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Harry Buckle-Cork Soccer

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Blackrock Online...People of Distinction... SPORT... Soccer Category 

From Belfast To Sunderland To Cork and Pioneering League Of Ireland Soccer In Cork In 1922

A Belfast man played a huge role in the emergence of soccer in Cork city and county and also throughout Munster. His arrival in Cork coincided with the arrival of the giant Henry Ford Motor Company down Centre Park Road on the famed Cork Marina in 1917.

Harry Buckle was born in Belfast and in the northern capital city he played soccer with Cliftonville Casuals; Cliftonville Olympic; Cliftonville; then moved across channel and played with Sunderland; Portsmouth; Bristol Rovers; Plymouth Argyle and latterly Coventry City. The Belfast exile finally came back home and played with Belfast Celtic; Glenavon; Belfast United and at the conclusion of his senior career with Cork club, Fordsons FC. At the ripe old age of forty five, he steered Fordsons to an epic and historic F.A.I. Cup triumph.

The Cork Buckle soccer dynasty left a rich legacy that is still prominent in Cork’s up and down soccer history, despite so many League of Ireland clubs who failed to establish a lasting longevity. Harry Buckle’s longevity as a pioneering football ambassador in Cork and Blackrock, requires preservation and promotion. It is appropriate that the Buckle name should be upfront when writing about the Golden Memories of Cork Soccer. At the Fords factory, Harry Buckle had a daily job of work like all other employees, but soccer or the lack of it in Cork city, came to his attention very quickly once he arrived in the Rebel County.

Racial Abuse At Harland & Wolf Shipyard:

On his return to his native Belfast shore in 1912 after a professional soccer career in England, Harry found employment in the Belfast Shipyard of Harland & Wolfe, who hired a predominantly unionist work force. As a Catholic, Harry Buckle, for no reason other than his religion, was frowned upon and targeted for racial abuse. In one incident a metal bolt was hurled at him and worse still in another unsavoury racial incident, he was thrown into the icy waters of the Lagan by work colleagues.

Cork, as his adopted homeland, was a welcoming place for Harry and as glad as Harry was to be in the company of decent Corkonians, Leesiders now had a Belfast exile with a vast knowledge of professional soccer in their midst. Born in 1882 Harry Buckle came through the ranks at Cliftonville, playing for Cliftonville Casuals and Cliftonville Olympic before breaking into the first-team. He earned his first Ireland cap in the Ibrox Disaster Fund match against Scotland in August 1902, and the first of four Inter-League caps in a 3-2 defeat by the Football League, on Ireland's home ground at Solitude, Belfast, in November 1902.

Sunderland Here I Come:
A move to professional football with Sunderland followed shortly afterwards. Buckle was slow to settle in England, a point illustrated by the following extract taken from a 1903/04 Sunderland season preview:

"The most important of the new Sunderland “captures” is that of Harry Buckle, who, although he came from Belfast’s Cliftonville last season, must be regarded as a new player, seeing that he was only once in the team and then not in the presence of a Sunderland crowd. His play is forward and it is of the best. He is 21 years of age, stands 5ft 10ins and though apparently heavily built, is as active as a squirrel".

Harry made his debut for Sunderland against Stoke City on 8th November 1902 in a 1–1 draw, after joining from Irish side Cliftonville. Once Harry made his way into the Sunderland side at the end of October 1903, he began to make his mark, scoring a total of ten goals in 21 appearances from outside-left. His best spell in front of goal, saw him find the net six times in six matches, through November and December.

Tall and heavy-set for a winger, it was his "pile-driver" shot that brought him most of his goals. He was also famed for his unwillingness to head the ball, instead preferring to take it down to his feet and making use of his arms and elbows to hold off would-be tacklers. This form also brought Harry back to the attention of the Irish selectors and he made his international return in a 3-1 defeat to England back at Solitude,Belfast.

Over the following two season’s Buckle’s form began to tail off and he made just fourteen appearances in the 1904/05 season and ten in the 1905/06 season. Harry made 44 Sunderland league appearances all in scoring 14 goals for the north England club, before moving on to Southern League club, Portsmouth, where he played his part to claim a club title. He spent just one season with the south coast club. 

In his only season on the south coast, Buckle helped Portsmouth to runners-up spot in the Southern League and he left to join rivals Bristol Rovers for the 1906/07 season. At Bristol Rovers Buckle picked up his third Irish cap, making the short trip to Aberdare for a 1-0 win over Wales. Thus Buckle became only the second Bristol Rovers player to win international recognition.

First Ever Coventry City Manager:,
In 1908 Buckle joined Coventry City for their first season in the Southern League and was scorer of the club's first two hat-tricks in senior football, as he finished top-scorer for the club in consecutive campaigns. In 1909 he was appointed as player-manager, a position he held until 1911, when he made way for new manager, Robert Wallace.

Buckle returned to the Irish League, combining part-time football, with a job at the Harland & Wolff shipyard. He won further representative honours with Belfast Celtic in 1912 and 1913 and he scored a cup final goal V Glentoran in the 1912  I.F.A. Cup final. He finished his Irish League career with spells at Glenavon and as player-manager of Belfast United.

Harry's First Cork Job At Passage West Dockyard In Early 1900's

After briefly moving to Wales, before settling in Cork for the rest of his life, Harry Buckle took a job in a Cork shipyard at Passage West, once a renowned seafaring town when it was the main port of call for all ships coming to Cork. At Plymouth Argyle, Harry was informed of the Passage Dockyard and he  secured a position there and from Passage went to the new Ford Motor Company. However his historic rise to fame came about due to his soccer pioneering and he was one of the co-founders of Fordsons F.C.

He joined the works team, Fordsons, where he combined playing with club managerial and secretarial duties. Just days after his 45th birthday, he demonstrated that he had lost none of his skills as his own club, Fordsons Of Cork, shocked Shamrock Rovers to claim the 1926 Free State Cup.

In 1934 the Buckle household claimed a second F.A.I. Cup medal when Harry's son, Bobby played with Cork v St. James Gate of Dublin in a victorious cup final. Father and son also made history by claiming the honour of the first ever father and son to win F.A.I. Cup medals and Bobby was also a Ford employee as a fitter at the production plant. That famous and historic Fordsons team of 1926 had many heroes and the winning 1926 captain was Jack O'Sullivan, another great player side by side with Harry Buckle.

Cork Soccer and G.A.A. Sporting Dynast

The contribution of Harry Buckle to Cork soccer history is well noted and it should also be stated that his prowess as an administrator when pioneering a relatively new sport in Cork city was quite remarkable. Cork was a hot bed of G.A.A. activity in the early 20th century and putting a foreign game on Cork's sporting map was a difficult assignment, even with the backing of the Ford Motor Company as the club sponsor.

The Buckle dynasty proudly lives on in 21st century Cork through his grandson Robert Buckle and Roberts own family, whilst Cork G.A.A. and soccer legend, Dave Barry of St. Finbarrs and Cork City F.C. can also proudly claim, that Harry Buckle was his grandfather on his mothers side. Dave's mother was a sister of Cork's three in a row All Ireland champion hurling goalkeepr of 1952/53/54, Dave Creedon of Glen Rovers fame.

The Harry Buckle Cork 20th century soccer story is worthy of any Hall Of Fame preservation and now in November 2019, we are inducting Online, the Harry Buckle Soccer Story at Blackrock Online. In another coincidence of note, Harry Buckle and family resided at Wallace's Avenue, Ballinlough for many years, in a house directly opposite our own soccer historian, Michael Casey.

Tribute by Derry JF Doody at Blackrock Online

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