Cork Football from Evergreen to Celtic
Our eighth League game of the 1977-78 season was against Cork Celtic. I’ve already gone over the Fordsons-Cork-City-United-Athletic-Hibernians-Albert half of the city’s football history. The other half began with Cork Bohemians, who played two league seasons in the early 1930s. After them came Evergreen United, who first played in the Free State Cup in 1937. They joined the league in 1951 and two years later lost the first all-Cork cup final against Athletic, despite Athletic’s centre-half Florrie Burke playing for Evergreen because of a contract dispute. By the end of the decade Evergreen were regular title challengers, and in true Cork tradition changed their name to Cork Celtic in 1959. A great local rivalry with Cork Hibernians quickly emerged.
Celtic were the better team in the early sixties, and Hibernians in the late sixties, but neither won any major trophies despite both reaching two cup finals. In 1969 Celtic signed Derby County’s teenaged goalkeeper Alec Ludzig, who was now with Cork Albert, and former Bolton striker Carl Davenport, who soon moved to Cork Hibernians. Davenport famously expressed the opinion that the best showers in the old Turners Cross dressing room were when the rain came through the holes in the corrugated roof.
Celtic saw rivals Hibernians win the league in 1971 and the cup in the next two years. Then in 1973, former Chelsea star Bobby Tambling moved to Ireland to work as a Jehovah’s Witness missionary, and also joined Celtic. Tambling had become a Witness around the same time as Wolves’ striker Peter Knowles, prompting the English footballers union to suggest that: ‘If any player is approached by these people, we would welcome a chat with him before he gets too involved.’ With an unquantifiable level of assistance from Jehovah, Cork Celtic won their first ever league title in 1974.
Since then they had been a mid-table team, but featured two world-class stars in cameo roles. Donie Forde, who had signed Raich Carter for Cork Athletic in the 1950s, had become Cork Celtic’s secretary. In October 1975 he brought over Georgie Best, who concisely commented of the modest Turners Cross dressing room that: ‘It’s different’. In 1976 England’s World Cup Final hero Geoff Hurst spent a month with Celtic, before he joined Seattle Sounders in the new North American league. Hurst had also agreed to coach English club Telford, so he would watch Telford on the Saturday, be driven to Swansea, get the overnight ferry to Cork, play for Celtic on the Sunday, and fly back to England on the Monday.
These cameos certainly brought in big crowds, but Celtic were still struggling both financially and on the pitch. And so I was looking forward to their arrival at Dalymount Park for a match that could put our title challenge back on the rails.