Monday, 16 October 2017 09:33

Miah Dennehy: Irish Soccer International

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Ireland's First Ever Soccer Player To Score A Hat Trick In An F.A.I. Cup Final

Cork people love their sport and the county has produced a mountain of sports heroes in hurling, gaelic football, soccer, athletics, horse racing, rugby and other codes. One soccer legend whose fame on Leeside is legendary made his name in the 11 a-side game of soccer and before he crossed the Irish channel to play with Nottingham Forest, he had already become one of Cork’s most respected icons.

 

It was with local League Of Ireland club, Cork Hibernians, in the 1970’s, that Miah Dennehy from the city’s northside, became a household name. Miah was cradled around the Blarney Street area of the city and grew up with a special commitment to hurling and football and the local GAA club was St. Vincents.

As so often happens in amateur sport, a team can be short one player to take the field and when a Cork Hibernians reserve team found themselves in such a position in 1968, opportunity knocked for then eighteen years old Miah, who was asked to fall in and make up the numbers.

But Miah did more than just fall in. Attending the game was former Sunderland and Republic Of Ireland player and then manager of Cork Hibernians, the late Amby Fogarty. Impressed by Miah’s searing runs down the flanks, Amby discovered an unexpected jewel at the reserve game and set about getting Miah’s signature for Hibs in 1969.

The arrival of former Arsenal player, Dave Bacuzzi, at the old Flower Lodge stadium on Boreenmana Road, (now home to Pairc Ui Rinn) as the new Hibs manager, succeeding Amby Fogarty, was the spark that ignited Miah to stardom and a cross channel career in football.

It is no coincidence that the thousands of Cork soccer fans who thronged Flower Lodge during Bacuzzi’s 1970’s reign, are still reeling off the names, Dennehy, Davenport, Wigginton, Lawson, Sweeney, Marsden and O’Grady and many more heroes, who were idolised by fans throughout the city and county.

The imported Hibs players were all major signings but Miah Dennehy was the clubs least expensive acquisition and also most probably, the clubs most profitable asset. Foremost Miah was Cork City bred and born and was the total darling boy on the terraces. Raising Miah’s profile to All Ireland Hall Of Fame status is testament to his sporting legacy on Leeside.

As a star player Miah is historically spoken of very favourably and he is amongst a select squad of Cork soccer icons who achieved full international recognition, a feat reserved only for the very best of Cork soccer players.

The story of Miah’s rise to fame has been well documented by many scribes and in our Hall Of Fame tribute to the Cork soccer legend, we intend to focus on the sporting claims and reasons that Miah Dennehy will now be inducted into the All Ireland Hall Of Fame Online Gallery.

On his exit from Cork Hibernians in January 1973, he was at the zenith of his soccer career in Ireland and was attracting special attention from English scouts. Cork Hibernians won the League of Ireland title in 1971 with Miah a huge component of the team. In a gallant bid to retain their title, in a never to be forgotten match at Flower Lodge, Hibs faced off against a Waterford team inspired by two Cork imports, Jackie Morley and Carl Humphries.

As the clock ebbed down to the last quarter, Hibs, floating in the wind with a two goal lead, seemed to be home and dry, but then a lack of concentration left Waterford in for their opening goal.

Hibs then floundered and in one of the greatest ever comebacks recorded at the Lodge (I witnessed this miracle) the Cork team were shocked into oblivion as the men of Waterford punsished Hibs by scoring three sublime goals and taking the League of Ireland trophy right out of the hands of the Hibs captain. 26,000 absolutely drained spectators left the Boreenmana venue wondering, how could Hibs just fold their tent in such drastic manner.

Ironically both teams had also qualified for the following Sunday’s 1972 FAI Cup Final at Dalymount Park and even the most loyal of Hibs fans wondered, could their heroes get back in the saddle and get sweet revenge on Waterford. Doubtful was the majority verdict.

In a dour cup final contest a replay seemed on the cards but one Cork soccer icon rose above all-comers and in that memorable match, Miah Dennehy became the Hat Trick Man, who would forever go down in sporting history, as one of the great Cork soccer legends.

Miah’s feat is also recorded as The First Ever Hat Trick scored in an FAI Cup final and for good measure, Miah’s three goals all came from open play. The knock on popularity of Miah was now at its zenith and his name was scrolled all over the media. Suddenly Cork had a new football hero and despite a serious brain injury in recent years, resulting from an assault, Miah Dennehy is very much alive and remains a Cork sporting hero.

In the closing chapters of Miah’s glorious Hibs career, he played in the European Cup against German giants, Borussia Monchengladbach and scored Hibs only goal as they lost the two ties 7-1 on aggregate.

In the North/South Blaxnit Cup,  Miah was again on the title winning team. Scoring was a mission for  Miah and the record books credit the Hibs star with another goal against Pezoporikos Larnaca of Cyprus in a European Cup Winners tie.

Meantime Hibs were about to cash in their prized asset and in January 1973, former Spurs and Scotland legend, Dave Mackay, then manager at Nottingham Forest, pounced for Miah’s signature and delivered a handsome £20,000 cheque to Cork Hibernians. It was a huge move for Miah to leave his native heath to go to such an elite second division English club. Soon after his transfer he was named on the starting eleven and overall made over 40 first team appearances in the red jersey of Forest. His haul of goals was four.

The ups and downs of top level football later hit Forest who appointed Brian Clough to succeed Dave Mackay and Miah’s Forest reign came to a halt. In July 1975 Walsall were the next port of call and in a three years spell, Miah claimed 128 first team appearances and scored a considerable 22 goals with Walsall.

 

The football merry go round took Miah to Bristol Rovers in July 1978 and in 52 first team games, he scored six goals. At 28 years old Miah should have been in the prime of his football career, but alas after just a one year residence at Bristol Rovers, he was on the move again, this time to Cardiff City. Life at the Welsh club was not booming and surprisingly, in July 1979 Miah was released from his Cardiff City contract.

In the years playing English League and League of Ireland football, Miah garnered eleven Republic Of Ireland senior international caps and this began when he made his debut v Brazil (whilst still a Cork Hibernians player) in the Brazilian Independence Cup in 1972.

Few players make the international team whilst playing League Of Ireland football and this was a signal that Miah Dennehy was making waves for international call up.

Further recognition, whilst still at Hibs, came when Ireland played Ecuador in June 1972 and Miah was called from the bench.

 

In 1973, in two friendly internationals, Miah hit the net twice, first against Norway and the second and last international goal, came against Poland at Dalymount Park. Another stand out international appearance was a unique game between a Shamrock Rovers eleven combination (no caps at stake) against Brazil and Miah was again called from the bench.

This unique game was a collection of players from North and South and took place on 3rd July 1973 at Lansdowne Road, Dublin.

 

As the years rolled on, Miah in 1980 took a one way homebound ticket back to his native soil and sojourned at League Of Ireland clubs, Cork United, Waterford, Limerick, Drogheda and finally bowed out with Newcastlewest, who had a brief tenure in League of Ireland football.

In a unique decade of soccer life from 1970 to 1980, Miah Dennehy experienced the ups and downs of professional soccer in Ireland, England and Wales. His popularity amongst his own sports fans in Cork is ceaseless and it is for establishing his name as one of Cork’s greatest soccer icons, we induct Miah Dennehy into our historic collection of Irish sports legends at www.scoreboardmemories.com - Irish Home of All Ireland Hall Of Fame Online Gallery.

Composed by Derry JF Doody

Last modified on Monday, 16 October 2017 09:53
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