The Holy Grail

colerainefc.com delves back into the archives to the club’s greatest triumph as they were crowned Irish Premiership champions in 1973-74…


Things didn’t look good at the start of the 1972/73 season, as Coleraine only picked up four points from their opening five Ulster Cup matches. But their response was superb; they won the next five, including a thrilling 4-3 win over Linfield to put themselves into contention for the trophy. Ultimately, it came down to the result of a game against Derry City, a game which remained un-played.

Derry refused to play the tie at Coleraine, where they had been playing ‘home’ matches as a result of the security situation, which saw teams unwilling to travel to the Brandywell. Eventually Coleraine were awarded a walk-over and as a result, the cup. For Derry, the implications were severe and they soon withdrew from the Irish League completely.

Coleraine lost out to Glentoran in the final of the City Cup, but all eyes were on the league that season. Many felt that the present squad was Coleraine’s best ever, certainly the one best-equipped to mount a challenge for the league title and their form in the first half of the league season seemed to support those claims.

Of their first 11 league matches up until the end of February, they won nine, and had only one draw and one defeat. In addition they were well-placed to challenge for the double, having booked their semi-final spot in the Irish Cup with a win over Portadown.

However, just as they looked to be on the verge of great success, disaster struck. In their next nine matches they suffered seven defeats, including the cup semi-final and found themselves slipping from a title challenge to scrapping for a top four finish, which would earn entry into the Texaco Cup.

Wins over Cliftonville and Glentoran in their final two games helped Coleraine finish fourth, four points behind Crusaders who won their first ever league title.


The following season (1973-74) didn’t start in the most promising manner, with the failure to retain the Ulster Cup and although Coleraine booked their place in the City Cup final, two defeats in their first four league matches didn’t bode well.

Having lost Shaun Dunlop to Linfield at the start of September, Peacock delved into the transfer market for a replacement and finally got his man at the end of October. Terry Cochrane (right) had become marginalised at Windsor Park and welcomed the chance to kick-start his career again at The Showgrounds. Cochrane wasted no time in making a big impact and was seen by some as the final piece in the jigsaw for Peacock.

After their poor start to the league campaign, Coleraine’s form picked up with an unbeaten Christmas period, although they did lose the City Cup final to Linfield on New Year’s Day on a penalty shootout after a 2-2 draw. But after that game they won six of their next seven games in league and cup, the sole draw coming against Linfield at home. A second round elimination from the Irish Cup at the hands of Glenavon was disappointing, but had the advantage of focusing all attention of the league title race.

Coleraine won against Ballymena, Larne, Ards and Distillery to climb to the top of the table, but faced a challenging run-in with five away games in succession, including trips to reigning champions Crusaders and their chief title rivals Portadown. A defeat at Seaview and a win at Solitude meant that the destiny of the title would come down to the Easter Tuesday showdown at Shamrock Park.

A draw was all Coleraine required to make history and they got what they needed. Ivan Murray scored in a 1-1 draw, which meant that with two games left, Coleraine could not be overtaken at the top and were Irish League Champions for the first time.

Coleraine rounded off the season with two further wins as they celebrated finally getting their hands on the Gibson Cup. Adding to the celebratory mood at the club was the news that Ivan Murray had been named Player of the Year by the Football Writers, a worthy recipient given his contribution to the title win.

But the club was rocked in its greatest hour when after the season’s conclusion, Bertie Peacock announced he would be standing down as manager. Having brought unprecedented success to The Showgrounds in his 13 years in charge, he would be a hard act to follow.