By Philip O’Rourke (@effect_phil)
Nothing lasts forever, and sometimes that includes a football club. Unfortunately, over the many years that football has been played on this island, 39 clubs have fallen to this fate (some have been connected in some way or another). The cruel realties of financial restraint, lack of facilities or even in some cases lack of support have resulted in our league only having twenty football clubs currently playing in the Premier and First Division respectfully.
It’s a shame, but I am going to try and put a positive spin on it as we take a trip down memory lane, as each week I will be writing about one past club and attempting to resurrect the happy memories it brought to its fans back then, even getting some of those fans to recollect some matchday memories that they have themselves. After all, who doesn’t love a bit of nostalgia?
So, first up, Cork Hibernians FC.
When we think of Cork football the name Roy Keane pops up immediately and probably to the annoyance of the Corkonians who know their county’s history in football is much more than being defined by one person. Cork has proven time and time again that it is not going to give up its right to have a football club play in Ireland’s football league. Out of the 39 clubs that have gone, elven of them have hailed from County Cork. Some have been intertwined in their existence, but all have stood on their own two feet at some point and have been registered League of Ireland clubs.
There could be a debate to be had as to which of them is the real Cork footballing club but I will leave that to Corkonians to decide, as their knowledge would be far greater than my own about football down south. One thing I do know, is that they are passionate about their football team and recent history would suggest that their fans are being rewarded for the loyalty they have shown down the years. But let’s have a look at one of the earliest football clubs from Cork to play in the league of Ireland, Cork Hibernians FC.
Formed by the members of An Ancient Order of Hibernians, Cork Hibernian FC were first known as Cork Athletic Union League, the name they had when they won the FAI Intermediate cup in 1952. They became a League of Ireland club in 1957 and this is when they changed their name to Cork Hibernian FC. The club played at The Mardyke but moved to the Flower Lodge in 1962. In the 60’s and 70’s Cork Hibs developed a local rivalry with Cork Celtic, one that saw attendances at the games reach 15,000.
The highest attendance recorded at the Flower Lodge was 26,000 people for a league decider against Waterford United in 1971, which was won by Cork Hibs, their only League title. 1972 and 1973 weren’t without their successes as they lifted the FAI Cup in both seasons. They also lifted the All-Ireland trophy known as the Blaxnit Cup. But it all came to a crashing end in 1977 due to dwindling attendances and the club getting into financial difficulties due to the signing of ex-England international Rodney Marsh. In 1977 Cork Hibernians FC went out of existence but left behind plenty of memories for those fans they left behind…
Tony Tobin, a Cork Hibernians FC fan remembers the days at the Flower Lodge. ‘Never at The Mardyke, too young for that, but the Lodge was only brilliant, if Cork Celtic were the opponents it was a sell-out, easily 26,000 or more. I remember the Celtic Boot Boys would climb onto the roof of the stand and wave flags down to annoy the Hibs fans, the crowds were enormous, now obviously you wouldn’t get that every week……I loved standing behind the Blackrock end and watch John Lawon or Sunny Sweeney bend one into the top corner of the net.’ The rivalry between Cork Hibernians and Cork Celtic was a big thing down in the city of Cork in the 60’s and 70’s with Cork Hibs seen as the northside team and Cork Celtic seen as the southside team. And it was clear that winning meant everything to each sets of fans. When I asked Tony what was his favourite away day he replied with no hesitation, ‘ Easy, the short trip to Turners Cross to face Cork Celtic, It was actually nearer to my house than Flower Lodge, the winner had the bragging rights in the city until we met again.’
But it wasn’t a game against Cork Celtic that gave Tony his best memories. In fact, it was a game his beloved Cork Hibs were thrashed 5-0 in. ‘Even though we lost 5-0 against Mönchengladbach that was the game that sticks in my mind. Netzer, Vogts, Bonhof, Heynckes, what a team they were. We were dazzled not only by their football but also by their physique and appearance. There was 15,000 at that game. Cork Hibernians weren’t without their own stars though. As Tony mentioned before, players like Sunny Sweeney and John Lawson entertained the masses that came to watch. But it was another cult hero that Tony remembers being a class above the rest. ‘Dave ‘Wiggy’ Wiggington. Class player, lightening quick, could beat his man or two, could cross and scored his fair share of goals’. Being the clubs all time goal scorer with 130 goals in all competitions, it’s no surprise Tony gave him a special mention.
It was clear, talking to Tony that supporting Cork Hibernians was more than just following a football club. It was a way of life. Unfortunately for Tony it all ended in 1977 but that didn’t stop him continue to love another football club. ‘I’m a huge fan of Cork City F.C, I’m a member of Foras and a season ticket holder….’ Tony has just recently released a book of poems called ‘Rebel Rhymes’ and you can check out the details on his twitter.
After covering Cork Hibernians FC in the first article of League of Irelands, Forgotten Football Clubs, it only seems fair that I get the other sides story straight away. Next up, The story of another Cork football club, and Cork Hibernians biggest rivals, Cork Celtic FC.