Historic Ladies Soccer Match Created Record Attendance At Church Road,
Blackrock, Cork, Soccer Grounds In 1962.
All Ireland Pioneering Teams Established in 1973 In Various Towns
In 1962 women playing soccer all over Ireland, just like gaelic football, was not forbidden, but to go out and find women playing any code of football, was a difficult assignment. The earliest documented accounts of organised Women’s Soccer in Ireland was around 1973 when a National League was established. It was known as Ladies League Of Ireland.
The pioneering teams came from League Of Ireland clubs at that time, including Dundalk, Finn Harps, Sligo Rovers, Cork Celtic, Limerick, Kilkenny, Tipperary and Galway.
Games were 35 minutes aside and the very first Womens League Of Ireland champions were the soccer women of Limerick. As the pioneering seasons developed, a total collapse of organised women's soccer in Ireland occurred in 1979 and it would be 1987 before it was rejuvenated.
In Cork on the banks of the famed Marina, a major forerunner to women’s soccer in Ireland occurred in 1962 in the Blackrock parish, when two rival parishes made history. The local St. Michael’s Catholic Church was destroyed in a major fire and the cost of reconstruction led to several fundraising ventures.
The notion of two local Blackrock soccer clubs, Ringmahon Rangers and Blackrock, getting the womenfolk to form their own ladies teams to contest a soccer friendly, turned out to be anything but a friendly engagement. The pride of the parish was hugely at stake.
The renowned Church Road soccer grounds in the heart of Blackrock territory, became the appointed 1962 venue and the novelty of the fixture and the all embracing fundraising designation, ensured that the women of Blackrock and nearby Ringmahon, had truly outscored their menfolk for this greatly anticipated match.
In 1962 Blackrock had just the one catholic church, St. Michaels and mass going at that time was unlike in todays sparse attendances. All Sunday masses had full house congregations and respect for the church was its zenith.
The big day dawned and a huge crowd arrived at Church Road, Blackrock, as referee Joe Bray and his linesmen got proceeding underway and 35 minutes aside unfolded with the teams in a deadlock.
A replay was ordained, a date was set, only for the rematch to be postponed as the local priest, Canon Aherne, suffered a heart attack and died at the old Cork Athletic Grounds watching the famed Blackrock hurling team take on East Cork divisional side, Imokilly.
Meantime momentum was increasing daily for the women’s rematch and when both sides arrived at Church Road, the attendance of over 2,000 patrons broke all records for any match at the famous Church Road soccer venue. Mr. Charlie Duggan, a well kknown city confectioner, was appointed as the replay referee and a feisty encounter was played before both sets of supporters, who thronged the sidelines roaming up and down, roaring on their heroes.
Spectators were treated to a spicy rematch, nerves were at boiling point and it finally ended with victory claimed by the ladies of Blackrock on a 4 – 3 scoreline.
A trawl through the surnames of both sides will reveal many household names from days goneby around Blackrock and districts and whilst St. Michael’s Church, Blackrock Restoration Fund, were the main beneficiaries, a mere 55 years later, here we are recording for current and future generations, a pioneering women’s soccer event that made its way into the annals of Soccer History Around Blackrock and possibly Ireland in the era 1900 – 2017.
Derry JF Doody & Michael Casey
taken from (with kind permissin) an original article witten by Cork Sports Historian,