We’d already done a family outing to Bray on Friday night for an FAI Cup tie, which had seen Bray lose in extra time to Finn Harps, but Sunday saw Blaise and myself venture out for more Cup action. We didn’t have far to go, in fairness – Home Farm versus Cork City was on just up the road from our house, in Whitehall Stadium.
Walking up to the ground we were certainly going against the grain. An endless stream of traffic was pouring into Drumcondra from the M1, as masses of Tyrone and Monaghan fans converged on CrokePark. We wished them all luck, but Croke Park and the GAA held little interest for us. There was a soccer match to be attended in the other direction.
Cork may have been the reigning FAI Cup [and SSE Airtricity League] winners but Home Farm had form of their own in the Cup, having won it back in 1975. Drumcondra was a very different place back in 1975. Home Farm were playing out of Tolka Park. Future Taoiseach Bertie Ahern hadn’t yet become a Dublin Central TD [he first got elected in 1977] but all these years later there he was at Home Farm versus Cork City, always a soccer man at heart [also in the crowd was the area’s current Fianna Fail Dail candidate, Mary Fitzpatrick]. These days the current Fianna Fail leader comes from Cork, but I saw no sign of him in the crowd!
The teams came out and Blaise was delighted to see Peter Cherrie in goal for Cork. He’d been Blaise’s hero when he was at Bray and the boy had been more than a bit upset at the departure of last season’s Player of the Year from the Carlisle Grounds. If Blaise and Peter were being reunited then so were Ollie and John, namely Ollie Cahill and John Caulfield. Now almost 43 [he was born in 1975!], Ollie has been a great servant to the Home Farm cause since retiring from a glittering League of Ireland career that included time playing alongside Caulfield for Cork.
Blaise was intrigued by the UCC sponsor logo on Cork’s jerseys. Rather astutely he asked if it was connected to Shelbourne’s sponsor DCU. I explained that they were both universities, as were TCD and DIT, both also located within Dublin Central, possibly the most highbrow of all Dailconstituencies!
The game started off in a predictable fashion. Cork scored within a few minutes and added more goals as the first half went on. We’d seen the result of the Blarney versus Derry game, a record for the FAI Cup, and didn’t want Farm to end up on the receiving end of a similar hiding; that would be no way to celebrate their 90th birthday. It didn’t pan out that way, thankfully, with the home side getting on the scoresheet to go into the break 5-1 down.
We had seats in the stand for the first half but Blaise wanted to venture over to the terrace side for the second period. This meant getting wet as the rain got heavier. Still, it was nothing like the rain that had come down the last day we were here, in May for the Ireland Amateurs against England C game. The rain that day had come out of nowhere in the middle of the first spell of summer sun, and was so heavy it led to the cancellation of that day’s Rockin’ Road festival in Drumcondra [it’s rescheduled for next Sunday 19 August – looking forward to seeing my old friend from Bray Seamus Duggan and his band play].
On the terrace side my Rochdale rain jacket got a few strange comments from the Cork fans. At one point I pretended I was on a scouting mission from the Crown Oil Arena – not sure if I was believed but I think I delivered the line with a straight face, and the Cork fans will remember Ryan Delaney’s move earlier in the season!
You could hear the intermittent roar from Croker throughout the Whitehall game [the ‘Croker Roar’ reminded me of the old Sunderland ‘Roker Roar’]. The cheers from the crowd at our game were much more modest, but were deserved by the players from both sides who had put on an entertaining game. It can’t have been easy for Home Farm, just starting their season, to be playing a Cork side in the middle of their League campaign and with European experience under their belts. In holding them to 0-0 for the second half the home side had something tangible and positive to take from the match.
So good luck to Cork in the next round. Final word is a word of thanks to Peter Cherrie for taking the time at the end to sign Blaise’s programme – it made his day!