1984 – 1985
After a two-year gap, senior football returned to Leeside when Cork City FC was elected to the League of Ireland. Former Chelsea and Cork Celtic hero Bobby Tambling was at the helm but his reign only lasted an unlucky 13 games.
Tony ‘Tucker’ Allen filled the breach as the club opted to import a batch of English players, most notably ex-Liverpool midfielder Terry McDermott. The gamble averted the threat of relegation to the new First Division, but brought no joy in the Cup as City fell to Drogheda United in the second round.
1985 – 1986
The second campaign almost brought disaster with City failing to win a single game at Flower Lodge and avoiding relegation only on goal difference from Shelbourne. Just three points were gleaned from home matches where Trevor Brooking’s fleeting appearances failed to inspire a change of fortune. City clung on to Premier Division status following some sterling away results.
The FAI Cup offered some respite with Bray Wanderers, Limerick City and Derry City being overcome as City advanced to the semi-finals. However, all-conquering Shamrock Rovers proved too powerful over two legs, winning 8:3 on aggregate. The return match at the Lodge was the last ever played at the famous old venue.
1986 – 1987
All change as the enforced move to Turners Cross also brought Noel O’Mahony in as manager. Crowds remained poor as the team still struggled before finally ending a 19-month wait for a home win when Sligo Rovers were beaten 3:2. John Caulfield notched a first hat-trick in the same game. O’Mahony eventually guided City into the relative comfort zone of mid-table, but the FAI Cup, League Cup and Munster Senior Cup offered little in the way of consolation or glory.
1987 – 1988
Former Ireland striker Eamon O’Keefe arrived as manager as the club strived to inject an urgent degree of professionalism. Within a month O’Keefe delivered the Munster Cup, and in October skipper Liam Murphy lifted the League Cup, the club’s first national silverware, when Shamrock Rovers were defeated at Turners Cross.
On the league front there was a further gradual improvement with City finishing in seventh place. Despite the advances made, however, the turnstiles were still clicking too slowly and there was pressure on the board to improve the image and appeal of the club.
1988 – 1989
This was an eventful season for City in many ways: the sacking of O’Keefe, another relegation battle, a first FAI Cup final appearance and a European qualification at the end of it all.
Poor early form and attendances cast doubts over O’Keefe’s tenure and there was an acrimonious parting of the ways before Christmas with O’Mahony re-installed to guide the ship to safety. The side battled to finish eighth in the league and produced brave but unsuccessful defences of the Munster and League Cups. Losing to treble champions Derry City in the FAI Cup decider earned the club its first European ticket.
1989 – 1990
Glenavon and Tottenham Hostpur were early visitors to Leeside before City faced Torpedo Moscow in the Cup Winners’ Cup, a huge step for a young club. They lost 0:6 on aggregate against the Russians, but the experience fuelled the club’s desire and inspired a fifth-place finish in the Premier Division.
The ambitious experiment of recruiting four Bulgarians in October did not pay off but hinted at an actual desire for achievement.
The FAI Cup and the League Cup proved fruitless avenues to success, but the Munster Senior Cup was reclaimed on New Year’s Day at the expense of Tramore Athletic.
For the first time City were genuine championship contenders, exploding from the traps with a 20-game unbeaten run that lasted until late January, the squad bolstered by the inclusion of five Scots during the season. The only other defeat came when Dundalk stole a 1:0 win and the title in front of 12,000 fans packed into Turners Cross. The consolation was another European berth, this time in the UEFA Cup.
There were early exits in the FAI and League Cup, but the Munster Senior Cup was retained when Limerick City were overcome 3:0 on the last day of the season.
1991 – 1992
A hectic pre-season included games in Shanghai against the Polish and Chinese Olympic teams, a famous 2:0 win over Celtic plus visits from Leeds, Manchester City and Sunderland. The icing on the cake was a gallant UEFA joust with Bayern Munich, City holding the German giants 1:1 at Musgrave Park before falling 0:2 to late goals in Bavaria.
The club slipped to third in the league, missing out on Europe, and suffered a 0:1 reverse to Bohemians in the FAI Cup decider at Lansdowne Road. Once again the Munster Senior Cup was the only trophy claimed in a memorable year.
1992 – 1993
Cork City landed the Premier Division title for the first time after a three-way tie with Shelbourne and Bohemians, and an extended play-off series to decide the Championship. A 3:2 win over Shelbourne at the RDS in the sixth play-off game finally earned the club its day of glory.
It was a momentous season on other fronts also with City moving to a new stadium in Bishopstown as ambition continued to grow.
There were early exits in the League and FAI Cups, however, though the Munster Cup was kept for another year following a 3:1 win over Fermoy.
1993 – 1994
Damien Richardson took the helm on Noel O’Mahony’s retirement. City came from three goals down to knock Welsh side Cwmbran Town out of the Champions Cup. Their reward was a trip to Istanbul and odd-goal defeats both home and away to Galatasaray.
Domestically there was little joy in the Cups, but the club made a brave effort at retaining its league crown, finishing second to Shamrock Rovers, playing attractively and scoring freely.
Almost inevitably, the Munster Senior Cup provided the only silverware from an exciting campaign, though it took a penalty shoot-out to see off the challenge of Cobh Ramblers.
1994 – 1995
A UEFA Cup exit against Slavia Prague was quickly overcome and the championship success of ’93 looked as if it might be repeated before the season rapidly turned sour, and Richardson resigned a week before Christmas with the team at the top of the table and into the League Cup final. Bishopstown was virtually unplayable, games were switched to Cobh, Turners Cross and even one enforced trip to Tolka Park. O’Mahony was recalled but the title challenge collapsed and neither Munster or League Cup successes could ease the sadness of seeing a club on the verge of self-destruction.
1995 – 1996
Rob Hindmarch took the reins, but it was obvious he had inherited a mess. The club was in the mire, the stadium dragging it under. In mid-season the receiver was called in and the club was left homeless. Frantic efforts to save the situation saw a new Board installed and a move to Turners Cross. Penniless, Hindmarch had skimmed along with bargain basement imports but relegation still threatened, a three-point deduction adding to the problems. A Cup exit saw Dave Barry appointed and the team gleaned enough points to scramble to ninth. They lost the Munster Cup decider to junior side Waterford Glass.
1996 – 1997
A year of consolidation after the Bishopstown nightmare ended with a surprise Intertoto Cup qualification. After a disastrous start a late run was rewarded when City finished fourth. Along the way the team claimed a League Cup final place, but unexpectedly lost on aggregate to First Division Galway United. Crowds began to increase, and the Munster Cup was recaptured, but most importantly a lot of vital repair work was undertaken and the club appeared a lot stronger than 12 months earlier.
1997 – 1998
Unbeaten in three out of four Intertoto games, it was apparent that things had been tightened up on the pitch. The spirit had returned, colours were changed to red-and-white and the fans were growing in numbers. The missing ingredient was success and by season’s end Barry would provide that. League improvement continued with a creditable third place finish.
The Munster Cup was retained but it was the FAI Cup that put Cork City back on the map after several lean and desperate years. Derek Coughlan’s goal against Shelbourne ensured City got their hands on the famous trophy for the very first time.
1998 – 1999
A home win against CSKA Kyiv augured well and so it proved. The best campaign for years saw an eight-game winning start to the league and a record 70 points accumulated from 33 matches. Incredibly, City had to accept runners-up medals behind St Patrick’s Athletic after a titanic contest between the pair.
A great run in the League Cup brought the trophy home for the third time with victory over Shamrock Rovers. City were awarded the Munster Senior Cup when Waterford refused to play in the delayed final.
1999 – 2000
Once again City claimed a famous result in Europe, defeating IFK Gothenburg at the Cross. Hopes were high of another sustained challenge in the title race and for the second year the team finished runners-up, a full eleven points adrift of Shelbourne. Pat Morley equalled his own club record by hitting 20 league goals and at the end of it all Dave Barry announced his retirement. Former Shelbourne boss Colin Murphy was unveiled as his successor for the following season. Only the Munster Cup made its way to the City trophy cabinet, neighbours Cobh Ramblers beaten 5:0 in the decider.
2000 – 2001
Colin Murphy stayed for one Super Cup game before departing to Leicester City. In the lurch, the club brought Derek Mountfield in facing a UEFA Cup tie in Lausanne. Mountfield had a turbulent ride in his first managerial appointment, the team lacking consistency, goals and luck. After relative success in preceding seasons crowds again dwindled as the team struggled and the former Everton stalwart was sacked in January, after just six months in charge. Liam Murphy took over and the team embarked on a 13-game unbeaten run than brought an Intertoto ticket and a tenth Munster Cup success.
2001 – 2002
A controversial link-up with Premier Division side Leicester City and local outfit Mayfield United was not warmly received by the Cork fans. There were embarrassing home and away defeats against Liepajas on the European front. Inconsistency was again the bane of the team and another season of poor gates, with a mid-table finish and no decent FAI or League Cup run meant the club had reached another vital crossroads in its history. Yet again the Munster Cup offered meagre consolation from a difficult campaign. The board stepped down at season’s end and Brian Lennox assumed full control of the club.
2002 – 2003
A season of sharp contrasts that ended with Liam Murphy resigning. Gradually building a new side in his two years in charge Murphy produced a young team that was by equal measure breathtaking at home and dismal away. And yet success was within touching distance; a home FAI Cup semi-final defeat against a moderate Derry City in particular tore the heart out of what promised to be a glorious year.
At the finish Europe proved beyond a side that could only muster a solitary win on the road, yet had started out brilliantly on home soil.
Pat Dolan was unveiled as the new City boss as the club ushered in a new era of professionalism. On the pitch performances were mixed as new players were drafted and old hands released or retired. The biggest disappointment was probably an opening round FAI Cup defeat at home to Shelbourne and once again the Munster Senior Cup was the only trophy collected. Still, an Intertoto Cup spot was secured –a definite sign of improved standing compared to recent campaigns.
This season will be remembered most for the club’s enthralling UEFA Intertoto Cup run, which saw Cork City within a single goal of reaching the semi-final stages. Unfortunately, that vital goal went to Nantes Atlantique at Turners Cross and secured a 1:1 draw for the French side. Had City forced home that score, 2:0 would have seen them through on away goals. Nevertheless there was huge consolation to be taken from the previous rounds and victories over Swedish side Malmo FF (3:1 and 1:0) and Dutch outfit NEC Nijmegen (1:0 and 0:0).
On the home front, indifferent form was finally shaken off when a late twelve-game unbeaten surge brought City to the final match with an outside chance of the title. Unfortunately, it was not to be and the club had to settle for runners-up spot. The most disappointing aspect of the season was the opening round FAI Cup defeat at UCD. The Munster Senior up was claimed yet again with a 2:0 win over Tipperary side Carrick United at Ozier Park in Waterford.
Manager Pat Dolan was sacked in pre-season and replaced by Damien Richardson. Following a sluggish start to the season, City went on to play some outstanding football, particularly in a UEFA cp run which saw them dispose of Lithuanian side Ekranas, and then Swedish champions-elect Djurgardens, before finally falling to Slavia Prague in the first round proper. The disappointment of exiting the UEFA cup was quickly put to rest as the team’s domestic performances remained consistent.
The season ended with a thrilling last day title decider at Turner’s Cross against Derry City- a match which sold out 2 weeks in advance. A 2-0 win for the home side meant the title was back on Leeside after a long wait. The chance of the double was dashed by a 2-0 defeat to Drogheda United at Landsdowne Road in the FAI Cup Final.
The 2006 season was one of mixed fortunes for Cork City. A relatively solid start to the season led to the club reaching the Setanta Sports Cup final in April, where an extra-time goal led to Cup Final defeat at the hands of Drogheda United for the second time in a matter of months. The club went on to face Cypriot Side Apollon Limassol in the First Qualifying Round of the UEFA Champions League, who they defeated 2-1 over two legs. Next up were the famous Red Star Belgrade who inflicted a 1-0 defeat on City at Turner’s Cross, while a 3-0 loss in the away leg saw the club bow out 4-0 on aggregate.
The European campaign took its toll as the club then went 5 games without a win which saw them lose ground in the title race. Despite this, results combined to leave the club only a matter of points behind going into the last few games, but a final day defeat away to Derry City saw the club finish the season in 4th place with the prospect of playing in the Intertoto Cup in the coming season.
The 2007 season started with some controversy, as new signings Colin Healy and Gareth Farrelly were deemed ineligible for play by F.I.F.A. in a controversial dispute. Playmaker George O’Callaghan was also sold to English side Ipswich town in January. This contributed to an inconsistent season start, with elimination from the Setanta Cup by Linfield in the semi-finals, a record-equaling 4-1 defeat to Sligo Rovers. In August 2007, star striker Roy O’Donovan joined FA Premiership side Sunderland for an League record fee. 2007 also saw the club’s ownership change hands, from Chairman Brian Lennox to investment firm Arkaga, appointing Aidan Tynan (formerly of Bord na gCon) as General Manager.
City finished 4th in the league for the second year running, however the club claimed its second FAI Cup in a 1-0 win over Longford Town at the RDS. Richardson was removed from the manager’s position in the days following the famous victory.
In January 2008, former Longford Town boss Alan Mathews became manager, and the club signed several players – including taking advantage of FIFA’s changes to the “3 club” rule by re-signing George O’Callaghan from Ipswich Town. However O’Callaghan was later released in July. City were knocked out of the first qualifying round in European competition by FC Haka. While David Mooney retained the league’s top scorer spot, City failed to take points from Bohemians or St. Pats and finished fifth in the league. The club did however gain some silverware, beating Glentoran in the Setanta Sports Cup final.
Off the pitch the club suffered a considerable threat when, in August 2008, after investment difficulties with venture capital firm Arkaga, the club entered into examinership. With rising debts, cost cutting measures were implemented. Under related rules, the club was deducted 10 points in the league. In October 2008 the High Court ruled in favour of Tom Coughlan’s bid to take over the club, and ended the examinership.
Paul Doolin replaced Mathews as manager for the 2009 season, and the side gained a number of positive results early in 2009 – including defeating Roy Keane’s touring Ipswich Town 2-0.
Despite these on pitch results however, the club’s future was left in considerable doubt following a High Court decision on outstanding Revenue receipts. A “winding up” order was issued when no agreement could be reached on tax payments. The club were given several extensions to pay or to appeal, and the club narrowly staved off closure by meeting a final deadline. Doolin left at the end of 2009, after leading the club to a third place finish.
Roddy Collins was appointed manager before the start of the 2010 season. Tom Coughlan resigned as chairman but continued his ownership of the holding company. The club’s presence in the Premier Division was put at risk due to impending high court proceedings and rising debts to the Revenue Ultimately the club failed to gain this licence, meaning a deal on new ownership could not be secured, and the courts enforced a winding-up order on Cork City Investment FC Limited.
Cork City Football Club was founded by the fans in the immediate aftermath of the winding up and carried on as Cork’s sole representative in the League of Ireland. The club entered the first division of the League of Ireland playing under the name of Cork City FORAS Co-op after FORAS successfully applied for a licence. Tommy Dunne was appointed manager and set about putting a squad together, only 10 days prior to the first game of the season. The club travelled to face the eventual winners of the First Division, Derry City, in the opening game, with a Davin O’Neill goal securing a 1-1 draw.
In June the club purchased the rights to the name Cork City Football Club, with Chairman John O’Sullivan saying: “This is a development with which we are all absolutely delighted. A significant amount of work and care went into the process, and we would like to recognise the contribution of Seán Ó’Conaill and our solicitor Michael O’Dowd of O’Hanlon O’Dowd Solicitors [www.ohod.ie]. We would also like to express our appreciation to the team at Moore Stephens Nathans; the decision to allow Cork City FC to continue playing at underage level allows us to express with absolute certainty that Cork City FC has never stopped, not for a second.”
In Cork City’s first season as a supporter-owned club, a late run of games which saw the club win 10 out of 12 league games between July and September was not enough to mount a sustained promotion challenge, as crucial results against promotion rivals went against the club. The club eventually finished the season in sixth place.
It was a fitting end to a superb season. Graham Cummins, with his last touch in a City shirt, steered his header into the back of the net in the 94th minute up in Tolka Park, to give Cork City the Airtricity League First Division title at only the second time of asking.
The Rebel Army only needed a point to secure promotion to the promised land of the Premier Division, but had to win if they wanted the league title – which they did, in dramatic style.
Following the club’s demotion to the second tier of Irish football in 2010, there was a great sense of achievement that Cork City FC, as a fan-owned club, had returned to dine at the top table of Irish domestic football.
Prior to the final-day drama at Tolka Park, the highlight of the season was undoubtedly a fine August evening in Turner’s Cross, when City thumped rivals Shelbourne 4-1 in a crucial title battle, a result that really swayed the balance in the title race.
All in all, it was a great year for football on Leeside. City finished the league campaign as champions, losing only one league game in the process, reached the final of the inaugural EA Sports Cup only to lose to Derry in the final at Turner’s Cross, and crashed out of the FAI Cup at the quarter final stage at the hands of St. Pats.
Cummins was undoubtedly the star performer of Tommy Dunne’s side (thus earning himself a move to Preston North End), but there were significant contributions from many players, as City overhauled Shelbourne’s seemingly insurmountable lead at the top of the table to clinch the title.
Although many sections of the media were tipping Cork City for a European place or even a title challenge in their first year back in the top flight, most on Leeside accepted that consolidation was the order of the day.
That was exactly what they got too, with the Rebel Army eventually finishing sixth in the league table. It wasn’t exactly a stellar campaign, with many of the first team squad in virgin territory with regards to the Premier Division, and they took time to really settle in, and adjust to the step up in class.
City finished the season strongly however, to secure a very welcome Setanta Sports Cup place for 2013.
On the cup front, things weren’t so great. The 2011 finalists crashed out at the second round of the EA Sports Cup, losing 3-0 to eventual First Division champions Limerick at Jackman Park, while Tommy Dunne’s men went down 2-0 to Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght in the last 16 of the FAI Cup.
City began the 2013 season in style, as they dispatched Irish League leaders Cliftonville and then Crusaders to reach the semi finals of the Setanta Sports Cup. The side had a rather indifferent start to their league campaign, but looked set to reach the Setanta Sports Cup final when an injury time strike from Billy Dennehy saw Shamrock Rovers pip Tommy Dunne’s side with virtually the last kick of the game. That was one of several late goals the side conceded, as they struggled to find consistency, and goals, in their league campaign.
The signing of Ciarán Kilduff on loan from Shamrock Rovers in July, along with the emergence of Danny Morrissey, saw the side begin to pose more of a goalscoring threat. Despite this, the side continued to struggle for consistency, and following a 2-1 defeat away to Limerick, Tommy Dunne’s departure was announced by the club. Under 19 manager Stuart Ashton stepped in on a caretaker basis, and oversaw a crucial win over Bohemians in his first league game in charge. The side went out of the FAI Cup after a 1-0 defeat away to eventual winners Sligo Rovers, but continued their good form in the league to end the season in sixth place.