The Cup Specialists

WITH the help of club historian Hunter McClelland, colerainefc.com looks back on the 1968-69 season as the Bannsiders tasted success in four cup competitions…

1968/69 – A Season to Remember

In 1965 Bertie Peacock guided Coleraine to their first major trophy, when they defeated Glenavon to win the Irish Cup. The Ulster Cup was also won for the first time, at the start of the following season but four years later his side had the best season in the club’s history to date.

They won four trophies, including the All-Ireland Blaxnit Cup. Coleraine became a major player in Irish football and gave the two Belfast giants, Linfield and Glentoran, something to think about. New faces during the season were Willard Reid, Jimmy O’Neill, Sammy Wilson and Davy Jackson, while Eddie Crossan and Clifford McLernon from the Reserves, made their senior debuts. Eric McManus and Raymond Gaston were transferred to English clubs early in the season.

The Ulster Cup

The Ulster Cup was won with style, with ten wins and only one defeat. By the time they entertained Linfield, they had achieved eight straight wins, including an 8-1 slaughter of Portadown, 6-1 over Crusaders, 4-0 against Derry City at The Brandywell and a 2-1 victory at The Oval, against Glentoran. In that match Raymond Gaston stole the show when the Glens’ fans, and the media turned out to see the new Glentoran player/manager Alex Young (‘The Golden Vision’). Gaston would soon be on his way to an International Cap against Israel and a transfer to Oxford United.

The Blues spoiled the great run by winning 4-1 at The Showgrounds but wins over Glenavon and a 4-0 result at home to Bangor, clinched the trophy on September 7, 1968.

There were memorable scenes at The Showgrounds on Saturday as Coleraine were presented with the Ulster Cup by president Billy Kennedy. They clinched the trophy with a convincing 4-0 victory over Bangor. It was fitting that Tel Avid bound, Ray Gaston, should send them on their way to victory with a glorious goal. An own goal by Bangor’s Alan Thompson made it 2-0 and Gaston raced into the penalty area to meet an Irwin cross with his head for Coleraine’s third goal. Tony Curley’s hard work was rewarded with a fourth score for Coleraine after good work by Jimmy Nicholl and Johnny McCurdy.

COLERAINE: Hunter, McCurdy, Hutton, Nicholl, O’Doherty, Moore, Reid, Curley, Gaston, Campbell, Irwin. Sub: Peacock.

Captain Johnny McCurdy and Chairman Jack Doherty pictured with the Ulster Cup trophy.

The Top Four Trophy

Coleraine lacked the early season consistency during the League campaign and this deprived them of a great opportunity to land the elusive Gibson Cup. There was an excellent run of seven straight wins, including victories over Linfield and Glentoran, but this was not maintained throughout the competition. They did, however, finish fourth, and gained entry for the third season in succession into the Top Four tournament. They reached the final in 1967 and 1968 but lost to Linfield both times.

To reach the final this time they had to overcome ‘old derby rivals’ Derry City on February 4th, but their passage turned out easier than expected.

Coleraine qualified for a rich end-of-season jackpot by beating Derry City in the Top Four semi-final at The Oval on Tuesday night. The first choice wingers were unavailable and their replacements, Clifford McLernon and Derek McQuillan, both did well. Tony Curley scored after 11 minutes and again in the opening minutes of the second-half. O’Neill, McQuillan and Dickson made the win emphatic.

The final was played on April 16th, again at The Oval.

It was third time lucky for Coleraine in their bid to win the Top Four trophy. In the previous two appearances in the final, Linfield emerged victorious. The Bannsiders served up neat, attractive football and a 30th minute goal by inside-right Tony Curley was enough to see Coleraine through. The move was initiated by transfer-listed Shaun Dunlop. He beat two defenders and sent over a cross that which was headed down by Sammy Wilson for Curley to hammer home. Star of the match was Tony Curley for, in addition to his goal, he saved his side by clearing the goal line in the 86th minute.

COLERAINE: Hunter, McCurdy, Campbell, O’Doherty, Jackson, Peacock, Dunlop, Curley, Wilson, Dickson, Jennings. Sub: Hutton.

The City Cup

This competition, normally played early in the season after the Ulster Cup, took place after the Irish League programme in 1969. As in the Ulster Cup, they managed this with only one defeat (Distillery away). There were scoreless draws away to Bangor and Linfield and eight wins, including 5-2 against Derry City and 2-0 against Glentoran, both at The Showgrounds.

The trophy was clinched with a 4-0 win at Seaview on April 30th. Coleraine travelled to Belfast knowing a draw would be sufficient to avoid a play-off with Derry City to win the competition.

Coleraine made certain that this will be a record season for them by collecting a third trophy – the City Cup – with a convincing 4-0 victory over Crusaders at Seaview. They went to Belfast needing at least a draw to avoid a test match with Derry City but made no mistake about winning. Dessie Dickson must take the honours for the second match in succession. He scored a hat-trick, with Tony Curley getting the other goal. Victor Hunter was also a star in this game and made some vital saves. At the finish Coleraine were very sportingly cheered by the home fans as they left the field.

COLERAINE: Hunter, McCurdy, Hutton, Nicholl, Campbell, Peacock, Dunlop, Curley, Wilson, Dickson, Jennings.

The Blaxnit Cup

Entry in the Blaxnit Cup was secured by reaching the semi-final of the Irish Cup – Coleraine were favourites to reach the final but were defeated by a solitary goal by Ards. Fortune favoured them with a home tie in the first Blaxnit match, a quarter-final encounter with Cork Celtic on April 28. They won comfortably by 4-0.

Coleraine made a bright start to their first-ever venture into All-Ireland soccer when they beat Cork Celtic by four goals to nil at The Showgrounds, in the quarter final of the Blaxnit Cup. Although they were slow to make capital out of their first half chances, Coleraine went to town after the interval and could easily have scored many more than the three goals they netted in this period. The highlight was without doubt Coleraine’s third goal, a 25-yard volley by Sammy Wilson, from a Johnny McCurdy pass. Wilson got two goals, with Dessie Dickson scoring the other two.

COLERAINE: Hunter, McCurdy, Hutton, O’Doherty, Campbell, Peacock, Dunlop, Curley, Wilson, Dickson, Jennings.

The semi-final saw another home tie, and a brilliant game – this time with Limerick on May 6th.

Whether or not Coleraine achieve their goal of winning the Blaxnit Cup, their semi-final performance in beating Limerick at The Showgrounds on Tuesday night will long remain in the memories of local soccer fans. This was a game of rare quality, ninety minutes of non-stop action. Man of the match was Limerick goalkeeper Kevin Fitzpatrick, who performed wonders to keep Coleraine from trailing 1-0 from the 14h to the 69th minute. Limerick’s opener was scored by Doran but Sammy Wilson netted the equaliser and Shaun Dunlop scored with a 30-yard drive three minutes later to put Coleraine into the final.

COLERAINE: Hunter, McCurdy, Campbell, O’Doherty, Jackson, Peacock, Dunlop, Curley, Wilson, Dickson, Jennings.

The final was played in two legs, the first in Belfast and the return game in Dublin. Coleraine won 2-1 at Windsor Park on May 13th, not the margin they would have liked to take to Dublin. The game saw one of the finest goals of Brian Jennings’ career and one which the fans who witnessed it still talk about.

A crowd of 12,000 watched Coleraine’s 2-1 victory over Shamrock Rovers in the first leg of the Blaxnit Cup final at Windsor Park on Tuesday night. Tony Curley put Coleraine ahead in the 25th minute and a wonder goal by Brian Jennings, after good work by Des Dickson, gave them a comfortable lead. But Mick Leech pulled one back for Rovers to leave Coleraine with a less than satisfactory lead to take to Dublin for the second leg. They also lost Davy Jackson through injury in the second-half – he was replaced by Davy Gordon.

COLERAINE: Hunter, McCurdy, Campbell, O’Doherty, Jackson, Peacock, Dunlop, Curley, Wilson, Dickson, Jennings. Sub: Gordon for Jackson.

Fears over the narrow lead seemed to be well founded when Rovers went in to a 2-0 lead in the second leg at Dalymount Park on May 23rd, but Coleraine would seal a dramatic cup triumph for a team that would not admit defeat.

Coleraine gained a 2-2 draw against Shamrock Rovers in Dublin on Friday night, and with it ultimate victory on a 4-3 aggregate in the Blaxnit Cup, simply because they did not know when they were beaten. For 75 minutes they defended grimly as Rovers piled on the pressure. The Dublin side were leading 2-0, with goals from Lawlor and O’Neill, and looked certain to hold onto the trophy they won in its inaugural season last year. The game exploded in the 78th minute when Johnny McCurdy levelled the score on aggregate. Then Dessie Dickson ran half the field, played a one-two with Curley to lob the winner. One of the first to congratulate the Coleraine players was Dubliner, Tommy Kinsella, who played for Coleraine in the 1965 Irish Cup final win over Glenavon. He was transferred to Shamrock Rovers in 1967.

COLERAINE: Hunter, McCurdy, Campbell, O’Doherty, Jackson, Peacock, Dunlop, Curley, Wilson, Dickson, Jennings. Sub: Gordon.

1969 Blaxnit Cup Winners