Dublin: 9°C Wednesday 26 January 2022

Cork City fans hoping good old days are back with return of club icon 'Johnny C'

Leeside is buzzing ahead of the new season, writes Turner’s Cross favourite Neal Horgan.

John Caulfield: major part of City's success in the 1990s.
John Caulfield: major part of City's success in the 1990s.
Image: © Matt BrowneINPHO

FANS OF THE League of Ireland could be forgiven for thinking that 2014 rather than 2013 is the year of ‘the Gathering’.

The last few months have seen the return to the League of some very talented players from overseas.  Chief among them is Irish international Keith Fahey who has returned from Birmingham to St Pats.

Another former Irish international coming home is Stephen McPhail who, after a very successful career, most notably with Leeds United and Cardiff City has signed for Shamrock Rovers.  Both Fahey and McPhail are highly skilled, ‘ball-playing’ central midfielders.

The presence of Colin Healy in the centre of midfield for Cork City FC means that there will be no shortage of international level pedigree in the Airtricity League midfield this season.

And yet it could be argued, and certainly will be down south, that the most important return to the League of Ireland involves not a player, but a manager, John Caulfield, who has taken over the reins at Cork City FC.  Caulfield epitomised a generation of players in the 80s and 90s that put Cork City FC on the map.

He, along with the likes of Dave Barry, Declan Daly, Patsy Freyne and Caulfield’s striking partner Pat Morley, was an inherent part of the City team that achieved so much for the club in famous matches against Bayern Munich in 91 and Galatasary in 93.  They were central to the club’s first league win achieved at the RDS in 92 also.

Declan Daly and John Caulfield 16/5/1998 Source: © INPHO/Patrick Bolger

Those men and their colleagues presented a standard of football in Cork that was recognised by the Cork community as worthy of praise and attention.  It was simple, sometimes brutal fare.  It was before the Premiership was created and before the arrival of the overseas contingent to English football.


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It was before the tackle from behind was outlawed and one could still knock the ball back to the goalkeeper’s hands. There were very few seats and little shelter at Turner’s Cross. Footballers were tough, tackles were tackles, and you went down only when you were injured.  Every once in a while you could expect that that someone was about to be tackled around the neck.

This is not to overlook the skill that these men possessed.  Every week arriving at the Cross, a City fan could expect all of the above together with immense leadership and bravery from Daly, moments of sublime skill from Freyne, a classy goal or two from Morley or Barry before the inevitably scrappy goal from Caulfield.  For the thousands who came in the cold and the wet, they, and the other great players who played for City at the time, were rarely disappointed.

Launch of the 2014 Airtricity League Season Source: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

When Caulfield finally retired in or about 2001 he had become the club’s most capped player by a country mile and shared the top scoring record for the club with his striking partner Morley.  A hell of a lot has happened to the club between then and now.  A very successful period of full-time football occurred between 2004-2007 before a calamitous period of decline and ultimately demise in or about 2010.  The rise of the club under the control of a fans organisation ‘FORAS’ resuscitated the club back into existence, and eventually  Tommy Dunne and a younger team would bring the club back to stability in the Premier League of Ireland.  Despite all of this Caulfield’s records remain.

Others are returning to Cork City this year too.  Liam Kearney has returned from Australia, Darren Murphy from Britain, and Billy Dennehy from Shamrock Rovers.  These along with some impressive new signings augur well for the season ahead.   There is a buzz about the place not felt for some time.  It all starts on Friday.  It will probably be a cold, wet and windy night.  Expect a certain type of order to resume on the return of Johnny C to Turners Cross.    If you are lucky there might even be a scrappy goal or two.

Neal Horgan plays for Cork City who play champions St Patrick’s Athletic at Turner’s Cross on Friday night (ko  7.45pm).

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About the author:

Neal Horgan

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