 at St Mary’s Park on Sunday, December 15, curbing the goal-scoring prowess of Athletic’s international striker Pat Downey.
Downey, who won a junior international cap while playing with the Capwell side on April 24, 1982, recalls just what it was like to play the Workers at that time.
"There was really very little to separate us, if anything inconsistency against other opposition cost us as we had no difficulty in raising our game against them."
Athletic were to finish runners-up in three competitions in Postal’s treble-winning season of 1987/88, losing out in the league and shield, as well as to Aer Lingus in a best of seven-goal Premier Cup final at the ESB Grounds.
A fourth league runners-up behind their rivals followed in 1988/89 as well as a Premier Cup defeat before CIE eventually captured the league title in the final season of the decade, 1989/90 under player-manager Peter Gregson.
Tony Daly, former Workers’ player and long-time committee member, remembers the rivalry between the teams.
"Both teams had some excellent players and there was often just a kick of a ball between us. We really had to be at our best to beat them and while we may have won more silverware, they won their fair share of games along the way."
While the 1990s and noughties weren’t as kind to both teams, CIE’s final departure was with a premier cup win over ESB in 1994/95. Interestingly, Postal finished up with a premier cup win also, beating McSweeneys in 2004/05.
Wayne Murray (2), Dan Kenneally, Adrian Coleman and Mick Brosnan were on target IN Postal’s 5-1 win with Derek Nolan netting for the losers early in the second half.
Between them, they captured 51 trophies and were runners-up in no fewer than 36 competitions. Both teams finished in the top two on no fewer than a combined total of 27 occasions.
The teams last met at Pfizer Park in a Premier League fixture on April 2, 2000 with Postal winning 1-0.
Whenever the teams met, it’s fair to say form went out the window as both adversaries had little difficulty in raising their game. Their likes may never be seen again!
For the record Postal: P70, W34, D11, L24; F147, A87, while Athletic: P70, W24, D11, L34; F87, A147.