✍🏻  & 📸 Finbarr Buckley

📸 Cork Eagles PFC who finished runners-up in the Sports Gear Direct Premier Division and O’Driscoll Premier Cup in 2013/14. The Eagles ended their eventual eight year tenure in the CBL last season.

DESPITE  the loss of Cork Eagles, 20/20 Glazing, The Blackrock Inn, Dalton’s Pharmacy  and Cork International from last season’s compliment, the additions of Colso Celtic, The Weigh Inn Dripsey, Martin Harvey Solicitors,  Janssen, CPL and PepsiCo have confirmed the league’s growing status among established and new companies seeking to expend employees’ health and well-being needs, writes Finbarr Buckley.

Cork Eagles PFC enjoyed a chequered history since they first joined in 2011/12. The debutants, as MyCork Polish Association and then MyCork.org, brought their own brand of stylish football and fanatical support, not seen in the league before, and stormed to the shield final at the first attempt. An opening day 5-2 win in the shield group stage over premier division Cork Airport set the tone with Krzysztof Toloczko claiming the club’s first hat-trick. Arek Szklarczyk and Victor Mate were also on target for the home side.

The Poles went on to top group three before sending fancied Doolan’s Cow crashing out of the competition at the semi-final stage. Incredibly, all five goals in the match were scored in the final seventeen minutes after Tomasz Bajkowski opened the scoring for the underdogs in the 73rd minute. Despite James Carroll equalizing for Doolan’s two minutes later, a Lukasz Matusiak double topped off with a fourth from Victor Mate sealed Eagles’ first appearance against favourites  Marlboro Trust at Turner’s Cross.

The destination of the trophy was decided inside the opening two minutes when Lukasz Cebula combined with Darren Bennis  to set up Grzegorz Witowski  who applied the  close range finish.  Jubilant secretary Jacek Nalborski couldn’t hide his emotion at having won such a prestigious trophy at the first attempt.

More success followed later in the same season when another trip to Turner’s Cross finished with victory over UCC United in the Linehan First Division Cup Final. Once again the Donie Forde stand was decorated in a sea of bunting and flags and certainly had an inspiring effect on their heroes as goals from Mate (2) and Szklarczyk landed the double in an entertaining contest.

In the following season, the Eagles’ gained promotion to the top flight and reached another Linehan Cup Final, this time  against Fox & Hounds, and would end the campaign on a high. The Foxes held the early initiative but went into half-time one down after Grzegorz Sienicki’s quickly taken free-kick was thumped past Gerard Maher by Grzegorz  Witowski.  The holders added two further second-half goals through Bajkowski and Sienicki to lead three-nil with twenty minutes remaining. Ritchie Barry and Sean Burke reduced the deficit with goals in added time but the Eagles survived to become only the fourth team to retain the trophy.

2013/14 ended in heartbreak for the Poles  who narrowly lost out to EMC in the title race and finished runners-up in the O’Driscoll Premier Cup Final. The Eagles pushed 2009 champions EMC all the way and despite thumping Doolan’s Cow 6-2 on the final day, Eric O’Donovan popped up with the winner for EMC with five minutes remaining against Marlboro Trust in Killeady to seal the championship by a single point. There was a consolation of sorts when  Tomasz Bajkowski  claimed the golden boot individual  top scorer award for the first time. A third appearance at Turner’s Cross in three seasons in the divisional cup ended in defeat to Trust who had  Paddy McSweeney  to thank for scoring twice with Grzegorz Wrobel netting Eagles’ sole reply.

The Eagles made it through to another O’Driscoll Final in 2014/15 where they faced old rivals UCC United. In the fourth minute Aidan Power’s tantalizing free-kick was headed past Pawel Kuczynski by Nepalese born striker Shyam Malla Thakuri to register United’s first foal at headquarters in three attempts. Within a minute Matej Ludvik pounced on a defensive error to equalize only for Thakuri to head UCC ahead for the second time from another Power free-kick. The College stretched their lead to 3-1 in the 25th minute through Aidan McGuinness before Thakuri completed his hat-trick from an unstoppable free-kick with sixteen minutes still to play in the opening half. Incredibly, the Eagles came storming back to pull one back through Arek Szklarczyk’s looping header but despite enjoying the upper hand in the second 45, Tomasz Radilek could only reduce the deficit to 4-3  with six minutes remaining for the losers whose contribution  had been immense  to making the final one of the best seen at the ‘Cross’ in years. Robert Susek’s skilful play at left-back was deservedly rewarded with the man-of-the-match award. The Eagles had earlier produced a fine run in the Umbro FAI Junior Cup which was eventually ended in the fifth round by semi-finalists North End from Wexford.

The Eagles’ last trophy success came in 2015/16, the same season they reached the Mooney Cup Final for the first time only to lose to Doolan’s Cow, when they defeated EMC 2-1 in the O’Driscoll Cup Final.  Robert Susek set up Piotr de Castellatti for the opener before JP Serres equalized leaving sub Karol Kossakowski  to break  the deadlock  and bring the curtain down on a truly colourful and at times controversial eight year tenure in Business League football for the Poles.