Cork Soccer: Years ending in three looms large in Leeside sporting history

Finbarr Buckley casts his eye across Cork soccer through the ages
Cork Soccer: Years ending in three looms large in Leeside sporting history

Cork Hibernians (FAI Cup Winners 1973). Back: Dave Wigginton, Gerry Coyne, Frank Connolly, Declan O'Mahony, Martin Sheehan, John Brohan, Noel O'Mahony. Front: Denis Allen, John Lawson, Dave Bacuzzi (c), Sonny Sweeney, Carl Humphries.

THE dawning of a new year in three weeks is sure to be a momentous one for Cork City who return to the top flight after their brief sojourn in the First Division.

The Leesiders will be buoyed further by the achievements of past Cork teams who retained some of their best performances for years ending in three. 

As far back as 1923 with the League of Ireland in its infancy, Fordsons entered the FAI Cup for the first time as the city’s sole representative. 

To the surprise of many, the Tractor Boys battled all the way to the semi-final after wins over Rathmines United (walk-over) and Dublin United (3-2) before bowing out to eventual winners Alton United (4-2) at Dalymount Park on February 17.

Three years later, the Cork outfit would go on to become Cork’s first cup winners following an exciting 3-2 win over holders Shamrock Rovers.

Ten years later, the city had two representatives in league football for the first time when Cork Bohemians joined Cork FC to provide the first derby fixtures on Leeside. 

The more experienced Cork FC prevailed in both, winning 3-0 and 2-1 in the return. 

Cork Bohs needed three bits at the cherry to overcome Bray Unknowns in the cup first round before losing heavily to Dublin kingpins Bohemians in the quarter-finals. 

Their counterparts, Cork FC also went out in the last eight to holders Shamrock Rovers.

The following decade belonged to arguably the greatest-ever Cork team when Cork United swept the boards, winning five league titles and two cup triumphs as well as appearing in two losing finals. 

The Cork all-stars as they were popularly known, wrapped up their third consecutive championship success in 1943 with stunning home wins over Bohemians and Bray United, only losing on three occasions in their 18-match programme. 

 Cork Athletic (FAI Cup Winners 1953). Back: John Vaughan, John Moloney, Georgie McGrath, Ned Courtney, Paddy O'Callaghan, Raich Carter. Front: Murty Broderick, 'Small' Seanie McCarthy, Dave Noonan (c), Paddy O'Leary, Willie Cotter. Picture: Courtesy of Gerry Desmond
Cork Athletic (FAI Cup Winners 1953). Back: John Vaughan, John Moloney, Georgie McGrath, Ned Courtney, Paddy O'Callaghan, Raich Carter. Front: Murty Broderick, 'Small' Seanie McCarthy, Dave Noonan (c), Paddy O'Leary, Willie Cotter. Picture: Courtesy of Gerry Desmond

In the cup, the Rebels had been successful in 1941, been runners-up a year later and went all the way to the final again in ’43 only to lose by the odd goal in three to Drumcondra who led 2-0before Jackie O’Reilly reduced the deficit in the 73rd minute.

1953 marked the only time two Cork teams would contest a final when Cork Athletic squared up to Evergreen in the decider at Dalymount on Sunday, April 26th. 

The cup run on Leeside was dominated by Athletic’s signing of former legendary England international Raich Carter to boost their season after an indifferent league campaign. 

The double FA Cup winner, reputedly on £50 a game, rewarded his directors with the only goal in the first-round win over Drumcondra, another in the 3-2 win over Waterford in the first all-ticket cup tie in round two before netting twice in the final and reply. 

CORKERS

Interestingly, of the 22 players in action in the decider, 20 were from Cork, the two exceptions being Carter and team-mate Jackie Lennox. 

Athletic’s Johnny and Evergreen’s Willie made history by becoming the first brothers to oppose each other in a cup final.

Cork Hibernians enhanced their reputation further in 1963 by reaching the FAI Cup Final for a second time in three years after wins over St Pat’s, Dundalk and Limerick only to lose again to a star-studded Shelbourne 11. 

Hibs’ left-winger Tommy Eglington had won two cup medals with Shamrock Rovers in the 1940s and continued to display his prowess in front of goal by scoring the winner against Dundalk and a left-footed volley in the semi-final triumph over Munster rivals Limerick.

Hibernians would become the first Cork team to retain the cup in 1973 when they triumphed one-nil over Shelbourne in the final replay at Flower Lodge. 

The latter stages of the cup run looked on target to set up a repeat of the all-Cork final of ’53 when both Cork teams, Hibs and Celtic reached the last four. While a penalty from John Lawson and another from Gerry Coyne gave Hibs the win over Limerick in one semi, Celtic and Shelbourne met each other three times in the other penultimate tie. 

Once again, as he had done before in the 1962 league play-off, Ben Hannigan broke Celtic’s hearts with the only goal of the game. Local star Carl Humphries scored the winner in the final seven minutes from time.

With no senior team in Cork in 1983, non-league Cobh Ramblers stole the limelight by spectacularly dumping league champions Dundalk and Finn Harps out of the cup at St Colman’s Park. 

A four-match marathon with eventual winners Sligo Rovers followed in the semi-final and despite Frank O’Neill putting Ramblers two up in the fourth match, Sligo scored three without reply to end the dream of a final appearance for the Munster Senior League outfit.

Cork City had to wait until their ninth season in league football, 1992/93, before capturing a first league title. 

City ended the campaign in a three-way play-off with Bohemians and Shelbourne and after beating Bohs at Turner’s Cross, the Leesiders defeated Shels three-two at the RDS to seal the championship.

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