Cork Football from Fordsons to Cork Albert
On the first day of the 1977-78 season, Bohs faced Cork Albert, the latest in the fascinating kaleidoscope of Cork clubs. In 1924, the Ford Motor Company fielded Cork’s first league of Ireland team. They named it after the Fordson, the world’s first mass produced tractor. Like Cork football clubs generally, the early Fordson tractors were hard to get going (farmers would sometimes light fires underneath them before cranking), were awkward to operate, and had a tendency to tip over backwards with sometimes fatal consequences. The early Fordsons footballers were a respectable league of Ireland side, who won the cup in 1926. By the early 1930s, Ford had moved its tractor production to Dagenham in England, and the football club had become simply Cork FC.
Cork won the cup in 1934, but their form collapsed towards the end of the decade. They cunningly tackled this crisis linguistically, becoming Cork City in 1938 and Cork United in 1939. This fourth name proved to be a charm, dovetailing with the Irish government’s similar military policy of re-labeling World War Two as The Emergency. In 1941 United won football’s first great battle of Munster. They finished joint top of the league with Waterford, who refused to play the title decider in Cork, resulting in Cork having its first ever league champions. To rub salt in the East Munster wounds, United also beat Waterford in that year’s cup final. They went on to dominate Irish football during The Emergency, and their 1946 league title was a record fifth in six seasons. They also won the cup in 1947.
Eventually, the desire for another name change became irresistible. United quit the league in 1948, and instantly reformed as Cork Athletic. Again, the linguistic tactics briefly restored the glory days. Athletic won the league in 1950, and only lost the cup final after two replays. They went one better the following year, winning the league and cup double. And in 1953 they won the first all-Cork cup final, beating Evergreen United 2-1. Their club secretary Donie Forde also began a tradition of Cork clubs fielding famous English veterans, with crowds flocking to the Mardyke to see Sunderland legend Raich Carter. The club eventually folded in 1957, due to financial problems. Under its various names, Fordsons-Cork-City-United-Athletic had won seven league titles and six FAI Cups.
In 1957 Cork Hibernians took their league place, having previously played amateur football as the Ancient Order of Hibernians. In 1959 local rivals Evergreen United, who had joined the league in 1951, followed the great Cork tradition and changed their name to Cork Celtic. Although Celtic dominated Cork football in the 1960s, neither side won a major trophy until Hibs signed Man City full-back Dave Bacuzzi as player-manager in 1970. Amusingly, Bacuzzi thought he had been approached from a mysterious exotic location when he got a misspelled telegram asking him to contact ‘Cork Island’ instead of ‘Cork, Ireland’.
Bacuzzi led Hibs to become league champions in 1971, beating Shamrock Rovers in a play-off. A year later, they beat Waterford in the Cup final, with Miah Dennehy scoring a hat-trick. And in 1973, both major trophies came to Cork, with Celtic winning the league and Hibs the cup. Since Bacuzzi left to manage Home Farm in 1974, Hibs remained a top-five club but dramatically folded in 1976. Their crowds had dwindled, and they had lost money fielding ex-QPR star Rodney Marsh.
In 1976 Hibs were replaced in the league by local amateur side Albert Rovers, who had been waiting 30 years for the chance to join Ireland’s football elite. Albert Rovers had already won the Munster Senior Cup in 1950, beating Cork Athletic in the final, and claimed the FAI Intermediate Cup in 1954 and 59. They took over Hibs ground at Flower Lodge, while Cork Celtic still played at Turners Cross. Within a year, Albert Rovers quickly demonstrated their Cork heritage by changing their name to Cork Albert, which is the guise under which they traveled to Dalymount Park to kick off the new 1977-78 season.