Throwback Thursday: Festive fixture saw Cobh Ramblers get first league win over Cork City 

Dylan O'Connell looks to the champions' St Stephen's Day loss to local rivals Cobh
Throwback Thursday: Festive fixture saw Cobh Ramblers get first league win over Cork City 

Cobh's Sean Francis shielding the ball from Cork City full-back Gareth Cronin.

TWENTY NINE years ago this week, a festive fixture at St Colman’s Park saw Cobh Ramblers get their first-ever league win over Cork City.

St Stephen’s Day in 1993 saw the defending Premier Division champions humbled by two second-half goals from Sean Francis.

The result was made sweeter by the rarity of league derbies between City and Cobh as they traditionally played in different divisions.

The derby was usually played out in various cup competitions, like their first-ever meeting in September 1985. St Colman’s Park hosted that League of Ireland cup clash and City laid down an early marker by winning 2-0.

Their next meeting was in the FAI Cup on February 5, 1987, and Turner’s Cross hosted a 4-1 victory for City. The two teams faced each other twice during the 1987-88 season and City won both games in the Munster Senior Cup and League of Ireland Cup.

PREMIER

Cobh’s promotion at the end of the 1987-88 First Division season meant that there would be a league derby for the first time.

The first meeting between the two teams in the Premier tier was on October 30, 1988, and City beat Cobh 3-0 at Turner’s Cross. In the return fixture at St Colman’s Park, City ground out a 1-0 win.

The final derby of the year was at Turner’s Cross on March 27 and the two teams played out a 1-1 draw.

Cobh were relegated at the end of that season and they returned to the top flight in 1993. Their first meeting with City in the league was at Turner’s Cross and they were beaten 2-0.

If that didn’t boost City’s confidence going into the St Stephen’s Day derby, they travelled to Cobh on the back of a five-match unbeaten run. They had beaten Bohemians 4-3 at Dalymount Park, drew 2-2 with title rivals Shamrock Rovers at Turner’s Cross, and hammered Drogheda United 5-0.

That gave Damien Richardson, who was just four months into his first spell at the club, every reason to be confident when making the short journey down to the east side of the county.

Cobh were also without Paul Bannon for the fixture as he had the flu. It had the looks of a guaranteed win for City, which would have left them two points behind league leaders Shamrock Rovers.

The confidence was certainly noticeable in the opening few minutes as John Caulfield, Anthony Buckley, and Dave Barry created a number of chances for City. Cobh had only one attempt in the first half and that shot from Sean Francis was easily saved by Phil Harrington.

The City goalkeeper’s next involvement led to a collision with Anthony Kenneally inside the area. The Ramblers shouted for a penalty and referee, Limerick’s John Barry, waved played on.

PLAN

Everything seemed to be going according to plan until Cobh countered down the left flank in the 58th minute. Pat Byrne could have shot but instead he laid the ball into the path of Francis and he side-footed the ball home.

The scorer almost turned creator after the restart as he set up Brendan O’Callaghan at the back post. This went narrowly wide and City charged up the pitch, desperate for an equaliser in the final half hour.

At the end of their advance was an inspired Stephen Henderson and the goalkeeper made two excellent saves to deny Tommy Gaynor and Pat Morley.

It was John Caulfield who finally got the ball beyond the reach of Henderson and this levelled things up with 15 minutes remaining.

Tommy Cragoe, who was home for Christmas from the University of Hull, set up the winning goal. He hit a long diagonal ball from the halfway line and Francis got on the of end of it. The striker volleyed past Harrington and into the goal’s far corner with just under three minutes left.

City had nothing left in the tank and Cobh comfortably held on to get their first-ever league win over their local rivals.

As this was the last league fixture of the season between the two clubs, City had to wait until the final of the Munster Senior Cup to get their revenge.

Cobh’s win played a big part in them finishing third from bottom in the Premier Division and this meant they avoided automatic relegation.

Instead, Cobh were put into the promotion/relegation play-off against Finn Harps, who won the first game 1-0 in Donegal. Ramblers fought back a week later and three goals made sure they remained in the Premier Division.

At the end of the season, Cobh had the safety that they craved at the start of the year, something massively helped by Francis’ two goals on St Stephen’s Day.

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