All in One Book
It is the start of swinging sixties. But nobody told us in the Irish countryside. Maybe it was all happening in the city, Teddy Boys, Rock ’n Roll. You might catch a hint of it late at night on Radio Luxembourg.
There was though a taste of rebellion in the air, a lightening up of the grim grey. It was some time before 1966 and England’s World Cup but soccer provided a means at cocking a snoot at the establishment. After all, you could start a soccer team more or less by yourself and not rely on the blessing of the local sergeant, publican/grocer, priest or teacher, the usual mainstays of the local GAA club.
There were soccer teams in Cork city, big clubs coming and going but no club for youngsters in East Cork other than Springfield (founded 1959). Cork Hibs, founded a couple of years earlier, were in their infancy, playing in the Mardyke. And yet, the player I remember best from those days was not a Hibs player at all but a one armed centre-forward from Dundalk called Jimmy Hasty. He caused Hibs all kinds of problems in games, home and away. In 1974, at the age of 35, Hasty was an innocent victim of loyalist terrorists and was murdered.
It wasn’t that easy to get to games. The bike was my usual mode of transport. You had to be careful though if you were heading for Turner’s Cross or the old Athletic Grounds. One of the dangers was getting your front wheel caught in the railway tracks that crossed a few city streets between the main station and Albert Road. When you got to the venue you just put your bike in with all the others and it was always there when you came back.
And there was another factor, a fear of the infamous ban. This encouraged informers and, if you were a GAA player, as most of us were, you could face an enforced lay-off if you were spotted going to a soccer game not to mind playing in one. Kerry’s magnificent player Mick O’Connell fell foul of it as a spectator and there is an example in the book where Limerick man Ralph Prendergast, who played briefly with Hibs, became a victim in 1974.
Sometime in the early sixties, I was boarding in Farranferris. The school year was coming to an end and a dozen or so of us were attempting to play soccer (imagine that!), just crossing the ball and jumping to head it in. The bishop was in his palace below, a call was made to the college, and a scheduled half-day was cancelled though the decision was later reversed, just in time!
I was looking recently at some old programmes searching for mention of a Scottish relation of my mother’s, a McCann from Glasgow, who played briefly here before moving on to the USA, though I think he was with Cork Athletic rather than Hibs (he is not mentioned in the book). Some programmes, dated 1957, said Athletic were wearing white knickers; two years later, in the Hibs programmes, they had become shorts!
I must say Michael Russell’s book brought back quite a few memories. Most of us are familiar with goal difference but before that there was goal average. In 1961/62, Hibs failed to qualify for the Top Four competition with St Pat’s going through on goal average - by 1/100th of a goal!,
|Denis Galvin (centre) with his Hall of Fame trophy at the Cork Soccer Honours 1994|
Then there was the curiosity of winning a cup game on corners. Corners did of course often accurately reflect the dominance of one side. One example in the book was very tight indeed. In the Dublin Cup quarter-final of 1966/7, Hibs defeated St Pat’s 11-10 on corners after a 3-3 draw.
Every player who played with Hibs has an entry in the book. I knew quite a few of the Hibs and Celtic players, came across some in junior soccer later on such as John Coughlan (Ballincollig), Donie Leahy (Rockmount), Jackie Morley (Wilton), Denis Galvin (Tramore Athletic), Bobby Tambling (Crosshaven) and John Lawson (Fermoy).
The first time I saw Coughlan play I was amazed. I thought there was no way you could get past him in the narrow confines of Turner’s Cross. I watched Alex Ludzic make his debut for Celtic in a derby at Flower Lodge. Thought he was unbeatable too until Wiggie pounced for the winner, the only goal.
And then there was Miah Dennehy. Miah, after distinguishing himself with Hibs and Nottingham Forrest, was player-manager with Castleview later on in the AUL. One Sunday morning, with Miah about to come on as a Castleview sub, the Bosco’s manager warned his centre-back not to foul Miah in the box under any circumstances. Miah got the ball on the right wing and started his run but the centre-back blew him out over the line and into the nearby bushes. As he was receiving his yellow card, the offender shouted to his manager: “See, I didn’t foul him in the box.”
Miah and all the great characters of the Hibs teams over the years get their feats recorded in this extensive book which is both a story and a very detailed record, the story first, the records in the second half. I’m sure you aficionados will spend hours studying all the stats. How about this one? Hibs benefitted from 27 own goals over all their years out of a total of 1,370 goals. Also, did you know that Miah joined Hibs by accident?
If my early trips to see Hibs were by push-bike, I travelled in style to see them play in the mid-week European games, once I booked the half-day of course. Brian, one of my friends, was into motor bikes. We’d leave Ballincollig and zoom towards the Lodge, park just outside the turn-stiles and be in no time.
Once we made it just in time to see Czech visitors Banik Ostrava score an early goal from a long range free kick in the 1973/74 European Cup Winners Cup. That put a damper on it as Hibs had played well in the away game and were just the one goal down. Carl Humphreys equalised on the day but the visitors netted again before the end to advance 3-1 on aggregate. This and all the earlier Hibs games in Europe are well covered here.
Humphreys, who I would meet in junior football with North End, was the Hibs hero on a terrific occasion in 1973, the 1-0 FAI Cup final replay win over Shelbourne at Flower Lodge, the first FAI Cup decider to be played outside of Dublin. Carl flicked in the 83rd minute winner off a Wiggington cross. The beaten keeper on this rainy day was Paddy Roche who would go on and play for Manchester Utd. I was one of what has been described as “a relatively small crowd of 11,000”.
|John Herrick (right) presented with Hall of Fame award in Cork Soccer Honours 2001|
A year earlier, the same Humphreys had been the villain when Hibs lost out to top rivals Waterford in the hunt for the League of Ireland title. Twenty five thousand turned up to see this April game that Hibs had to win, a draw would do it for Waterford. It all looked good for Hibs when Lawson and Wiggington had them two up. But, with ten minutes to go, Humphrey’s strike ignited a Waterford comeback and they won 3-2. Hibs had their revenge a week later when a Miah hat trick earned them a 3-0 win in the FAI Cup final.
Good times indeed but it was all over a few years later. Now all that’s left is memories and you can re-ignite those by getting your hands on Michael Russells labour of love. Lots of photos here too by the way from a golden era, recalled as Billy George (he played once with Hibs) puts it “with remarkable attention to detail and accuracy.”
Hibs! A History of Cork Hibernians FC 1957-1976
by Michael Russell.
38 Black and white photos.
Available in shops and online at www.onstream.ie.