Revered, talented footballer and former manager of Cork City
Noel O’Mahony: Born December 18th, 1939; Died May 30th, 2013
Noel O’Mahony, who has died aged 73, was a schoolboy soccer star who went on to manage Cork City and famously steered the club to a memorable draw with Bayern Munich, the current European champions.
A talented footballer, he first played Gaelic football at Christ the King College, now known as Coláiste Chríost Rí, before switching to soccer in his early teens. Revered later by fans, he was a hard player and took no prisoners as centre-half with Cork Hibs (Hibernian) in the 1960s and 1970s. A tough, no-nonsense defender, he won a league medal with the club in 1971 followed by successive FAI Cups in 1972 and 1973. He also helped win the Blaxnit Cup – a cross-Border competition – in 1971.
As the manager of Cork City, O’Mahony had a reputation for being straight with his players. A motivator, he was obsessed with football and was given to delivering fiery half-time pep talks. Besides spending an initial stint with City in the 1986-87 season, he also managed Newcastlewest FC in the League of Ireland.
Having left the Cork club, he returned as manager from 1988-93. Not alone did he effectively save the ailing club from imminent relegation, it went on to reach two FAI Cup Finals in 1989 and 1992 before eventually winning the league title in 1993, the pinnacle of a 50-year career in football.
But in a sports-mad city where the fortunes of local teams could give the community and indeed the economy a boost, the real romance of his career was undoubtedly the 1-1 draw with Bayern Munich in a gripping European cup campaign.
In tribute to his memory, Irish international Roy Keane, who had also cut his teeth in local Cork leagues, recalled that game and held City should have beaten the German team in the knife-edge Uefa Cup match played at Musgrave Park before a capacity crowd in the autumn of 1991. Bayern won 2-0 in the second leg.
Football was in the O’Mahony genes and two brothers also played in the League of Ireland, Declan for Cork Hibs and Pat with Cork Celtic, a club that enjoyed a local rivalry with Hibs. The O’Mahony brothers regularly played against one another.
Selected as the inaugural Cork schoolboy player of the year in 1956, he played with Ballyphehane United, a sprawling suburb where he grew up on Pearse Road not far from the Cork City grounds at Turners Cross, later moving to Tramore Athletic. He recently returned to Turners Cross for a reunion of the 1993 title-winning squad.
Marking his passing, John Delaney, chief executive of the FAI, described him as “a great footballer who contributed a lot to our game on the field and as a manager. He will always be a remembered as a legend of Cork football and will be sadly missed.”
He is survived by his wife Noreen, partner Ann, sisters Marcie and Sheila, and brothers Pat, Teddy, Donal and Declan.