IT'S 31 years ago this week that Cork City welcomed German heavyweights Bayern Munich to Musgrave Park for a first-round tie in the UEFA Cup.
Over 4,000 people turned up to the stadium on a grey afternoon in mid-September and they saw Dave Barry give City the lead in the 27th minute.
That moment, one of the greatest ever in Irish football, isn’t the whole story of the game. It is a snapshot into a madcap era that began in 1989 when Cork City first entered the European arena.
Up until that point, City were trying to establish themselves in the League of Ireland and they qualified for Europe by reaching the FAI Cup final. The club were four years old when they travelled to Dalymount Park to face Derry City and they already had one national trophy to their name, the 1988 League of Ireland Cup.
They drew 0-0 and lost the replay 1-0. The European Cup Winners Cup was the club’s consolation and they faced Torpedo Moscow. It was the first European game involving a team from Leeside since Cork Hibernian went down 3-1 to Baník Ostrava, and City lost 6-0 over two legs.
City’s return to Europe was a great boost to the people of Cork, but it came at the expense of a league title. They should have been playing in the Champions League that year, but Dundalk beat them in a title decider on the final day of the 1990-91 season at Turner’s Cross.
The team were not only hoping to make up for their performance against the Russians in 1989, but they wanted to broadcast Cork to the people of Europe and beyond.
City warmed up for the European games by going to China to take part in the Marlboro Shanghai International Football Tournament. The Rebel Army spent three weeks in the far east and they faced the Chinese Olympic team and the Polish national team. It was an intense few weeks and on the final day of the trip, City learned that they had to play Bayern Munich in the UEFA Cup.
“Noel Spillane rang the hotel to tell us we had been drawn against Bayern Munich. The lads were at the swimming pool and I told them we got a bad draw,” former chairman Pat O’Donovan told.
“The lads looked down. I told them Munich and everyone started jumping up and down!
“It was like one good news story after another,” Decky Daly added.
The club prepared for the game by playing a series of friendlies against top teams from the continent. The pick of the bunch was Scottish giants Celtic, who were beaten 2-0. This set the club up for the first game of the season, against Waterford in the League of Ireland Cup.
When the Bayern Munich game kicked off, City had only one competitive defeat to their name that season. It was Cobh Ramblers who inflicted that, but the squad were already in a good position to qualify for the next round of the competition.
Musgrave Park was the venue, the same place where City drew 0-0 with Shamrock Rovers the previous Saturday. The crowds gathered from early morning to catch a glimpse of the German giants, who were keen on re-establishing themselves as one of the most dominant teams in world football.
At that time, Bayern had just been pipped to the Bundesliga title by FC Kaiserslautern. That was a major disappointment for a team who were going for three in a row. The Bavarians were also looking to reach their first European final since 1976.
City knew what was at stake and in the 27th minute, the ball was picked off in midfield and laid into Barry’s path. He sprinted forward, cut inside and went for goal. Despite the Bayern goalkeeper getting a hand to this, the ball went in and City took the lead.
The goal and the celebrations were broadcast across the continent by Eurosport. The crowd were ecstatic and not even Stefan Effenberg’s equaliser could dampen their spirits.
The final result and the 2-0 loss in Munich are well documented. What is sometimes forgotten is the impact the draw had on City and Cork.
Not only was the club established from a European perspective, but the ghosts of Moscow in 1989 were firmly buried.