European nights in Irish football are special: your local club breaking boundaries and venturing into the unknown. In 1966 Shamrock Rovers drew with Bayern Munich. In 1975 Athlone Town held AC Milan to a 0-0 at Fir Park. Down in the People’s Republic, European nights also have been a special significance.
The “golden days” of Cork football saw Cork Hibernians hosting Valencia CF in the Fairs Cup, plus Borussia Mönchengladbach and Shalke 04 at Flower Lodge. In their brief existence, Cork Celtic experienced European adventure three times: travelling to PFC Slavia Sofia of Bulgaria, AC Omonia of Cyprus and FC Ararat Yerevan in Armenia, which was then in the Soviet Union.
Following the formation of Cork City FC in 1984, European nights became a staple to the Cork calendar with regular trips across Europe.
Torpedo Moscow proved to be the opposition in the 1989-1990 UEFA Cup. It was a dreary affair at Turners Cross. Famously, when the Torpedo Moscow owners arrived on the pitch bearing shopping bags from famed Cork merchant Michael Guineys, the Shed End promptly erupted into a “Michael Guineys” chant, a memory which has lived long in the Shed.
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A year later history was made. City were drawn against three-time European Cup winners Bayern Munich in the UEFA Cup. In a tie famous for its on pitch and off pitch antics. The game centered around one man: Dave Barry. Prior to kick off Bayern captain Stefan Effenberg described Dave Barry as looking like his grandfather. The forward said nothing, and in a heated Musgrave Park he fired in the opener to give City a 1-0 lead over the German giants. Effenberg would later equalise.
Next year served up a fairly mundane tie against Cwmbrân Town A.F.C. in the Champions League. City squuezed by their Welsh opposition on away goals to set up a mouthwatering clash against Turkish giants Galatasaray. A slim away defeat 2-1 in Turkey in front of a crowd of 17,000 set up a return leg at Bishopstown. Despite going down 1-0 in the home leg, City held the side for 75 minutes in a gritty performance.
Fast forward to 1997 and City qualified for the Intertoto Cup, a competition which would promise four European matches for the Leesiders. One memory for the club did not come in Turners Cross or Bishopstown but in Israel against Maccabi Petah Tikva F.C. I know a story of one City fan - an engineer in the 81st Battalion in North Lebanon had recently lost his foot in a mine accident - who had an especially memorable trip to the away match. Himself, a medic and doctor all piled into an armored car and crossed the border to watch the game, through warzones and shell craters just to watch City play. The game was a 0-0 draw. City won the return leg 1-0.
In later years City would make Irish footballing history by becoming the first Irish side to reach the quarterfinals of a UEFA club competition in the 2004 Intertoto Cup. This was certainly a memorable run for the Rebels, which included, home and away wins against Swedish giants Malmö, victory against Dutch side Nijmegen Eendracht Combinatie, a 1-1 draw with French side FC Nantes at Turners Cross, which inspired 800 City fans to head for the south of France.
2006 saw City enter the Champions League; a run which saw the Rebel Army face Apollon Limassol Cyprus and Serbia’s Red Star Belgrade in front of a sold out Turners Cross.
In recent times, the 2016 UEFA Europa League was the stuff of dreams for the club. After the dark days of examinership and fighting through the first division, City ran passed Linfield and BK Häcken to play KRC Genk in the Europa League qualifiers in front of 7,000 people at Turners Cross.
Most recently Cork City Under 19’s had European fever when they became the first Irish side to qualify for the UEFA Youth League in 2016. Undefeated in the league and cup champions; City savoured the challenge when travelling to HJK Helsinki. A 0-0 draw away in Finland set the tie up perfectly at Turners Cross. 18-year-old Aaron Drinnan’s penalty at the start of the second half; gave City a 1-0 win and a second round clash with AS Roma. It was a victory which was captured well through Board Member Niamh O Mahony’s tweet, “To put tonight's @UEFAYouthLeague result in full context, CCFC boys off to school / college in morn. HJK back to training. Superb result”