Classic Pfizer Park Encounters | Part 1: AIB Cup Semi-Final 1991

Finbarr Buckley

PFIZER PARK has had a long association with the CBL stretching back to the mid-’70s when the fledging Pfizer Corporation entered a team for the first time, writes Finbarr Buckley.

The idyllic grounds surrounded by a pitch and putt course and a panoramic scenic lake view from the dressing-room pavilion went on to stage many of the league’s most memorable matches, including league play-offs, cup semi-finals along with divisional semi-finals and finals. The grounds were recently developed into a car park (?) but the many thrilling matches played at the venue will live long in the memory.

AIB Cup Semi-Final: Sunday, April 7th 1991

Roches Stores 3 – 3 Ridge Tools (AET)

In their respected cup runs, first division Roches overcame Youghal Yarns (3-2), Aer Lingus (2-1) and Irish Steel (2-1)in a replay, after a 2-2 draw while second tier Ridge opened with a 7-1 win over GSI in round one, before knocking Concurrant Computers (3-1) in round two and accounting for first division  Garda 2-1 in the last eight. Below is a direct transcript of the my own match report filed over 29 years ago on the evening of the match.

Roches Stores performed two acts of escapology this morning that even the great Houdini himself would have been hard-pressed to equal, in the first of the season’s AIB semi-final ties against Ridge Tools at Pfizer Pk.

Roches came to this, their first-ever semi-final appearance, with the higher profile having eliminated top-flight league leaders Youghal Yarns, Aer Lingus and Irish Steel after a replay. However, Ridge took the game to their opponents from the beginning and proceeded to make it a very difficult afternoon for their rivals. In the end, they must have felt hard done by at not having reached their second final themselves.

After twenty minutes Ken Lyons sent Jack Costigan clear through the middle and with Roches’ keeper Liam O’Callaghan committed, the tall centre-forward fired inches wide across the face of the goal. O’Callaghan was again in action two minutes later, turning Joe Long’s high lob over the top from underneath the crossbar. At the other end, Ridge keeper Brian Dunphy was equal to anything that was thrown at him, twice holding onto dangerous crosses from Noel McCarthy under pressure.

The young custodian was forced into a spectacular acrobatic save in the 27th minute to keep out a thunderous header from Sean Stack. Anthony O’Reilly’s deep cross from the right-wing invited the merest of touches to open the scoring after thirty-five minutes, while McCarthy’s cross from the left was narrowly missed by the lunging O’Reilly at the far post.

The deadlock was finally broken in the 55th minute when Roches’ long-serving centre-back Noel Cummins headed in a McCarthy cross despite Sean Murphy’s attempt to clear, the ball deceiving the full-back in the muddy goalmouth. Cummins was duly mobbed by his joyous team-mates which must have brought back fond memories of his goal which helped clinch top-flight football for his club back in May 1986 following a 2-2 draw with Pfizers. Within five minutes Ridge drew level after Frank Mullane’s free to Costigan was turned into the path of influential centre-back Billy Downey who fired the equalizer in off the foot of the post.

Sweeper Mullane could hardly believe his luck after 69 minutes when his long-range free-kick completely deceived O’Callaghan in the swirling wind to go all the way to the back of the net. Despite a succession of corners and goalmouth incidents, Dunphy and his back-four survived until the 86th minute. Roches’ Paul Heelan combined with the energetic Pat O’Sullivan to release O’Reilly in the right-hand corner. The striker, turning and twisting, fell acrobatically under Paul O’Callaghan’s tame challenge. Referee Barry Kearney had no hesitation in pointing to the spot much to the chagrin of Downey and his appealing team-mates. Noel McCarthy duly put Dunphy the wrong way from the resultant penalty much to the relief his manager Aidan Draper and the travelling supporters.

Extra-time proved as pulsating as the previous ninety minutes with Ken Lyons instrumental in setting the tone by creating an opening for Costigan eight minutes in, the centre-forward cutting between Finbarr O’Brien and Cummins to give the underdogs the lead for the second time.

An attack involving John Creedon, Costigan and sub Alan Porter stretched the Roches back-four and with only Cummins covering, a worthwhile chance to seal the tie and clinch a second final appearance nine years apart went a-begging. The final moment of drama in this amazing semi-final saga was written with just over a minute remaining. Noel McCarthy’s deep cross to the far post was collected by O’Reilly with Sean Stack in close attention. The two strikers hesitated with Mullane about to challenge before Stack passed to the in-coming Pat O’Sullivan. With Dunphy out of position, the unmarked centre-forward swivelled to force the ball over the line and set up a replay at the same venue two weeks later on Sunday, April 21st.

Roches Stores: Liam O’Callaghan; Finbarr Buckley, Jim Cummins (Rory O’Shea, 105m.); Finbarr O’Brien, Noel Cummins; Sean Stack, Paul Heelan, Leo Jones; Pat O’Sullivan, Anthony O’Reilly, Noel McCarthy (capt.)

Ridge Tools: Brian Dunphy; Sean Murphy, Paul O’Callaghan; Frank Mullane, Billy Downey (capt.): Ken Lyons, Brian Forde, Joe Long; Jack Costigan, John Creedon, Tony O’Brien (Alan Porter, 104m.)

Referee: Barry Kearney.  Assistants: Frank Hourigan & Finbarr Bevan.

Foot-note: Roches would go on defeat Ridge 2-1 in the replay only to lose the cup final 3-0 to league and shield winners Cork Examiner before the biggest attendance at a decider  at Turner’s Cross on Sunday, May 5th and disappointingly finish joint third from bottom with Garda in the league, thirteen points adrift of champions Examiner. Ridge ended up in mid-table in division two eleven points behind second-placed Liebert and another three further behind champions Centra.

Roches Stores captain, Noel McCarthy, second right, shakes hands with Cork Examiner counterpart Peter O’Callaghan before the AIB Cup Final at Turner’s Cross on Sunday, May 5th 1991 accompanied, from left by assistant referee Frank Hourigan, referee Derry Barrett and assistant referee Finbarr Bevan. McCarthy had scored the crucial 86th minute penalty in the semi-final against Ridge Tools which took the tie to extra-time

Read Part 2 here: Premier Cup Final 2008: City Bars v MCM / Fermoy Nissan