The story of the Republic of Ireland’s Lost Champions is mostly the story of football in one small corner in the south-west of the country. Nine championships were won by four different clubs from the city of Cork between the years of 1941 and 1974, and yet none of those clubs exist today.
We’ll start chronologically with the short-lived but very successful Cork United. Created in 1940 from the ashes of the first club to be known as Cork City, United wasted little time in making its mark on the game in Ireland winning five titles between the years of 1941 and 1946.
And then by 1948 they were gone after voluntarily disbanding and quitting the League. Into the void stepped a new club, Cork Athletic, to take their place. Again, success didn’t take long to arrive and Athletic were crowned champions in both 1950 and 1951. Former Sunderland legend Raich Carter joined the club for a spell late in his career, but the cost of signing him and other veteran English League players of the day contributed to the financial problems that drove the club out of business in 1957.
Next on the city’s football conveyor belt was Cork Hibernians, an existing amateur club that turned professional so that senior football could be maintained in the city following the demise of Athletic. Hibernians‘ glory days came under the stewardship of former Arsenal defender Dave Bacuzzi who led them to the League of Ireland title in 1971. Lessons from the past hadn’t been learned though and rash spending on big-name English veterans like Rodney Marsh pushed the club to the financial brink, forcing them to resign from the League in 1977.
Hibernians had enjoyed a healthy rivalry with Cork Celtic, the other Cork lost champion and the club that managed the longest existence of the quartet. Formed back in the 1930s as Evergreen United, the club adopted the Cork Celtic name from 1950 onwards. Their solitary title came in 1974 with a team that included former Chelsea legend Bobby Tambling. Can you guess what happened next? Yes, inspired by that success Celtic splashed out on other short-term big name signings like George Best and Geoff Hurst. Cue the inevitable financial crisis and rapid dissolution by 1979.
The Republic also has two Dublin-based lost champions. Formed in 1921, winner of a single title success in 1935 and gone for good in 1937 after resigning from the League, Dolphin FC took their name from the Dolphin’s Barn district of the city in which the club was based.
Founded in 1924 in the northern Dublin suburb of the same name, Drumcondra enjoyed five championship wins between 1948 and 1965. A slump in their fortunes and finances caused them to be taken over by their amateur north Dublin neighbours Home Farm in 1972. The new club was briefly known as Home Farm – Drumcondra but went forward as Home Farm. A new Drumcondra FC club started up in 2008 and claims to be the spiritual successor to the old one.
Look out later this week for our modern-day reimagining of the Republic’s Lost Champions as imagined by our shirt design maestro Chris Oakley.