Cork soccer has a long history with Wrexham 

Hollywood superstars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney have put the Welsh club back on the map but they've always had links to Leeside
Cork soccer has a long history with Wrexham 

Manchester United's Ruud Van Nistlerooy is challenged by Wrexham's Brian Carey during a pre-season friendly game in 2001. Picture: Martin Rickett

IT might be the fifth tier of the English football pyramid but Wrexham's promotion to the EFL has been felt across the planet.

Millions and millions of people have engaged with their story online and followed the resurgence of the third oldest club in the world under the ownership of Hollywood superstars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney.

It's quite well story at this point; with a Disney+ series sparing no detail about the transformation. 

The finer details of it show a club transitioning out of supporter ownership and ending its 15-year spell in the Conference.

But where does Cork fit in? The obvious answer is Eoghan O'Connell, who was brought to the Racecourse Ground last January from Charlton Athletic. 

The defender from Ballinlough, who also played for Cork City and Celtic, helped elevate the defence into a team that won a league title with 111 points.

There’s actually a long tradition linking the town in north Wales and the Rebel County, something that started with Brian Carey.

The defender, who was once on the books at Cork City and Manchester United, was sent on loan to Wrexham in 1991 from Old Trafford. That spawned over 30 years of signings and a friendly.

Carey’s first big moment in a red jersey was in the third round of the 1991-92 FA Cup against Arsenal. 

The Gunners were the reigning First Division champions and they aiming to win the cup for the first time since 1979. 

Wrexham packed the Racecourse Ground and faced an Arsenal team containing Tony Adams, David O’Leary, and Paul Merson. 


Their pedigree looked like it was going to pay off when Alan Smith gave them the lead just before half-time.

Wrexham hit back in the final 10 minutes with Mickey Thomas and Steve Watkin scoring, and combined with the defensive work of Carey, that gave the Red Dragons a famous win in the FA Cup.

In 2013 it was voted as one of the greatest ever upsets in the history of the competition, and it marked the start of Carey’s long association with Wrexham.

Carey signed permanently with the club in 1996 from Leicester City and spent 15 years at the Racecourse Ground, and he held a number of different roles at Wrexham.

The Red Dragons visited Cork for a friendly in July 1999 and they lost 1-0 at Turner’s Cross with John Caulfield scoring the only goal of the game in the 26th minute.

Carey was appointed as interim manager of Wrexham in 2007 after the sacking of Dean Smith and he pulled off one of the greatest escapes that English football has ever seen by masterminding the club’s 3-1 victory over relegation rivals Boston United on the final day of the season. 

That kept Wrexham in the Football League, and the fans celebrated with a pitch invasion at the Racecourse Ground.

Carey was rewarded with a two year contract but poor results led to his dismissal in November 2007. 

He stayed in Wales working as a scout for Wrexham, and he had to watch as the club was relegated to the Conference at the end of the 2007-08 Football League season.

When Welsh football legend Dean Saunders took over Wrexham in October 2008, Carey was brought in as his assistant. 

They worked together for three years and in 2011 they took over Doncaster Rovers, which marked the end of Carey’s relationship with Wrexham.

Links were re-established through Fiacre Kelleher, who spent the 2020-21 season with Wrexham in the Conference. 

This was during the takeover of the club by Reynolds and McElhenney, a deal that would be completed in February 2021. 

Kelleher made 24 appearances that season and he helped them finish in 8th place, with just one point stopping the club from competing in the play-offs.

One of the biggest problems that Wrexham faced last season as their defence, they even conceded five goals in their Conference play-off semi-final with Grimsby Town at the Racecourse Ground. 

This continued during the 2022-23 season, with goals from Paul Mullins cancelling out what was conceded.

The man Wrexham looked to was Eoghan O’Connell, who joined Charlton Athletic last summer from Rochdale.  The defender was announced with a video featuring the club owners trying to pronounce his first name, and immediately became a fan favourite at the Racecourse Ground.

O’Connell steadied the team defensively and he helped them beat Notts County in a title-deciding game last April. 

They finished the job by beating Boreham Wood and that secured promotion to the EFL.

O’Connell was rewarded for his work with a Conference winners medal, and a trip to Las Vegas paid for by the club’s owners.

It almost brings the whole story full circle, given the events of 2008 and 2023. 

It also helps strengthen the long relationship between Cork and Wrexham.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Echo 130Echo 130

Have you downloaded your FREE ie logo  App?

People holding phone with App

It's all about Cork!

Have you downloaded your FREE ie logo  App?

It's all about Cork!

App Store LogoGoogle Play Logo
The Echo - Women in Sport Awards - Logo



Podcast: 1000 Cork songs 
Singer/songwriter Jimmy Crowley talks to John Dolan

Listen Here

Contact Us Cookie Policy Privacy Policy Terms and Conditions

© Evening Echo Ltd, Linn Dubh, Assumption Road, Blackpool, Cork. Registered in Ireland: 523713

Add to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more