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The Curious Case of Cobh and Cove

 

Something lighthearted and [hopefully] funny this time out; this lockdown can drag you down if you don’t try to maintain a sense of humour.

In a week that saw a virtual game between Sligo Rovers and Cork City [played on FIFA 20 on Friday 14 May], how about a hypothetical match, between Cobh Ramblers and Cove Rangers [of the Scottish Professional Football League]?

It’s 2023, and having won promotion from the League of Ireland First Division in 2021, Ramblers finished the 2022 Premier Division season just outside the European places, securing an invite to the 2023-24 Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer Scottish Challenge Cup [previously the Irn Bru Scottish Challenge Cup], where they pulled Cove Rangers in the draw.

Fans of homonyms – words that sound the same but have a different spelling – may have come across the pairing of Cove and Cobh before. Add in the fact that both are small towns to the south of major cities that boast soccer clubs that have done their town proud and you get a unique twist on the homonym!

Cove Rangers made the football headlines in 2019 when they won promotion to the SPFL ahead of the 2019-20 season, an achievement which was well deserved and long overdue.

Cove Bay is a suburb of Aberdeen in Scotland, on the south-east edge of the city. Cove Rangers play at the newly-constructed Balmoral Stadium these days, having moved from their traditional home Allan Park as it didn’t meet SPFL standards. Entry to the SPFL had been a realistic ambition for Cove for many years. Having been elected to the Highland League in 1986, they won the title in 2001, 2008, 2009, 2013, 2016, 2018 and 2019.

They came close to getting elected to the SPFL in 2008 when Gretna folded, but Annan Athletic got the nod instead because of their superior facilities. When a direct promotion path to the SPFL was put in place for the winners of a play-off between the Highland League and Lowland League champions [the winners of this game then had to beat the bottom side in Scottish League Two to take that side’s place in the SPFL] Cove lost to Edinburgh City, the Lowland League champions. City went on to beat East Stirlingshire and claim their SPFL place. That was in 2016. When Cove finally reached the SPFL themselves in 2019 [they took Berwick Rangers’ place], their first game in Scottish League Two of the 2019-20 season was against Edinburgh City – who Cove thrashed 5-0; revenge is a dish best served cold!

2000-01 was one of the most memorable seasons in the club’s history. They won their first Highland League crown, as well as winning the Scottish Qualifying Cup and the Aberdeenshire Shield for a unique treble.

Moving on to Cobh, if you were describing it to the community of Cove you would describe it as a seaport on the south coast of County Cork in Ireland that has produced such famous sportspersons as Olympic silver medalist Sonia O’Sullivan and footballer Stephen Ireland. The senior club in the town are Cobh Ramblers, who play in the League of Ireland First Division.

Having made the FAI Cup semi-finals in 1983 as a non-league team, Ramblers were elevated to the newly-formed League of Ireland First Division in 1985, coincidentally around the same time that Cove Rangers made it to the Highland League. Roy Keane played for Ramblers before joining Nottingham Forest.

Cobh coming up against Cove in a competitive game may be hypothetical, as set out above. In the absence of that though, how about a friendly game between Cove Rangers and Cobh Ramblers? Cove FC, a village team from Cove in Farnborough in Hampshire in England, who play in the Combined Counties League, could be invited to take part too, to make it a triangular tournament. They could play for the specially-commissioned Homonym Cup, maybe as a warm-up set of games post lockdown!

Brian Quigley

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