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AUSTIN NOONAN: The Golden Memories

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AUSTIN NOONAN  - Cork’s VIP Soccer Star Who Played With Courage, Conviction and Leadership..

When we select a panel of nominations for a VIP Cork Hall Of Fame in the popular code of “SOCCER” we inevitably trawl back through the bygone decades. A name edged in gold is Austin Noonan of 1950’s;60’s and 70’s eras, a time when Austin strode majestically around League of Ireland stadiums. He was considered surplus to requirements; too small and light as a youth player. Austin wasn’t the first soccer icon to alter popular opinion, but to achieve fame, he had to possess that hidden XFactor.

Left out in the cold and unwanted despite the fact he sparkled for Maymount in their replay defeat by Crofton Celtic in the inaugural Cork Schoolboys League Under 16 Cup Final in 1949. That final was played in Turners Cross, formerly a GAA stadium.

Next up club to avail of Austin Noonan’s rising star was Colmcilles and then it was downriver to the former Ballinlough FC club. Wearing the Ballinlough colours, Austin and the famed Dónie Wallace, became team mates on a Cork AUL side against Dublin, played at Cobh Ramblers, St. Colman’s Park.

That eventful chapter in Austin’s career occurred in June 1954 and such was his progress, Evergreen United, under the management of Tommy Moroney, signed the diminutive and very skillful ball player in 1955, for the weekly wage packet of £2.

Evergreen made another shrewd signing for the 1956/57 season when they acquired Dónie Leahy from Northside club, North End, and these two signings backboned the engine room for Evergreen.The two newcomers were immediate hits and formed one of the most lethal and famous partnerships in senior soccer in Ireland. In goalscoring feats during the 1957/58 season, Dónie topped the League of Ireland chart and he was chased to the net by his fellow clubman, Austin, who signed off the season with just one solitary goal separating the two Cork legends.

In 1964 Austin was in the colours of Cork Celtic, who took over from Evergreen United, in the F.A.I. Cup Final, along with Dónie, but Shamrock Rovers claimed the title after a replay at Dalymount Park.

On a much bigger stage and against formidable opponents, Slavia, Cork Celtic gained an away draw (1 – 1) inspired by the magnificence of their wiery midfieder, Austin Noonan. The League of Ireland also honoured the Cork Celtic maestro.

Add-on honours include Top Four; Dublin City Cup; Shield and Munster Cup medals.

After a glorious dozen years with Cork Celtic, Austin made the same journey as many former Celtic star players, when he signed for rivals, Cork Hibernians in 1966 and went on to manage Hibs in 1970, when their Shield title victory qualified the club to play in Europe for the very first time.

Austin Noonan belongs to a times past generation of outstanding Cork soccer players. It was also an era when spectators came out in their thousands to watch and soak up the atmosphere of Cork soccer derbies between keen rivals.

Inducting Austin Noonan to our VIP Cork Hall Of Fame was an instant decision and did not require “4 Yeses”. Without Austin in our gallery, it would be incomplete.

A Michael Casey SportsLife Soccer Tribute

 

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