By Philip O’Rourke (@effect_phil)
They say there is two sides to every story, well in the case of Cork football there are eleven, and I’m about to tell the story of the second one. I got the side of Cork Hibernians FC in my previous article and it painted a picture of just how big the derby game between them and Cork Celtic FC was back in the 60’s and 70’s. Now it’s time to get the point of view from Cork Celtic FC and see if it really was a big deal to them as it was to Cork Hibernians supporters.
Cork Celtic FC were originally known as Evergreen United FC (another club we will look at), who played in the League of Ireland between 1951 and 1979. The played their home games at Turners Cross, Cork City FC’s current home ground. Like their city rivals Cork Hibs, Cork Celtic only had one League of Ireland success in 1973-74 season, coming runners-up four times in their history. Other notable success included the League of Ireland Shield in 1960-61, the Dublin City Cup in 1961-1962, and the Top Four Cup 4 times in 1956-57, 1958-59, 1959-60, 1973-74, a trophy competed for by the top four finishers in the previous league season.
Cork Celtic also competed in Europe twice, losing to Bulgarian side Slavia Sofia in 1964-65 season in the European Cup Winner’s Cup 3-1 on aggregate, and losing to the Soviet Union side Ararat Yerevan 7-1 on aggregate in the European Cup second round after getting a walk over from Cypriot side Omonia Nicosia in the first round.
With some moderate success Cork Celtic attracted a few star names during their history, most notably George Best and Geoff Hurst. Best, clearly attracting huge crowds, failed to impress in the three league games he played in after signing in December 1975, not even scoring a goal against Drogheda United, Bohemians or Shelbourne. Hurst was slightly more successful in his brief stay when he signed in 1976, scoring three goals in the month he played for them.
Former all-time leading goal scorer for Chelsea and former England International Bobby Tambling also had a spell at Cork Celtic as both player and manager, helping the club win their only league title that year, scoring seven goals and entertaining the crowds whilst doing so. A cameo appearance by German legend Uwe Seeler was made, but despite him scoring two goals in his one and only appearance, it was seen to many as a PR stunt to raise much needed funds for the club.
Unfortunately, crowd attendances dropped, as uncertainty over board room activities and a dispute over playing at Turners cross saw Cork Celtic fall to the same fate as their former city rivals, Cork Hibs. On the 20th July, 1979 Cork Celtic were expelled from the League of Ireland for failing to supply documents that outlined certain conditions were met that were warranted by the AGM. Fruitless attempts followed from Cork Celtic to assure that the conditions would be met but by that time it was two late.
As a youngster, John Carroll remembers those days at Turners Cross, or ‘The Cross’ as it is affectionally known as down in Cork, but not as some might remember it. ‘I suppose I was fairly young when they went out of business, under 10, but I do remember very small crowds. Loads of guys go on about the ‘good old days’ and the huge crowds, but my dad always says that apart from the league winning season in ‘74 crowds were always small.’
Apart from the derby with Hibs’ John was in no doubt about who the star of the show was for Cork Celtic back in the day. ‘Bobby Tambling was brilliant, He was so unlucky to miss out on a World Cup winners medal in ‘66. He was in the final 26 but cut from the final 22 in favour of Geoff Hurst. He was class with Celtic.’
It’s worth pointing out that John’s own father was a player in the Cork Celtic side that won the league in ‘74. He would be best known to the Cork Celtic faithful for a stunning goal he scored from 25 yards out against a Shamrock Rovers side that was seen as the best in the land at the time during the 70’s. Like his Cork Hibernian counterpart, Tony Tobins, John said he missed the big crowds that League of Ireland used to draw in down in Cork, especially the derbies. The things he didn’t miss he put simply. ‘Not the pitches. They were poor. And the heavy footballs!’
And like Tony, John is now a season ticket holder at Cork City FC and is still passionate about his football team which still gives him great joy. But one can’t help thinking that the rivalry down in Cork is missed by all sides.
Listening to the two views from two fans on either side it became apparent that the Cork Hibs/Cork Celtic rivalry was something that could not be forgotten, and you get a sense of a little bit of disappointment that it is not there anymore.
Cork as we know is a big county and even though many are happy to support Cork City as their own, a rivalry in the city of Cork may spice things up. The only question is if there is enough room for two clubs?
As we go on with more of these stories, we will hear more stories about other clubs who formed in Cork and tried their best to establish themselves in a City that loves their football. But I think it is time to move away from the rebel county and look at another club in another part of Ireland. Kilkenny City, you’re up next.