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'Where's Cork?' How a Liverpool legend ended up in the League of Ireland

Terry McDermott, a three-time European Cup winner, had a short stint with the Rebel Army in 1985.

Terry McDermott won five league titles and three European Cups with Liverpool.
Terry McDermott won five league titles and three European Cups with Liverpool.

IN 1980, TERRY McDermott was at the peak of his powers. He was named both the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year.

It was an impressive achievement, particularly given that he was part of a legendary Liverpool side, which included club icons such as Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness and Alan Hansen.

By that point, McDermott had already helped his side secure two European Cups, and he would go on to claim a third winners’ medal in the competition the following season.

In total, the Kirkby native would win five league titles with the Reds, although he is reluctant to count the 1975-76 campaign, as he was still settling into the side then and made just nine appearances that season.

So rather improbably, less than five years after being named player of the year by both his peers and the football writers, McDermott found himself playing in the League of Ireland.

The midfielder, who made over 200 appearances for Liverpool and won 25 England caps, left the Reds in 1982.

McDermott says he ideally would have loved to have spent his entire career at Liverpool, but by the end of his time there, first-team football was far from assured, while his reputation for drinking and acting “daft” did not help matters.

The star’s disillusionment with the situation at Anfield coupled with the allure of linking up with former Reds teammate Kevin Keegan at Newcastle prompted him to join the Magpies in September 1982, despite the club struggling in the Second Division at the time.

Nevertheless, with notable young players including Chris Waddle and Peter Beardsley, the side won promotion to the top flight in McDermott’s second season there, going up after finishing third in the 1983-84 campaign.

Everything appeared to be going well, until Jack Charlton — who was two years away from taking charge of Ireland — replaced Arthur Cox as manager. McDermott and his new boss fell out instantaneously.

He offered me a contract,” McDermott tells The42. “It was all different then — now, once your contract’s up you can do what you want. In those days, you couldn’t. They’d keep your registration.

“I didn’t want to leave. The last thing I wanted to do was leave Newcastle. We got promotion. Kevin (Keegan) had retired.

Arthur Cox, the manager, left. He didn’t agree with the changes (at the club). Jack was there. I drove from Ascot Racecourse to Newcastle. I said: ‘Jack, you wanted to see me.’ I went all the way up there. I was getting married three days later.

“Jack said: ‘There’s your (new) contract.’ I said: ‘That’s the same contract I was on last year.’ He said: ‘Yeah, it’s good money, isn’t it?’ I said: ‘Hang on, I took a big drop in my wages to move from Liverpool to Newcastle — a big drop.’ I got promotion and I’m (supposed to be) getting rewarded, which is normal.

I said: ‘We’ve won the league and you’re saying it’s the same money.’ We’re going into (what is now the Premier League). He said: ‘Yeah, it’s a good salary.’ I said: ‘You might think so, but I don’t.’ I said: ‘Well, I’m off.’ As I went walking off, he shouts: ‘You’ll be back.’ So I just turn around and said: ‘You fucking watch.’ And I never went back.”

The falling out meant McDermott was left in limbo. The fact that the club still had his registration meant he couldn’t sign for anyone else, though the Magpies needed to keep paying his wages or he would be allowed leave on a free transfer. Ostracised from St James’ Park, the out-of-favour star kept fit by running around his local golf course, and after two months, Newcastle finally relented and stopped paying his wages, thereby enabling him to depart.

Without a club for several months thereafter, a 33-year-old McDermott eventually joined Cork City in January 1985, with the Leesiders only recently having been elected to the League of Ireland.

There was a little bit of the season gone, and most of the teams had got the players that they wanted on the budgets that they had,” he recalls.

“Then I got a phone call from (then-Cork manager) Tony Allen. He said ‘Cork’ and I said: ‘Where’s Cork?’ He said it’s in Ireland, it’s a lovely place, you’ll love it. Would you come down now? We’ll get you fit.”

Soccer - Friendly - England v Holland McDermott won 25 caps for England and featured in the squad for the 1982 World Cup. Source: EMPICS Sport

The commitment was not a particularly big one for McDermott. He was allowed to live in England and would fly across the water on the Friday ahead of the game.

“They said: ‘We’ll fly you over the day before the game, we’ll fly you back the day of the game or the day after. We’ll give you a little brown envelope (with cash).

I said: ‘Yeah, I need to get fit, though I’m quite fit anyway.’ They said: ‘Come down, we’ll see how things go. I was there for a few games. And I loved it, it was great.

“(When I first arrived) the chairman and the manager said: ‘Come on, we’ll go and meet some people.’ I got there on Saturday afternoon. They took me to Kinsale. It was lovely.

He said: ‘Are you having a drink?’ And we went on a pub crawl really to meet some business people. I said: ‘I’ll have a coke,’ and then I had a shandy.

Then I said: ‘I’ll have half a lager, go on.’ He said: ‘Are you having another one?’ I said: ‘No, we’ve got a game tomorrow don’t forget.’ He said: ‘You have your bed, Jesus, you’ll be fine.’

Five hours later I’ve had about 12 pints. I said ‘I’ve got to go now, fucking hell, it’s seven o’clock at night.’ I’ve a game tomorrow and have had a load of pints down me. He said: ‘Don’t be worried.’”

Despite the less than ideal preparation for games, McDermott was “used to it,” with English football at the time notorious for its booze culture. He managed one goal in his seven appearances for the club, with Cork ending that season ninth in the league out of 16 teams.

“I really enjoyed it. It took me to some lovely places,” he adds.

“I think there was a bit of fanfare (when I arrived), yeah. There was already another Englishman (Trevor Parr) there, so I mucked in with him.

But I’m just a normal person, it doesn’t matter who I played for. I was just the same as the lads with a (Cork) shirt on.”

McDermott admits, however, that the standard in Ireland was not what he was used to in England.

There was a big difference,” he recalls. “I’d be making the runs I used to make at Liverpool and unfortunately, the players couldn’t find you because they’re not looking for you.

“When I did that for Liverpool, I could get Ray Kennedy, Jimmy Case, Graeme Souness, knocking balls into space where I could do my stuff and score a goal or two. But players (at that level) aren’t looking for those sort of balls.”

McDermott soon left his short-term deal at Cork after receiving a phone call from former Newcastle teammate and ex-Northern Ireland player Tommy Cassidy, the then-manager of APOEL. After his brief stint in Ireland, McDermott spent two years with the Cypriot club, winning the league and Super Cup during his time there before retiring.

The former Liverpool star would also later go on to become assistant manager at a number of clubs, including the Newcastle side that came desperately close to winning the Premier League in the 1995-96 season, losing a famous 4-3 game to Liverpool at Anfield in the process.

Moreover, the former midfielder is far from the only star to make an appearance in Irish football, with legends including George Best, Bobby Charlton and Dixie Dean also having brief stints there towards the latter end of their respective careers.

Look out on the site this weekend for our in-depth interview with Terry McDermott, in which he discusses the highs and lows of his time at Liverpool.

Terry Mac: Living For The Moment – My Autobiography is published by Trinity Mirror Sport Media. More info here.

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Paul Fennessy

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