July 31 1998
Testimonial a show of respect by Shels for former player
by Conor George
  SHELBOURNE'S battle-weary UEFA Cup hopefuls will be in Cobh tonight to take part in former Shelbourne player John O'Rourke's testimonial against the club he now manages, Cobh Ramblers. John started his League of Ireland (as the National League was then known) career with the Cobh club, before moving to Dublin. Sadly, however, his playing career was brought to a premature end last season, when he was forced to retire by injury.
  At 27 years of age he became the youngest manager in the National League, when he took over the reins from Ian Butterworth during the summer months.
  Shelbourne manager, Dermot Keely, has promised to bring his full squad to the match, despite the fact that they were involved in European competition on Wednesday of this week, when they played Glasgow Rangers in Ibrox.
  "The lads may be just a little bit tired, but, we are delighted to be able to take part in John's testimonial match," said Keely.
  "It was a shame that he had to cut his playing career short, but, I am sure he will make a fist of things as a manager," he added.
  O'Rourke and his assistant, Philip Long, have been busy over the summer months scouring the local Cork Munster Senior League teams for new players and have signed four new players in preparation for the coming season.
  Willie O'Keeffe, Pat Maher and Seamus Ring have all joined from College Corinthians' MSL league title winning side, while Pat Keane, a brother of Roy, has joined from Temple United, as the manager tries to find the right combination to bring Ramblers promotion to the Premier Division of the National League.
  Long has, obviously, also joined from Cork City, after being a member of the squad that won the FAI Cup last May and his experience will be of huge benefit to Ramblers. This is his second spell with the Cobh club, having been a player there under George Mellerick but this is his first taste of management.
  This is also O'Keeffe's second spell with Cobh, having been on the books there before emigrating to America last year. He returned to Ireland last Christmas and immediately joined up with Corinthians. Maher and Ring are both defenders, while Keane is a midfield player.
  Cobh have also resigned striker Tony Izzi on a two-year contract, after fears that they were going to lose the Naas-based forward to a Northern Ireland side.
  As a mark of respect to O'Rourke, Pat Kelly one of the top referee's in the country during his career, will come out of retirement to marshall the proceedings. Tonight's game kicks-off at 7.30 pm.

Aug 04 1998
Testimonial is beginning of  test for Cobh Ramblers' manager
by Noel Spillane
  SHELBOURNES' Dermot Keely and Cobh Ramblers' John O'Rourke are at opposite ends of the managerial spiral when it comes to League of Ireland football. Keely has been 26 years in the game as player or manager with a variety of clubs and last night he was on hand to offer the new Cobh boss some sound advice.
  "One thing is for sure and that is that Johnno will not go grey overnight from the job," joked Keely who brought his Euro weary troops to St Colman's Park last night for young John O'Rourke's testimonial match. O'Rourke, who won two FAI Cup winners' medals under Damien Richardson at Shels', had his career prematurely ended because of knee trouble but now he has stepped into his first managerial role as team manager of First Division, Cobh Ramblers.
  "You go with your gut instincts and it's all down to experience really. I think the longer you are at it the better you get because it's all a bit of a learning curve.
  "You tend to make your own luck as well in this job but I am sure Johnno will make a decent fist of it if he's given the time and the space by the club," said the Dublin-based teacher.
  "You need good judgement to begin with, you need to be strong-willed and you can't let yourself be bullied around. You need to be able to make decisions, some of which will not be the most popular in the world either," Keely told the fledgling Cobh boss.
  "The other problem for John is that here in the First Division with Cobh he will be trying to work on a shoe-string budget and that's never easy. I have been at this level too and I know what I am talking about," added Keely who now has one of the biggest budgets in football at his disposal at Tolka Park.
  "You have to spend carefully, you have to keep an eye on your costs all the time and you have people wanting you to win every match on top of that. Trying to match people's expectations and your own expectations with what is there is very difficult.
  "So I think Johnno needs people to help him out here in his first job in management and if the club expects to win promotion this season then they need to make the funds available to him to try and do the job.
  "I guess with his father as club chairman it might help him out.
  "Starting off like this he's going to need a good committee and good people behind him and I think the correct way for him to go is to try and build up the local identity in the team and bring the supporters out," he added.
  "You have to promote the younger players in the squad and stick with them. There's no point in bringing them into the team and then changing it around after three months or so. You can' go changing things like that and you have to stick with it. And there's where you're committee have to be very strong as well," he said.
  John O'Rourke's three brothers Niall, Brian and Ian all made late appearances as substitutes as well in the testimonial match.

Aug 14 1998
Newcomers Dobbs and Iorfa to lead attack on Ramblers
by Noel Spillane
  CORK CITY newcomers Gerald Dobbs and Dominic Iorfa will get their first taste of local derby football when they lead the attack in tonight's League Cup clash against Cobh Ramblers at St Colman's Park (k.o. 7.30)
  Dobbs is secure in the knowledge that he has signed a one-year contract with the FAI Cup holders but for Dominic Iorfa, he has yet to convince manager Dave Barry that his immediate future lies with the club.
  "It's a big game for the two of them again but it gives me another chance to have a look at Dominic in action. He is something of an unknown quantity over here and, effectively, he is playing for a new contract now. He's over on trial and we have yet to make up our minds on him," said Barry last night.
  Barry is anxious to get four of the five players suspended for the Waterford United game over the weekend back in action, and that should signal a return to the first team for the likes of John Caulfield, Jason Kabia, Kelvin Flanagan and Ollie Cahill. Full-back Stephen Napier is still awaiting the all-clear from his doctor to resume full training after a bad virus.
  Meanwhile Fergus O'Donoghue, who had a blinder at right-back in the FAI Cup final replay instead of the unfortunate Napier, has been in Dublin to see a specialist for what seems to be a deep-rooted groin injury though the fear now is that it might be a hernia. O'Donoghue met with the specialist yesterday and the 28-year-old defender is hoping for the best. A hernia could keep him on the sidelines for anything up to three months.
  "I will go with a strong team in Cobh tonight and we will go out to win the match. Another win down in Cobh this evening would almost certainly get us to the knock-out stages of the competition and we want to stay involved for as long as possible," he added.
  Cork will probably "rest" young Greg O'Halloran tonight after he played in both the CSKA Kiev European match and the 2-1 win over Waterford United at the weekend.
  Cobh Ramblers boss John O'Rourke feels that this is the right time for his young, emerging team to be playing the Premier Division big boys.
  "Cork are on a high now after winning the FAI Cup and after their superb win in Europe last week and I think it's the ideal time for us to be playing them."
  "I always enjoyed playing in the local derbies against them but, I suppose, it will be a bit different for me as a manager."
  "It was disappointing to lose to Kilkenny City the other night but it's not the end of the world. I think our lads can raise their game now against Cork and let's see what happens. I know both teams will be up for it and I just hope we get a decent crowd to support us as well," he added.
  "Kilkenny learned from their experiences in the top-flight last year and I think they will certainly be one of the teams challenging for promotion again at the end of the season," said O'Rourke.
  Former Cork City star Philip Long, now assistant manager at Cobh, will be facing up to his old team-mates and looks set to line-out at centre-half alongside Pat Maher with team skipper John Murphy at left-back and Cobh's longest-serving player, Packie Kelly in the No. 2 shirt.
  If Stephenson fails a late fitness test then young Alan O'Shea from Youghal will continue in goal.

Aug 17 1998
  John O'Rourke's new-look Cobh Ramblers are also in League Cup action tonight when they meet relegated Kilkenny City at St. Colman's Park (k.o. 7.00) Cobh will give a home debut to new goalkeeper, Ashley Stephenson who has recently joined the club on a two-year contract from Darlington. The ex-Waterford United and Kilkenny keeper is back living in Waterford.
  Cobh will also have highly-rated striker Tony Izzi in action tonight along with new signings Pat Keane from Temple United, Pat Maher and Seamus Ring from College Corinthians and Willie O'Keeffe who has returned from Boston College.
  Ex-Cork City player Philip Long who brings a wealth of experience to the club will play sweeper tonight with Damien O'Connell, Liam O'Connor, Keith Dalton, Tommy Cregoe and team skipper John Murphy all in the starting eleven.
  Cobh's one injury is to winger Paul Coughlan. Coughlan has unfortunately been sidelined with a groin strain and he could be out for a month.

Aug 31, 1998
Cobh off to a flyer to sink Drogheda
Cobh Ramblers 2
Drogheda United 0
by Conor George
  WHILE it is far too early in the season to be talking about Cobh Ramblers in terms of being candidates to gain promotion they served notice on Saturday night that they are a side not to be taken for granted. They turned in a disciplined performance against last season's Premier Division bottom club Drogheda United at St Colman's Park over the weekend to put what was a nightmare League Cup run behind them and take the first three points available to them for the 1998/99 season.
  After losing all three of their League Cup group games earlier in the month things were not looking good for the Cobh club but they finally seem to have found a winning combination, as was evident as they led Drogheda on a merry dance.
  Ramblers have entered uncharted waters this season with the installation of former player John O'Rourke as manager, who at 27 years of age makes him the youngest boss in the National League. O'Rourke and assistant Philip Long searched the local Munster Senior League during the summer months in an effort to strengthen their squad and the three new signings who were on show on Saturday more than repaid the faith shown in them.
  Pat Keane, brother of Manchester United captain Roy, is enjoying his second spell at the club and very nearly opened Cobh's account after just 15 seconds. He raced into the Drogheda penalty area to get on the end of Liam O'Connor's cross but unfortunately his volley came back off the crossbar.
  Other signings, Pat Maher and Seamus Ring, turned in tremendous performances with defender Ring in particular proving his ability to step up a grade with a number of crucial tackles and clearances. Cobh dominated much of the exchanges as a very young and inexperienced Drogheda United side that included five 18-year-olds struggled to adjust to the frantic pace of division one football.
  Cobh settled far more quickly and this was evident from the number of chances they created in front of the Drogheda goalmouth. Apart from Keane's opening minute effort chances fell to Tony Izzi and Willie Byrne but it took the home side until he 43rd minute to finally open the scoring. Liam O'Connor played a delightful through ball to Izzi who crossed to far post where Anthony Keneally had peeled off his marker and he headed home from close range.
  To be fair to Drogheda they tried desperately to force their way back into the game and would have secured a share of the points but for the brilliance of Cobh goalkeeper Ian Bennis. With just four minutes remaining Drogheda centre-half James Impey ventured forward and when he sent a brilliantly placed shot toward the top corner of the net Bennis somehow managed to dive full-length to deny him.
  That was Drogheda's most clear-cut chance of an equaliser and after seeing that spectacular effort saved their heads dropped allowing Cobh to finally kill off the game in the 88th minute when Izzi raced onto Liam O'Connor's through ball before literally rattling the back of the net with a well placed drive.
  COBH RAMBLERS: Bennis, Ring, Byrne, Long, Maher, Keane, Kenneally, Murphy, Izzi, O'Connell, O'Connor. Substitute: Butler for O'Connell (83 mins).
  DROGHEDA UNITED: Byrne, Clarke, Boyle, Impey, Carroll, A. Murphy, Beggs, C. Murphy, Revans, Coleman, Gahan. Substitutes: Nugent for Carroll (63 mins), Ramage for C. Murphy (66 mins), Sheridan for Clarke (80 mins).
  Referee: J. O'Byrne (Dublin).

Sep 7 1998
St Francis prove bogey team for Ramblers again
St Francis 1
Cobh Ramblers 0
  ST FRANCIS chalked up their first win of the season in the First Division Championship when they beat Cobh Ramblers by the only goal of an entertaining game in poor weather conditions at John Hyland Park, yesterday.
  St Francis had the advantage of the strong wind and driving rain in the first half and had by far the better of the exchanges but it looked as if the well organised Cobh defence had weathered the storm when they held the game scoreless just five minutes short of the half time break.
  However, a little slackness in defence in those closing minutes of the first half saw Brian Rickard get in for a crucial goal. Cobh, with the advantage of the elements after the break, did the bulk of the attacking in the second half but their tactics of playing the long ball high into the penalty area only played into the hands of the St Francis defence. The home side dealt capably with Cobh's main strikers, Damien O'Connell and Tony Izzi.
  The visitors had a break after just 25 minutes play when Kenneally conceded a needless free on the edge of the penalty area and even though Sheridan's clever free kick over the Cobh defensive wall had goalkeeper Bennis beaten, the ball rebounded off the cross bar to safety.
  Cobh created two good openings in the space of five minutes, when after half an hour, Kenneally floated over an accurate cross from the right but the off-form O'Connell sent a flashing header well wide. Four minutes later, the striker repeated that miss, this time, from a cross by Liam O'Connor.
  Full-back Willie Byrne started the best move of the game after 38 minutes, on the edge of his own penalty area and carried on by Pat Keane. Keane cut his way through the home defence and fired in a cracking shot that had goalkeeper Connolly beaten, but it deflected off retreating full-back Treacy and went out for a fruitless corner.
  The breakthrough for St Francis came after 41 minutes. Peter White floated over a long cross from the right and winger Brian Rickard, standing completely unmarked beyond the far upright, sent a looping header back across the goal and into the net with goalkeeper Bennis unable to do a thing about it.
  Despite a great deal of pressure in the second half, the nearest that Cobh came to saving at least a point came after 61 minutes. Izzi created a great chance for Ramblers when he floated over a cross from the left that was cleverly turned back by O'Connell. However, the inrushing Keane's snap shot on the run was narrowly wide of the near upright.
  Cobh hardly deserved to lose this game but St Francis once again proved they are a bogey side for Ramblers. Cobh have yet to chalk up a victory against the Baldonnell side since they were elected to National League.
  ST FRANCIS: Connolly, Dodrill, Treacy, Heffernan, Duffy, O'Sullivan, White, Sheridan, Talbot, Ledwidge, Rickard.
  COBH RAMBLERS: Bennis, Kelly, Byrne, Long, Maher, Murphy, Kenneally, Keane, Izzi, O'Connell, O'Connor. Subs: Dalton for O'Connor, 39mins, O'Keeffe for O'Connell, 77mins.
  Referee: D. McKeon, (Dublin).

Sep 10 1998
Izzi helps Ramblers  maintain home form
Cobh Ramblers 2
Home Farm-Everton 1
  TONY IZZI'S rich goal scoring vein continued at St Colman's Park last night as Cobh Ramblers beat Home Farm-Everton by 2-1 in their First Division clash.
  The Naas-based striker, scored in each half last night to give John O'Rourke's young side their second win in three League starts. Home Farm remain rooted to the bottom of the division pointless, along with Limerick FC, after last night's fixtures.
  Cobh have two away games before their next home game against Longford Town on September 23 and that's why last night's win was so important to them.
  "I am delighted with the start we've made.
  "This win maintains our one hundred per cent home record and we have bounced back after last Sunday's defeat at St Francis," said Manager O'Rourke.
  "It was vital we picked up the three points tonight. We were the better team after half time, and could have scored more goals but I have to be pleased with Tony Izzi's return so far," added the League's youngest Manager.
  Izzi opened the scoring after 12 minutes with a low drive that went in off the upright, after holding off Justin Gleeson to shoot home from Damien O'Connell's header. The visitors were level inside two minutes when Gavin Moore latched on to Robbie Farrell's ball and shot home.
  Cobh had the better of the second half as Anthony Kenneally's snap shot drifted just over the crossbar after 58 minutes and then team skipper, John Murphy's 60th minute free kick produced a fine one-handed safe from Paul Whelan.
  Cobh raced into a 2-1 lead after 66 minutes when Izzi took advantage of Ryan Cawley's back pass to slip the ball home leaving Liam Brien's side still looking for their first point of the season.
  COBH RAMBLERS: Bennis; Kelly, Maher, Long, Byrne; Keane, Murphy, Kenneally, O'Connor; Izzi, O'Connell. Subs. Dalton for Long (65 mins.).
  HOME FARM-EVERTON: Whelan; Benson, Keenan, Darby, Gleeson; Byrne, Fitzpatrick, D. Mooney, Farrell; Moore, A. Mooney. Subs. Cawley for Darby (half time), McAuley for Benson (80 mins).
  Referee: Mr. Paul Mooney (Dublin).

Sep 12 1998
Cobh survive pressure and grab vital win
Kilkenny City 0
Cobh Ramblers 2
  COBH RAMBLERS survived an opening barrage from Kilkenny City to snatch the points with goals in each half in this National League first division tie at Buckley Park on Saturday night.
  Although they opened promisingly and looked like troubling Ramblers, Kilkenny's challenge faded rapidly. During the opening 30 minutes, Kilkenny owned the ball and they peppered the Ramblers defence without success.
  Then, five minutes from half-time, Ramblers hit the front with a goal from Liam O'Connor.
  In the second half, there was really only one team in it as Kilkenny completely lost their way. And when Anthony Kenneally blasted the goal of the game after 66 minutes, there was going to be only one result.
  Kenneally gained possession just outside the 18 yard box and he rifled a magnificent shot to the roof of John Connolly's net for a great score. After that, Kilkenny kept trying but never looked like succeeding in taking anything from a game which their manager, Alfie Hale, will surely want to forget.
  But for Cobh's new boss, John O'Rourke, the youngest manager in the league, the game was a real fillip as Buckley Park has not always been the happiest of hunting grounds for the Cobh Ramblers team.
  KILKENNY CITY: Connolly, Kelly, Devereaux, Breen, Walsh, Maher, Foley, Delahunty, Vaughan, Reddy, Reid. Res; Hale & O'Connor for Foley & Maher, 61mins.
  COBH RAMBLERS: Bennis, Kelly, Byrne, Murray, Maher, Dalton, Kenneally, Keane, Izzi, O'Connell, O'Connor.
  Referee; Joe Casey, Waterford.

Sept 21 1998
Athlone strike late to keep  Ramblers off top of division
Athlone Town 1
Cobh Ramblers 0
  COBH RAMBLERS missed a chance to go top of the First Division, after they conceded a late goal at St Mel's Park on Saturday night. The Cork club were hit with a killer blow six minutes from time, when Alan Oliver headed home Mark Patton's corner in a crowded goal-mouth.
  Afterwards, manager John O'Rourke lamented the missed opportunity. "To be fair to Athlone, they deserve their three points, we just didn't get going.
  O'Rourke expressed his disappointment at the loss of Anthony Kenneally due to suspension. Kenneally will also miss Cobh's home game against Longford Town on Wednesday night. Cobh were reduced to few chances over the 90 minutes. Their best effort in the first half came in the 34th minute, when Willie Byrne forced Anthony Keenan to tip over a free kick. Damien O'Connell went close with a header on the hour but, in truth, it was Athlone's night.
  ATHLONE TOWN: Keenan; Oliver, Houlihan, Malone, Silke, Fortune, Kelly, Carberry, Frawley, McGee, Patton. Sub: Reynolds for Patton (86).
  COBH RAMBLERS: Bennis; Kelly, Byrne, Murphy, Maher, Dalton, O'Keeffe, Keane, Izzy, O'Connell, O'Connor. Sub: O'Flaherty for O'Keeffe (76).
  Referee: Declan Heaney (Dublin).

Sept 22 1998
Ramblers will go all-out to bounce back after defeat
by Noel Spillane
  COBH RAMBLERS have every incentive to go back to the top of the First Division when they tackle Longford Town in another mid-week fixture at St Colman's Park tomorrow night (7.30). Skipper John Murphy, disappointed with his team's fall from grace in the midlands over the weekend reckons the fact that Cobh are playing again so soon after the Athlone Town defeat, is a good thing.
  "At least, the 1-0 defeat up at Athlone will not fester in the players' minds now. We are back in action tomorrow night and we have to go after a home win against mid-table opposition like Longford Town."
  "We have every incentive to go out and win the match now because we have a chance to go back on top again," added the Cobh centre-half who has skippered the team for the last two years.
  "We have everyone bar Philip Long available for tomorrow night's game at St Colman's Park, and we all want to put what was a below-par performance up in Athlone behind us. We are just two points behind the leaders, Galway United, but we have the opportunity to go top again now if we win at home," added Murphy.
  Cobh will again miss the creative midfield influence of Anthony Kenneally as the ex-Cork City star serves out a two-match ban. Keith Dalton looks set to stay in the team in his absence with Liam O'Connor, Pat Keane and Willie O'Keeffe filling the other midfield roles.
  The club's assistant manager Philip Long is ruled out again by injury so Murphy will partner ex-College Corinthians' star Pat Maher at the back with Limerick-based goalkeeper, Ian Bennis who was recommended to the club by Cork City's Noel Mooney, continuing in goal.
  "We have to grasp the nettle now and go out and prove ourselves all over again but, with home advantage, you have to fancy our chances," said Murphy, who said that he could make no excuses for Saturday's narrow defeat by Athlone.
  "We did not deserve to get anything out of the Athlone match. It was a below-par performance from us and the lads know that. It's up to us all to bounce back now and get the win we want to keep us in touch with the top clubs and keep our promotion bid alive," he added.

Sept 24 1998
Cobh upset by Longford
Cobh Ramblers 0
Longford Town 2
by Noel Spillane
  LONGFORD TOWN denied Cobh Ramblers the chance to go back into joint leadership of the First Division, when they scored a shock 2-0 win over the home team at St Colman's Park last night.
  It was a second successive setback for John O'Rourke's young side, as a Vinny Perth penalty and a headed goal by Alan Merriman eased Longford into a comfortable half-time lead.
  Longford, seeking only their third win of the season, surprised the home team when they grabbed a 22nd-minute lead. Cobh's Keith Dalton brought down Merriman inside the box, allowing Perth to drill home the subsequent penalty.
  The foul was a little naive by the Cobh midfielder, as the Longford Town midfield man was running out of space and any decent angle as he chased the ball into the penalty area.  It was a rash sliding tackle from young Dalton and one that centre-half Perth fully punished, when he beat goalkeeper Ian Bennis with a low drive into the bottom corner of the net.
  Cobh conceded another soft goal just before half-time, when Wesley Byrne's 42nd minute corner kick was headed home by Merriman. It might have been a different tale, nevertheless, had Cobh's Willie O'Keeffe not squandered a glorious chance after just 17 minutes play. Cobh pieced together a sweeping attack, with Pat Keane and Tony Izzi involved in the build-up and, when Izzi squared the ball back for O'Keeffe, he looked certain to score, but, goalkeeper and my man-of-the-match Stephen O'Brien got down to hold the side-footed shot.
  O'Brien made two more fabulous saves in quick succession to deny Pat Keane and Willie Byrne in the second half, but, it was a best-forgotten night for the home team, who were experiencing their first home league defeat of the season.
  COBH RAMBLERS: Bennis; Kelly, Maher, Murphy, Byrne; O'Keeffe, O'Connor, Dalton, Keane; O'Connell, Izzi. Sub. O'Flaherty for O'Connell (75 mins).
  LONGFORD TOWN: O'Brien; McNally, P. Perth, Thompson, Byrne (capt); Flanagan, Merriman, V. Perth; Farrell, Devlin, Zellor. Sub. Kenny for Farrell (85 mins).
  Referee: David Meier (Dublin).

Sep 28, 1998
Limerick revival continues
Limerick 3
Cobh Ramblers 0
by Charlie Mulqueen
  LIMERICK continued their Division One revival at Hogan Park yesterday and handed struggling Cobh Ramblers yet another set-back. After losing their first four league matches this season, Limerick have now won their last three. But it's very much the other way round for Cobh Ramblers who picked up full points from their opening three outings only to lose each of the next three.
  The latest blow came yesterday at Rathbane, where it was very much a case of two penalties which settled the issue in favour of the home side. Both involved the luckless Ramblers goalkeeper Ian Bennis, ironically enough a Limerickman.
  Limerick's first two goals came from the spot after Bennis had been left so exposed by his defence that he had little option but to concede the penalties that handed Limerick the points. Not alone that, but Bennis was red-carded for his second offence which left his side to play out almost the entire second half with ten men.
  Very often, such a handicap inspires a side but such was not the case yesterday as Ramblers who found themselves under constant pressure until they finally conceded a third goal shortly before the full-time whistle.
  Limerick leapfrog Cobh in the table on scoring difference as a consequence of this result. But little else has changed at Hogan Park, where the attendance yesterday afternoon was little more than a hundred strong.
  It was Limerick goalkeeper Eddie Hickey who was by far the busier in the opening stages when Cobh were at their most dangerous. However, Limerick settled quickly enough and Ramblers were subsequently rarely seen as a potent force.
  Instead, it was Limerick who took the lead on 21 minutes when Howie King raced away from the leaden footed Cobh defence as he chased a Ray O'Halloran through ball. Bennis approached and as the pair clashed, King went to ground. Dublin referee Meier pointed to the penalty spot and King made no mistake.
  Cobh were in further trouble immediately after the interval when a fine pass by Paddy Doyle sent Derek O'Neill clean through. This time, Bennis' challenge was more calculated and as another Limerick player went down inside the box, it was clear that the keeper's direct involvement was at an end. Bennis was duly shown the red card as Cobh introduced reserve goalkeeper Alan O'Shea and withdrew Willie O'Keeffe.
  O'Shea was unable to stop King's penalty shot and after that it all fizzled out, Ramblers apparently lacking the will to do much about their situation and Limerick happy to hold on to their advantage until finally in the 84th minute Garret Ryan made sure with a cracking ground shot from the edge of the box.
  LIMERICK: Hickey; Hanrahan, O'Halloran, D. White, Finnan; J. White, Ryan, O'Neill, Considine; Doyle, King. Subs: Casey for Doyle (60 mins); G. Ryan for B. Ryan (70 mins).
  COBH RAMBLERS: Bennis; Kelly, Murphy, Maher, Byrne; Dalton, Kensella, Keane, O'Connor; Izzi, O'Connell. Subs: Craigoe for Byrne (35 mins); O'Shea for O'Connor (47 mins); O'Keeffe for Izzi (67 mins).
  Referee: D. Meier (Dublin).

Oct 5 1998
Francis makes a dream debut as Ramblers topple leaders
Cobh Ramblers 3
Galway United 0
by Conor George
  SEAN FRANCIS announced his return to the Cobh Ramblers colours in emphatic fashion at St Colman's Park on Saturday night when he blasted in two goals to help Ramblers humble the first division leaders.
  Francis only signed forms with Cobh on Friday night and manager John O'Rourke showed no hesitation in throwing his new signing into the fray against Galway, a decision that returned rich dividends as Francis' two second half goals effectively killed off the Galway United challenge.
  "I am really delighted with myself and the club. To score two goals on my debut is really special," said Francis.
  "I am overwhelmed myself but what about the overall performance of the team? Galway are league leaders and they came here and played some nice football but every time they looked like threatening us we snuffed them out.
  "I have come to hopefully prove to people that I can still do the business and to re-build my career after what have not been the best years of my life football wise and this is a perfect start. To get two goals on my debut and three points off the league pace-setters is a dream start," added Francis.
Francis, on loan from Shamrock Rovers for the season, was particularly impressive on Saturday night as was Pat Keane, Pat Maher and Keith Dalton but for Galway manager Don O'Riordan there was only disappointment after watching his side's seven match unbeaten run come to an end.
  "I suppose people will say that it has to happen some time but I am not happy with the way we have lost it. Taking nothing away from Cobh they totally deserved the victory.
  "Maybe our lads have been reading the publicity that has followed them this season and thought that they were going to have it easy.
  "The lesson we should take away from the game is that the league is very competitive and if you don't compete you won't win games and we cannot afford to play like that again," said O'Riordan.
  Cobh set about the task of dismantling Galway from early on and began to apply pressure almost from the very start with Tony Izzi and Francis both going close before Pat Keane opened their account with a superb header from a Francis cross after 32 minutes.
  Cobh held their lead into the interval and on the resumption went back on the offensive with Keane being denied on two occasions before Francis opened his account with his new club. He scored his first after 76 minutes when he came out on top in a one-on-one face-off with the Galway goalkeeper and added his second just two minutes before full-time when he finished off a superb run by Keane to make it 3-0 at the end.
  O'Rourke was delighted with his team's performance : "I am very happy with the result, especially as it brings us to within three points of the top and ends the rot that had settled in over the last three games. We needed to get something out of tonight's game, especially after the last three results and to have the league leaders come here and have us beat them by three goals is extremely pleasing.
  "All the lads performed brilliantly tonight and now with the addition of Sean (Francis) we are back playing the type of football I want the team to play here and hopefully we can now build on that and become a force in the division," said O'Rourke.
  COBH RAMBLERS; Bennis, Kelly, Cregoe, Murphy, Maher, Dalton, Keneally, Keane, Izzi, Francis, O'Connor.
  GALWAY UNITED; Cobey, Rossiter, Gorman, Carter, Cleary, Neary, Forde, O'Connor, Lucas, Lavine, Watson. Subs; Goldbey for Lavine (57 mins), Cregg for Watson (63 mins), Keane for O'Connor (74 mins).
  Referee; D. Keogh (Meath).

Oct 19 1998
Ramblers have Bennis to thank for saving a point
Drogheda United 1
Cobh Ramblers 1
  COBH RAMBLERS missed the chance to move up to joint third in Division One of the National League, against Drogheda at United Park on Saturday night.
  The visitors were easily the better side in the opening half and by the interval, should have added at least another three goals to Sean Francis's eighth minute penalty.
  But it took a series of superb saves from reserve keeper, Ian Bennis, to keep them in contention after James Impey headed Drogheda level just after the break. In the end, a draw was possibly a fair result and Rambler's manager, John O'Rourke, was reasonably content to have escaped with a point.
  "We should have wrapped it up by half time," said O'Rourke afterwards. But, to be fair, we were under pressure for most of the second half and Ian Bennis pulled off three magnificent saves to keep us in it," said the relieved Cobh boss.
  His counterpart in the Drogheda dressing room was less enthusiastic about the result, however, and is planning to enter the transfer market in a bid to boost his goal-shy attack.
  "We put in an indifferent display in the first half," said Martin Lawlor, "which may have something to do with the fact that we have been creating so many chances which we just can't seem to capitalise on, especially when we play at home.
  "Overall, I felt we did enough to have won the game.
  "But their keeper was superb and he will be going home tonight a very happy man."
  DROGHEDA UNITED: Byrne, Murphy, Boyle, Impey, Coleman, O'Keeffe, Beggs, Fox, Revins, O'Dowd, Gahan. Subs; Kierans for Beggs, 64mins, Nugent for Gahan, 70mins.
 COBH RAMBLERS: Bennis, Kelly, Cregoe, Murphy, Maher, Dalton, Kennelly, Keane, Izzi, Francis, O'Connor.
 Referee; John O'Byrne, replaced at half time by assistant referee, Pat Turner.

Oct 1998
Ramblers gunning for revenge
by Noel Spillane
  COBH RAMBLERS manager John O'Rourke will have to make one enforced change to his team before tonight's First Division clash with basement club St. Francis at St. Colman's Park (k.o. 7pm). First choice goalkeeper Ian Bennis, who is based in Limerick and was recommended to the club by Cork City's Noel Mooney, is serving a one-match suspension and he will be replaced by young Alan O'Shea from Youghal, Co. Cork.
  Bennis was one of the stars in Cobh's 1-1 draw with Drogheda United but a sending-off against Limerick FC means that he has to sit out tonight's clash against one of Cobh's bogey teams.
  "Someone told me that we have yet to beat St. Francis in three years of rivalry between the teams. I know we lost up there 1-0 last year so we owe them one tonight," said manager John O'Rourke, who is the youngest manager in the League of Ireland.
  O'Shea, who played in goal for the Mouscron reserve team in Belgium when ex-Cobh man Terry Kearns was at the club, started the season in goal for Ramblers and played all their League Cup ties. Now he gets the chance to step into the spotlight again in what will be the only change in O'Rourke's team.
  "I have no injuries to deal with tonight but the loss of Ian Bennis is a blow for us. I have full confidence in Alan O'Shea and it would be great if he could keep a clean sheet for us," said O'Rourke.
  "I was disappointed that we did not win up in Drogheda because we were a goal up at half-time. If we had scored a second I think we would have won it okay. Ian Bennis did well in goal that night but overall we have played better in other games this season and lost," he added.
  "I think the best win we have had so far was that 3-0 win over Galway United. That was Sean Francis' debut for us and he scored twice and Pat Keane got the third goal.
  "It was a great performance and a great result for us but it was a game that we started well and that was half the battle. That's something that we need to work on but if we can reproduce that form tonight I think we can win again," he said.
  "Sean Francis is on loan with us hopefully to the end of the season but he is still a retained player by Shamrock Rovers. He was in-and-out of the team at Rovers and he had a few injuries to cope as well but I know he is enjoying his football with us," added O'Rourke of his new on-loan signing.
  The Cobh boss will look to striker Tony Izzi and Francis again tonight to come up with the goals but he is always hoping that midfielder Pat Keane can improve his ratio of goals as well.
  "Pat gets into the box well and he sets up chances for the others but I'd like to see him get a few more goals and hopefully he will get in on the scoring act," he added.
  The other big boost for the home team is winger Paul Coughlan is back in the squad. Coughlan has been a long-term injury casualty with groin and hamstring injuries.

Oct 25 1998
Ramblers race to easy victory despite treacherous conditions
Cobh Ramblers 4
St Francis 1
by Conor George
  COBH RAMBLERS recovered from an early shock to easily sink St Francis at St Colman's Park on Saturday night, thanks to goals from Liam O'Connor and Tony Izzi. After a disastrous start, when they conceded a goal after only three minutes, Ramblers settled down admirably. With a near gale-force wind making life very difficult for the players it was Cobh who adapted better to the conditions and immediately began to exert their dominance.
  Cobh could not have wished for a worse start to the match when a half-hearted back-pass from Tommy Cregoe was easily intercepted by Paul Irwin and he made no mistake from close range despite the attentions of John Murphy.
  Cobh, however, forced their way back on level terms after just 12 minutes when an Anthony Keneally pass released Pat Keane and when his shot came back off the upright Liam O'Connor was on hand to steer the rebound into the empty net.
  Cobh were well worth the goal now as they had reacted positively to the early setback suffered and were playing some of the best football seen at St Colman's Park this season despite treacherous conditions and they fittingly surged into the lead after 27 minutes.
  This time O'Connor chased a seemingly hopeless ball and proceeded to pass two defenders before drilling it low to the near post where Izzi was on hand to score his fourth goal of the season. Cobh continued to harass the St Francis and St Francis could find no respite from the siege.
  "What is very encouraging for me is that we bounced back so well from the concession of that sloppy early goal," said Cobh manager John O'Rourke.
  "On the last three occasions St Francis have come to Cobh they have left with the three points. Thankfully that record was broken. We were the better side and after last weekend's draw in Drogheda it is nice to continue the good work we started," said Cobh manager John O'Rourke.
  Cobh extended their lead four minutes before the half-time interval when a Pat Keane cross expertly picked out Izzi who gave Cobh a commanding half-time lead. St Francis were briefly threatening 20 minutes after the resumption when John Murphy was adjudged to have brought down Derek Watters and St Francis were awarded a penalty but Alan O'Shea saved and St Francis' night went downhill.
  O'Connor brought the curtain down on a great night for the St Colman's Park faithful when he grabbed his second after 83 minutes.
  COBH RAMBLERS: O'Shea, Kelly, Cregoe, Murphy, Maher, Dalton, Keneally, Keane, Izzi, Francis, O'Connor. Subs: Byrne for Cregoe (21 mins), Long and Coughlan for Maher and O'Connor (85 mins).
  ST. FRANCIS: Connolly, Howey, Heffernan, McNally, Ledwidge, Sheridan, Tracey, Watters, Duffy, Irwin, Rickard. Sub: Zola for Duffy (86 mins).
  Referee: D. Hancock (Dublin).

Oct 29 1998
Comfortable win for Ramblers as Izzi bags a brace
Home Farm Everton 2
Cobh Ramblers 3
  COBH Ramblers moved to within three points of league leaders Longford Town with a second emphatic win in the space of five days as they beat Home Farm Everton at Whitehall last night more comfortably than the scoreline suggests.
  John O'Rourke's side dominated from the start and the difficult conditions of driving wind and rain, if anything, only added to the entertainment of what was a very enjoyable match for the small crowd. Ramblers forced three early corners before deservedly taking the lead on 22 minutes.
  A quick free-kick from Willie Byrne found the white boots of Sean Francis unmarked in the box and Francis calmly side-footed passed Paul Whelan in the Home Farm goal from about 10-yards-out. Cobh once more caught the Home Farm defence asleep to strengthen their grip on the match within a further minute.
  A good move up the right involving Pat Keane and Anthony Kenneally resulted in a mistake from Whelan, who failed to gather Kenneally's ball into the box, and Tony Izzi pounced for a poachers goal. Home Farm got back into the game on the half hour with the best goal of the match.
 Gavin Moore and Robbie Farrell combined up the right with Farrell squaring the ball to Darryl Mooney who shot passed 'keeper Alan O'Shea, whose display against St Francis on Saturday meant he kept his place in goal.
  Cobh responded positively and restored their two goal lead five minutes before the break when a quick throw-in caught out the Farm defence once more and central defender Justin Gleeson pulled down Izzi inside the area. Izzi picked himself up to shoot home the penalty in off the cross bar for his seventh league goal of the season.
 The second half was less eventful with Home Farm coming more into it as they chased the game. But it was Cobh who should have increased their lead on 70 minutes when Izzi set up Francis who forced the save of the match from Whelan, turning the strikers low shot from the edge of the box round the post.
  Home Farm did get some late reward with a second goal for Darryl Mooney in the final minute when he scored with a rising shot into the top corner of O'Shea's net from 20 yards as Cobh easily held on for a deserving three points.
  Home Farm Everton: Whelan, Flanagan, Keenan, Gleeson, Fitzpatrick, Byrne, D. Mooney, King, A. Mooney, Farrell, Moore. Sub. Drew for Fitzpatrick (76 mins).
  Cobh Ramblers: O'Shea, Kelly, Maher, Murphy, Byrne, L. O'Connor, Dalton, Kenneally, Keane, Izzi, Francis. Sub. Coughlan for Francis (88 mins).
  Referee: Mr. D. Meier (Dublin).

Nov 2 1998
Ramblers in confident mood after easy win
Cobh Ramblers 3
Kilkenny City 1
by Conor George
  COBH RAMBLERS' excellent good run of late was extended this weekend when they beat Kilkenny City 3-1 at St. Colman's Park on Saturday night.
  Cobh have now won seven of their 13 league games and have climbed up the league table to leave them in a perfect place from which to gain promotion, a fact that is not lost on star midfielder Anthony Kenneally.
  "I know that it is very early in the season to be talking about promotion but we have played everyone now and I do reckon that we will go up. If we continue to play this well there is no-one who can touch us.
  "Once we continue to stay largely injury-free, avoid too many suspensions and continue to work hard I am sure that we will join the top flight at the end of the season. There is no reason why we shouldn't.
  "We are playing very well at the moment although it is a bit worrying that there are periods in every game when we seem to fall asleep and take the foot off the gas.
  "It happened again tonight for the early exchanges in the second half when we just stopped working and allowed Kilkenny to come at us and they very nearly stopped us in our tracks when they got a goal back with just 12 minutes remaining.
  "Thankfully we got our act together and scored a third goal to kill them off and secure the three points but really we have to cut out lapses like that if we are to keep the pressure on at the top of the table," said Kenneally.
  Cobh opened the scoring after 26 minutes when full-back Willie( Byrne unleashed an unstoppable free-kick that sailed over the defensive wall and into the top corner of the net to get Cobh's match started.
  They continued to apply the pressure after the opener and with Kilkenny struggling to get to grips with the pace of the game and a second goal for the home side was almost assured. That eventually came on 37 minutes when Kenneally raced onto a Willie Byrne header, exchanged passes with Sean Francis and then superbly directed the ball over the advancing John Connolly to the back of the net.
  "That was a nice feeling. I don't score too many goals and it is nice to get on the scoresheet. We are all scoring goals regularly which is what is driving us on.
  "Tonight there were three different scorers and that has to be a good omen.
  "We are not relying on any one source for the goals and that takes the pressure off everyone involved and that is where we are strong this season," Kenneally added.
  After turning over with their two goal advantage intact, Cobh(inexplicably began to rest on their laurels at the outset of the second period and this was all the motivation Kilkenny needed to try and force their way back into the game.They reduced the arrears to just a single goal on 78 minutes when the pace of half-time substitute Dave Walsh took the Cobh defence by surprise and his low show beat Alan O'Shea at his near post.The concession of that goal finally sounded a warning to Cobh and they once again stepped up their efforts and killed off the match right on full-time when Tony Izzi raced onto a clearance from Philip Long to grab his eighth goal of the season and secure the three points.
  COBH RAMBLERS; O'Shea, Kelly, Byrne, Murphy, Maher, Dalton, Kenneally, Keane, Izzi, Francis, O'Connor. Sub; Long for Murphy (inj. 55 mins).
  KILKENNY CITY; Connolly, Kelly, Power, Breen, R. Walsh, P. Walsh, Cashin, Maher, Vaughan, Cooney, Reid. Subs; Reddy, D. Walsh & Hale for Maher, Vaughan & Cooney (all half-time).
  Referee: J. Casey, Waterford.

Nov 9 1998
Ramblers rove home in comfort
Cobh Ramblers 4
Athlone Town 0
by Noel Spillane
  THE STATUS QUO was maintained in the First Division over the weekend but with 14 goals in their last four games and an unbeaten run that stretches to five matches now, Cobh << Ramblers> certainly have the scent of promotion in their nostrils.
  Cobh made light of the monsoon-like weather conditions in their biggest home win of the season against lowly Athlone Town on a night when league leaders, Longford Town won 3-1 at home to Kilkenny City to remain three clear of Ramblers at the top of the First Division promotion race. The top two now meet head-on at Strokestown Road in Longford next Saturday night and something has to give !
  On a miserably wet and windy night, Cobh rattled in three goals inside the opening 34 minutes at St Colman's Park. Liam O'Connor started the ball rolling when he cracked home a 25th minute opener from Tony Izzi's cross and then the ex-Shelbourne man and the league's top scorer brought his goals haul to ten for the season with two inside five minutes.
  Cobh's second goal coming after 29 minutes was a delightful effort as Izzi chipped goalkeeper Gary Connaughton from the edge of the box after approach work by Philip Long and Sean Francis. This gave Cobh a comfortable 2-0 lead despite the fact that it was Athlone who looked the more lively team at the start.
  Paul Coughlan back in the team after a lengthy injury lay-off with groin and hamstring injuries set up the third when he found Pat Keane sprinting clear of the defensive cover along the left hand touchline. Keane's measured cross found the unmarked Izzi in the box and he side-footed home his tenth goal of the campaign giving Cobh a 3-0 cushion after 34 minutes play.
  "I think the end justified the means to be honest and while Athlone were looking to have the game called off at half-time, once the referee decided to start it he had no option but to finish it. The weather did ease up a little in the second half but to be fair to the grounds staff the pitch held up well in one of the worst nights for football I have ever seen,"" said Cobh boss John O'Rourke.
  "We are unbeaten in five since we drew 1-1 away to Drogheda United and now we face Longford Town next week and get the chance to draw level with them on points. It could not be much better for us at the minute," enthused the youngest manager in League of Ireland football.
  Cobh absorbed the bulk of the pressure in the second half as the visitors came more into the game. Colin Fortune forced young Alan O'Shea to a flying save from a free kick after 52 minutes Izzi was close to a hat-trick shooting wide after the restart and Paul Coughlan headed just wide from Packie Kelly's driven cross mid-way through before on-loan striker Sean Francis scored the night's fourth goal from Izzi's pass five minutes from time.
  The Shamrock Rovers man, on loan till the end of the season was off balance as the ball arrived at his feet but he volleyed it past Gary Connaughton who collided with the opposite post in trying to keep the ball out.
  The young Athlone 'keeper was slightly concussed and had to be replaced by the veteran Anthony Keenan for the final minutes.
  COBH RAMBLERS : O'Shea; Kelly, Maher, Long, Byrne; L. O'Connor, Dalton, Keane, Coughlan; Francis, Izzi. Subs. Butler for Dalton (injured 65 mins), D. O'Connor for Maher (87 mins), Cregoe for Byrne (89 mins), Bennis (not used).
  ATHLONE TOWN: Connaughton; Oliver, Silke, Coll, Colsh; McGee, Fortune, Kelly, Collins; Patton, Finn. Subs. Gannon for Kelly (half-time), Mullen for Colsh (38 mins), Keenan for Connaughton (89 mins).
  Referee: Dave McKeon (Dublin).

16 Nov 1998
Longford the beneficiaries as Cobh lose scoring touch
Longford Town 2
Cobh Ramblers 0
by Noel Spillane
  COBH RAMBLERS reflected on what might have been, as they came away empty-handed from this entertaining clash with First Division leaders Longford Town at Strokestown on Saturday night.
  Cobh had the ball cleared off the line three times, they might have had a penalty when Tony Izzi when sprawling in the box, but the simple facts from this top-of-the-table clash at Strokestown Road are that the league leaders won 2-0 and have now opened up a five-point gap over Drogheda United.
  Once again Longford played their bright, inventive and attacking style, as did Cobh, and it all made for a terrific night's entertainment for the 1,000-plus crowd.
  "We played some tremendous stuff, but the only thing that was wrong with the performance was that we didn't actually score the goals," said a slightly miffed Cobh manager John O'Rourke, whose side had netted 15 goals in their previous five unbeaten matches.
  "Obviously it's a result that is hurting the players. It was disappointing to play so well and to come away with nothing to show for it. I can't blame the players, because they gave it everything. We didn't have the luck on the night, but then again, we didn't make our own luck either," added the Cobh boss.
  Longford, who won the corresponding match in Cobh by the same scoreline, had the psychological advantages of scoring just before half-time from a non-disputed penalty, but they hit Cobh with the killer blow eight minutes into the second half.
  O'Rourke said he had no complaints about the 45th minute penalty that presented Longford's Vinny Perth with the opportunity to give the home team the lead and he duly obliged from 12 yards. "Keith Dalton was a bit late on Enda Kenny inside the box and the referee had no choice but to give it. If it happened at the other end, I would have gladly accepted it too."
  Eight minutes into the second half and Longford's young, energetic team hit Cobh with another sucker punch, when local boy Enda Kenny hit a beauty into the top corner, after centre-forward James Farrell got a knock-down on sweeper Paul Flanagan's 53rd minute free kick from near the half-way line.
  Stephen Kenny, the man behind the on-going Longford revolution, praised both teams for the quality of football they produced, but the basic difference between the teams was that the home team took their chances.
  "It could have been 5-5 out there tonight and I just hope the big crowd all appreciated such open and attacking football from both sides. Our lads took their chances, (its as) simple as that in the end," Kenny said.
  "We have a small team with big hearts here at Longford Town, but they are big in terms of ability too and I think we proved that again tonight. It's terrific for us to see so many people coming out to see us play because, not so long ago, we had only 50 or 60 people here for our first home league game against Limerick back in early September."
  LONGFORD TOWN: O'Brien; McGurn, Kavanagh, Flanagan (capt), Thompson; McNally, Merryman, V. Perth, Kenny; Farrell, Zellor. Subs. Creedon for Kenny (74 mins), Devlin for Farrell (83 mins).
  COBH RAMBLERS: O'Shea; Kelly, Maher, Murphy (capt), Byrne; Keane, Dalton, Kenneally, L. O'Connor; Izzi, Francis. Sub. Coughlan for Dalton (75 mins).
  Referee: John Feighery (Dublin).

Nov 21 1998
Ramblers will be in promotion shake-up, says Long
by Noel Spillane
  THE First Division promotion race is fast developing into a four club race to secure top flight football next season. And Cobh Ramblers' assistant manager, Philip Long, the ex-Cork City star who won an FAI Cup winners medal last May is convinced that Ramblers will be involved in the final shake-up at the end of the season.
  "They way I see it Longford Town, Drogheda United, Galway United and ourselves will be in the hunt for promotion come the end of the league season. I am surprised that Kilkenny City are not in the equation because on paper they looked like they might run away with it. Perhaps they will come good after Christmas and make it even more interesting," said Long.
  "With all due respects to the other clubs, I think those four teams will be in for the long haul and we intend to be one of the two clubs to go up," said Long who works as assistant to John O'Rourke at Cobh.
  "Drogheda United are in the driving seat in that they have a game in hand against Limerick and they are just five points behind Longford, we are six points off the pace.
  "Drogheda are probably the more physical of the four teams I have mentioned but Galway and Longford are well-balanced sides and like to play nice, attacking football like us," he said.
  Cobh have two slight injury doubts for tonight's home clash with Dave Connell's Limerick at Cobh (7.00) with striker Tony Izzi hoping to play after a dead leg at Longford and longest-serving defender Packie Kelly troubled with a sore back.
  Manager O'Rourke hopes that both will come through late fitness tests and he can name an unchanged team for tonight's eagerly-awaited Munster derby. Both O'Rourke and Long have again appealed to the townspeople of Cobh to come out and support their home town club after both were highly impressed by the healthy turnout of 1,200 fans for Cobh's visit to Longford last week.
  Limerick beat Cobh by 3-0 in the corresponding match at Rathbane and after last week's setback at Strokestown Road, Cobh have a double incentive to do well tonight.
  "Things just didn't go well for us against Longford because we could have been two or three up before they scored from a spotter just before half-time. But I think we can bounce right back though tonight," said Long.
  Cobh will look to that blend of youth and experience to get them back to a winning formula as Alan O'Shea (21), Keith Dalton (21), Liam O'Connor (19), Willie Byrne (21) and Tommy Butler (22) join forces with the likes of Packie Kelly, Pat Keane, Tony Izzi, Sean Francis, Pat Maher and John Murphy.
  Limerick boss Dave Connell has Declan Considine back in the travelling party and the big plus for him is that first choice goalkeeper, Eddie Hickey is back after a two-match ban. Limerick had a total of ten goals put past them in their last two games but they also have a major problem scoring goals managing to hit just seven in the last six games.

Nov 23 1998
Izzi leads from front as Ramblers maintain place in promotion race
Cobh Ramblers 1
Limerick FC 0
by Noel Spillane
  THE First Division's top striker, Tony Izzi of Cobh Ramblers, is being driven by a double incentive this season. The ex-Limerick and Shels' star bagged the match-winning goal eight minutes from the end against Limerick at St. Colman's Park on Saturday night to claim his 11th league goal of the season and his eighth in six games.
  It was a real poacher's goal, as the diminutive striker swept the ball high into the roof of the net after Keith Dalton's touchline cross arrived at his feet in the box courtesy of a defensive blunder.
  Izzi, as is the norm, was first to react to the half chance as he wheeled away from his marker to smack the ball first time high into the net, and out of nothing, Cobh had won all three league points and eased into second place in the promotion race, just four points behind Longford Town.
  "I want to help Cobh into the Premier Division and I also want to be the First Division's top goal-scorer again," said Izzi.
  "I feel confident of achieving both my targets now. I was top scorer here two years ago with 14 league goals and that was a record for me. I had 13 with Limerick the year before I moved here but I am very happy with the way things are going," said Izzi.
  "When things are not going right for you in a match like tonight's you always have to be alert and tuned-in. You have to be on your toes all the time because you never know when the chance will come.
  "I think this is going to be the best season yet for me. I am playing with a better Cobh team and we are creating lots of chances."
  On a night of continuos drizzle and a swirling wind that made it difficult for both teams, Cobh certainly laboured against an opposition that should have been one or two goals up by half-time.
  Bobby Ryan and Tommy Lynch combined to set up Paddy Doyle after just 13 minutes but he blazed the ball high over the crossbar from in front in goal in what was a warning shot to the home side. Goalkeeper Alan O'Shea was nearly embarrassed when he took his eye off a back pass and the ball rolled beyond him before he recovered the situation. He made amends for that lapse in concentration with two quite superb saves in the second half.
  Limerick had the bulk of possession after the break and it must be stressed that Izzi's 82nd minute match-winner came somewhat against the run of play. Early in the second half Paddy Doyle again had a shot cleared off the line by the impressive Willie Byrne at left-back before Sean Francis had a chip held by Eddie Hickey at the other end.
  On the hour, O'Shea saved brilliantly with his feet after Howie King played in Doyle again and in Limerick's next attack the young 'keeper who dabbled in Belgian football with Mouscron produced the save of the night to deny classy centre-half Derek Whyte. Skipper Albert Finnan's free kick into the box was met in the air by Whyte and his powerful header looked to be heading for the opposite top corner only for O'Shea to launch himself full-length and flip the ball away at the last second.
  In hindsight, they were two crucial saves and it was a point not lost on manager John O'Rourke.
  "Alan O'Shea was brilliant for us in goal tonight. He has done ever so well since he came into the team when Ian Bennis was suspended but it's great for us to have two excellent young goalkeepers like that vying for the No.1 spot," said O'Rourke.
  COBH RAMBLERS: O'Shea; Kelly, Murphy (capt), Maher, Byrne; O'Connor, Dalton, Kenneally, Keane; Izzi, Francis. Subs. Coughlan for Kelly (60 mins), Butler for O'Connor (81 mins),.
  LIMERICK FC: Hickey; Hanrahan, O'Halloran (capt), Whyte, Finnan; B. Ryan, Lynch, G. Ryan, Carr; Doyle, King. Sub. Considine for Carr (72 mins).
  Referee: Hugo Whoriskey (Dublin)

Nov 27 1998
Ramblers boss is confident of  victory over Tribesmen
by Noel Spillane
  COBH RAMBLERS come up against the reluctant draw specialists in the First Division tonight when they take on Don O'Riordan's Galway United at Terryland Park (ko 7.45) The Tribesmen have drawn nine of their 16 games in the First Division promotion race and lie fourth in the table behind Drogheda United, Cobh and league leaders Longford Town.Cobh Ramblers crushed the same opposition in Cobh earlier this year when Seán Francis scored twice on his home debut and the First Division's top scorer, Tony Izzi, hit the third, and he will lead the visitors' attack again this evening.
  "This is a key weekend for the First Division, with the top four clubs confronting one another," said Ramblers boss John O'Rourke.
  "We have Galway tonight, and Longford Town play Drogheda United tomorrow night, so there could be a bit of a shake-up at the top," said O'Rourke. Cobh Ramblers have defenders Packie Kelly and Pat Maher struggling to recover from back strain injuries, and midfielder Anthony Kenneally has a groin strain since the 1-0 victory over Limerick.
  "I have a few options at the back, but my assistant manager, Philip Long, who played in the 4-0 victory over Athlone Town is on standby, with Dave O'Connor another candidate for the job," commented O'Rourke.
  "We will go with a 4-4-2 formation again, and I will be looking for us to score a few goals tonight," he said.
  "Up to the Limerick game last week, goals were not a problem for us, but we left it late against Limerick and had to rely on Tony Izzi's strike eight minutes from the end to win the game," he added.
  "I think we inflicted a first defeat of the season on Galway when we played them down in Cobh in what was one of our best performances of the season.
  "They had been doing well in the League Cup as well at the time," he said.
  "The first 15 to 20 minutes will be vital tonight until we get to the pitch of the game, but I am fairly confident that we can win it," he added.
  Galway suffered a 4-2 away defeat at Kilkenny City last week and manager O'Riordan read the riot act to his players afterwards. Galway have three players from Barbados on their books but one of them Ryan Lucas is ruled out of tonight's match as is recent signing from St Pat's, Ricky O'Flaherty, who has a groin strain.
  David Goldbey, who is just turned 18 and came on as a substitute for Lucas last week will stay in the team with another youth star, Ian Rossiter who was in Scotland with Brian Kerr's U-16 title-winning team in the spring.
  Eric Levine, also from Barbados, will partner Goldbey up front with his fellow-countryman Luther Watson playing on the left-wing.

Dec 05 1998
Draw throws up intriguing first-round ties
by Noel Spillane
  THE drama and excitement of the last night's Harp Lager FAI Cup draw certainly lived up to expectations when it threw up some intriguing first-round ties at the draw ceremony, which was televised live for the first time in the history of the competition from the Guinness Reception Centre.
 FAI Cup holders Cork City will open the defence of their title away to Monaghan United at Gortakeegan; last year's beaten finalists Shelbourne meet Shamrock Rovers in an all-Dublin derby, which is the tie of the round, while there is also a first-round repeat of that marvellous 1990 FAI Cup final between Bray Wanderers and then non-league St Francis.
  Cobh Ramblers were favoured with a home draw against either Tallaght Town or Garda, while Cork's northside non-league sides St Mary's and Rockmount were both favoured with home ties, as well, against Bangor Celtic and University College, Dublin.
  Cobh Ramblers manager John O'Rourke said that he was happy with a home draw after the Ramblers were the first of the 33 clubs drawn from the draw drum.
  "We were looking for a home draw and we got what we wanted. It's against a non-league team and they will be raising their game, but I would expect us to come through okay. We will take nothing for granted, but it's a game where we have nothing to gain and everything to lose so we have to be careful on the night," he added. "It could be a tight game, but if we go about it in a professional way I would expect us to get into the next round okay," he added.

Dec 07 1998
Rambers go to top after classy show
Cobh Ramblers 3
Monaghan United 0
by Conor George
  COBH RAMBLERS surged to the head of the First Division with as complete a performance as has been seen at St Colman's Park in recent years when they contemptuously brushed aside the challenge of Billy Bagster's Monaghan United.
  Cobh knocked three goals past Monaghan without reply and the only complaint manager John O'Rourke can have is that they did not at least double that tally, such was their total dominance of the proceedings.
  Cobh reduced Monaghan to mere spectators for the opening exchanges as their commitment to attack took Monaghan by storm and the border club simply had no answer to the ferocity of the Cobh side. Sean Francis, Paul Coughlan, Anthony Kenneally and Coughlan again all had chances that they should have converted and as the frustration of the bench grew so did the confidence of Monaghan who could only have been surprised that they were on level terms after 30 minutes.
  "We could have turned over three or four goals up at the interval and it wouldn't have flattered us because we really were dominating and Monaghan were getting no break from our attacks but thankfully we did put away some chances in the end," said O'Rourke.
  Cobh finally forced the breakthrough after 36 minutes, but even then they had to rely on a mistake from Monaghan's goalkeeper Eddie Van Boxtel.
  Van Boxtel tried to find his winger Colin Natoro with a quick kick-out but Paul Coughlan read the situation perfectly and raced onto the pass to head into the path of Francis whose initial cross was cleared but only as far as Keith Dalton and the midfielder made no mistake with his blistering drive.
  Cobh continued to apply the pressure on the resumption but again their inconsistency in front of goal continued to frustrate them and then with match referee Damien Hancock making matters worse with some very dubious decisions Cobh were in danger of losing the run of themselves.
  They soon got back on track however, and increased their lead with a second goal from Dalton. Francis once again supplied the ammunition when he lifted a delightful ball over the defence for Dalton to run onto and the hugely influential midfielder made no mistake with his volley that Van Boxtel could only palm into his own net.
  Cobh finally killed off the contest in the 84th minute when a Willie Byrne cross was headed into the ground and ultimately the net by Anthony Kenneally but not before goalkeeper Alan O'Shea had the crowd gasping in disbelief with two spectacular saves from Carl Wilson.
  COBH RAMBLERS: O'Shea, Kelly, Byrne, Murphy, Maher, Dalton, Kenneally, Keane, Izzi, Francis, Coughlan. Subs; Butler for Dalton (85 mins), Cregoe & Clifford for Byrne and Keane (86 mins).
  MONAGHAN U: Van Boxtel, Coady, Finn, Kenny, Brady, Best, Malone, O'Callaghan, Honan, Wilson, Natoro. Subs; Shields for Kenny (59 mins), Trainer for Malone (74 mins).
  Referee: D. Hancock, Dublin.

Dec 14 1998
Ramblers spurn glorious chance as Drogheda grab a late winner
Cobh Ramblers 1
Drogheda United 2
by Conor George
  THE stony features of John O'Rourke told the story of a glorious opportunity squandered by Cobh Ramblers as they passed up a chance of opening up a five-point gap at the head of the first division, a place they still retain by the narrowest of margins.
  For Martin Lawlor the emotions shown were quite different because even though he admitted that the final goal of the night may not have deserved to win the match he was, naturally, quite delighted to be taking the three points back to Drogheda with him.
  "This was definitely an opportunity wasted by us tonight," said O'Rourke.
  "We had the chances to win the game, in fact we had far too many chances not to have won and then for one individual mistake to cost us the game in the end is quite sickening.
  "Being lucky or not has nothing to do with it because when you create as many chances as we did you should be putting a fair share of them away. That didn't happen for us tonight and we have paid a heavy price by allowing Drogheda to close the gap on us.
  "It really is heartbreaking because to pass up a chance to go five points clear at the top is unbelievable. The bottom line is that we should be winning our home games and we slipped up tonight. We have to hold our hands up and accept that," the Cobh manager said.
  By virtue of the win Drogheda have leap-frogged Longford Town to take up second place in the division, just one point behind Ramblers, and for Martin Lawlor the season is going perfectly to plan even if there is still a way to go.
  "I have always said the season is a marathon and given the tight nature of this league nothing can be taken for granted. To come away from St. Colman's Park with three points is a huge bonus for us and helps us to stay in contention.
  "We have been showing excellent form away from home of late. We went to Longford when they were leading the league and beat them and we have done the same to Cobh here tonight. We have a very young side and this will be a great confidence booster.
  "We have started to re-build at United Park with a young side by design. It took them a while at the start of the season to get used to playing professional football with the crowds and everything they have gelled together nicely at this stage," said Lawlor.
  Cobh looked set to continue their good run when Keith Dalton netted his third goal in two games after just ten minutes but two second half goals from David Nugent cost them dearly as Drogheda took over the running. Dalton took a great ball from Paul Coughlan at the edge of the area before pivoting onto his right leg and planting the ball past Drogheda's goalkeeper Garreth Byrne. Cobh continued to put the pressure on for the remainder of the half and created a number of chances but failed to add to their tally.
  Drogheda took up the running on the resumption and were back on level terms after just 45 seconds when Greg O'Dowd turned the Cobh defence inside out. His shot was partially palmed away by Alan O'Shea, but Nugent was on hand with the easiest of tap-ins.
  After this shock Cobh upped the pace but for all their running they could not break down a marvellously disciplined Drogheda defence and were caught on the hop in the final minute when Willie Byrne was dispossessed and the visitors raced up the field where Nugent on hand to score the winner.
  COBH RAMBLERS: O'Shea, Kelly, Byrne, Murphy, Maher, Dalton, Kenneally, Keane, Izzi, Francis, Coughlan.
  DROGHEDA UNITED: Byrne, Murphy, Boyle, Impey, Beggs, O'Keeffe, Coleman, Cox, Nugent, O'Dowd, Thornton. Sub: Revens for Coleman (76 mins).
  Referee: D. Myer, Dublin.

Dec 21 1998
St Francis hoodoo holds as Cobh fail to take chances
St. Francis 2
Cobh Ramblers 2
  SINCE they joined the first division of the League of Ireland St. Francis have proved to be a bogey side for Cobh Ramblers and that trend continued at John Highland Park when they held the St. Colemans Park side to a 2-2 draw.
  The game was due to kick off at 7.30pm but because of a power break in the whole Baldonnel area, the game did not commence until 8.30pm. Then seconds after referee Dave McKeon had blown the half-time whistle, the power went again and the second-half was delayed another 40 minutes. The game did not finish until a 10.45pm on Saturday night.
  Despite all that, the game was highly entertaining, even though it was played in freezing conditions. The fact that three players were sent off in the closing minutes might give the impression that this was a rough affair but nothing could be further from the truth.
  Both sides played fast, open and attacking football but the frosty conditions resulted in some unfortunate clashes.
  Cobh opened the scoring after 12 minutes when Keith Dalton's long cross from the right was missed by central defenders Ross McNally and Ciaran Delaney and when Paul Coughlan collected a dropping ball at the far upright the Cobh winger wasted no time in hammering it home past goalkeeper DeCourcey.
  St. Francis were back on terms eight minutes later when Willie Byrne was adjudged to have tumbled Jason Ledwidge in the penalty area and Francis Sheridan converted the resultant spotkick.
  Tracey had kicked a Coughlan header off the goal line and Izzi was unlucky to have a goal disallowed for the previous infringement by colleague Kenneally before the visitors regained the league in the 37th minute when Coughlan's tremendous inswinging corner from the left went off the legs of Sean Francis into the net.
  However, within a further three minutes St. Francis were back on terms again when Sheridan's close free was unfortunately headed into his own net by the Cobh midfield player Anthony Kenneally.
  Within five minutes of the restart came an extraordinary miss when Coughlan broke clear down the left and drawing goalkeeper DeCourcey and defender Sheridan and McNally out of position. He slipped the ball through to the unmarked Izzi no more than five yards out from goal but amazingly the Cobh striker shot wide of the empty net.
  Cobh dominated the second-half but Francis, Coughlan, Maher and Izzi all missed reasonably good chances of regaining the lead for the visitors. Then, with 12 minutes to go, Kenneally was sent off for a second bookable offence and the Cobh team were reduced to nine just two minutes later when central defender Pat Maher got his marching orders for his second booking.
  St. Francis lost their central defender Ross McNally with only five minutes left to play when he was caught making a rash and dangerous attack on the Cobh goalkeeper Alan O'Shea.
  ST. FRANCIS: De Courcey, F. Sheridan, Tracey, McNally, Donnelly, Hudson, D. Sheridan, O'Sullivan, Ledwidge, Duffy, Heffernan, subs. Geoghan for Duffy 86.
  COBH RAMBLERS; O'Shea, Kelly, Byrne, Murphy, Maher, Dalton, Kenneally, Keane, Izzi, Francis, Coughlan.
  Referee D. McKeon (Dublin).

Dec 28 1998
Ramblers leave two-goal lead slip and pass up chance to go clear
Cobh Ramblers 2
Home Farm/Everton 2
by Noel Spillane
  COBH RAMBLERS fell into one of the oldest traps in football thinking they had the job done by half-time when they passed up the chance to go clear at the top of the First Division promotion race.
  Cobh led 2-0 at the interval having played against the near galeforce wind but they were caught cold when Liam Brien's Home Farm/Everton hit back to salvage a draw at the death that denied Cobh clear leadership of the table.
  Cobh failed to take advantage of Drogheda United's inactivity at Athlone Town and both teams are level on 36 points though Drogheda do have two away games in hand at Limerick and Athlone.  "This is the second time that we have been caught out like this," said Cobh boss John O'Rourke.
  "In the last few weeks we have been setting a standard for ourselves away from home but we allowed that standard to drop today. We let it slip and it cost us dearly."
  "It's got to stop and we will have to work hard to turn things around if we are to have any designs on winning promotion at the end of the season," said O'Rourke on a day when Cobh gifted a draw to the visitors.
  "We looked to be home and dry at 2-0 up at half-time but I told the players that that is probably the hardest of all leads to try and hold onto in a football match."
  "I think the lads felt the job was Oxo at the break and we relaxed far too much for the second half. We were too casual and I think that is reflected in the result," added the Cobh boss who had some strong words for his players afterwards.
  "We had a few words okay back in the dressingroom and I told them a few home truths but I think they were all as disappointed as me and Philip Long, my assistant here, with the outcome," he added.
  On a day of high winds and rain Cobh got on top early on and two goals in three minutes had them well in control or so they thought coming up to half-time.
  Full-back Willie Byrne's 27th minute cross on the overlap spun up off the surface inside the six-yard box and rebounded off No. 2 Eddie Walsh into his own net to give the home team the lead. Then three minutes later Paul Coughlan's good approach play fed Byrne on the overlap again and his pin-point cross had Seán Francis stooping low to head home at the far post.
  Cobh might have had a third but Francis drove a right-footed chance just wide before Cobh 'keeper Alan O'Shea denied full-back Tom McGauley with a diving save just before the interval.
  Home Farm/Everton were back in the game just ten minutes into the second half when Robert Farrell scored with a tap-in after O'Shea had parried Gavin Moore's initial drive. Farrell was close to an equaliser when he headed Ian Fitzpatrick's cross just over after 74 minutes, but Cobh were stunned when late substitute Pádraig Drew scored a last minute equaliser.
  "It's been some few weeks for young Pádraig Drew. He was turned down by Everton cross-channel recently but then he was called into Brian Kerr's U-18 squad and now he's grabbed a last-ditch equaliser for us here in Cobh," said Liam Brien.
  "We showed Cobh a little too much respect because we went with an extra defender and the man to lose out was Pádraig. He's a very exciting player and even though he was rejected by Everton recently, I still think he will fulfil his ambition and get to play cross-channel football yet," added Brien.
  COBH RAMBLERS: O'Shea; Kelly, Maher, Murphy (capt), Byrne; Dalton, Keane, Kenneally, Coughlan; Izzi, Francis.
  HOME FARM/EVERTON: Whelan; Walsh, Gleeson, England, McGauley; Fitzpatrick, Flanagan, Mooney, Byrne (capt); Farrell, Moore. Subs: King for Walsh (60 mins), Drew for Moore (85 mins)
  Referee: K. Murray (Tipperary).

Jan 04 1999
Kilkenny bring Ramblers back to earth with a bang
Kilkenny City 3
Cobh Ramblers 1
  HIGH-FLYING Cobh Ramblers had their wings clipped at Buckley Park when improving Kilkenny City boosted their promotion hopes with a fine win. On a heavy pitch Cobh started well and were in front after seven minutes.
  But by half-time they were behind and despite a whole hearted effort never looked like saving the match. The visitors were all action in the early stages and they deservedly took the lead in the 7th minute.
  Pat Keane crossed from the left and Keith Dalton was given an ocean of space from which to pick his spot before shooting to the net. This infused new life into Kilkenny. After 20 minutes they drew level. A vicious 20 yards free kick by Trevor Vaughan was saved by Keeper Alan O'Shea and the ball was knocked away for a corner. However, this kick on the right by Paul Cashin ended with the ball going straight into the net.
  Right on half-time Kilkenny took the lead. This time, Trevor Vaughan sent in a stinging low shot and when the keeper failed to hold the ball Ray Carolan bundled it home. While Cobh Ramblers were full of enterprise afterwards they created very few chances. Anthony Kenneally missed with a fine effort on the hour.
  Kilkenny finished strongly and after winning three corners kicked in succession they eventually punished an error in the Cobh defence. In attempting a back pass John Murphy left the ball short and reserve Jerry Goodwin pounced immediately and finished with aplomb from 16 yards on the right.
  KILKENNY CITY; Connelly; D Walsh, Carolan, Breen; R Walsh, Devereaux, Cashen, Kelly; Hale, Reddy, Rea. Res: Vaughan for Kelly (inj 12), P Walsh for Reddy (57), Goodwin for Hale (83).
  COBH RAMBLERS; O'Shea: Kelly, Byrne, Murphy; Maher, Dalton, Kenneally, Keane: Izzi, Frances, Coughlan. Res: Butler for Izzi (75), O'Connor for Dalton (85).
  Referee; J O'Neill (Waterford).

Jan 08 1999
  Cobh Ramblers' manager John O'Rourke will wait for a fitness report from right-back Pakie Kelly before finalising his team for their match against Garda, of the Leinster League, on Saturday at St Colman's Park.
  "If he is not fit then I will probably juggle the team around a little," said O'Rourke. "Seamus Ring could slot in there but he is not fit and I might promote Alan McDonagh from the reserves, he hasn't yet played for the first team."
  Cobh have had Garda watched by their Dublin-based delegate to the FAI, Michael Cody, and O'Rourke has been considering his report.
  "They will be big and strong and we expect a physical game," he said.
  "They like to play football though and that will suit us fine." Cobh's assistant manager Philip Long said: "We have been conceding some goals recently that we shouldn't be, and we will have to concentrate.
  "We went a goal ahead against Kilkenny last week and then lost three. That wasn't a reflection of the game, we were camped in their half for most of the game, but couldn't put it in the net."
  Cobh are doing so well in the race for promotion that one suspects their real ambitions rest in the League competition but a run in the Cup would not necessarily harm them.
  "It is a good break from the League for us," said manager O'Rourke.
  "We have dropped our standard a little bit in the last three or four games and it is good we can turn to the Cup in the hope of getting back to our winning ways."
  The pace of Tony Izzi and Sean Francis will trouble Garda but Cobh, above all others, will know of the dangers of under-estimating a non-league team.

  PHILIP LONG yesterday sounded a note of caution for FAI Cup favourites Cork City ahead of Sunday's visit to lowly Monaghan United at Gortakegan.
  Long, who won a Cup medal last season with Cork before switching to Cobh Ramblers as assistant manager, said; "I expect Cork to win the Cup again but they will under-estimate Monaghan at their peril."
  Long won a League Championship medal also in the course of a long and successful career with Cork and his position with Cobh Ramblers leaves him ideally placed to compare both teams.
  "There is no doubt Cork have players with the class to win the major trophies," he said."They have what I regard as the strongest panel of players in the country.
  "But while I expect them to do the damage in Monaghan, there is never any point in messing about with the Cup if you don't get it right on the day you're out; it's really as simple as that."

Jan 9 1999
Mellerick hoping for double celebration with Wanderers
by Conor George

  Mellerick himself is well used to the big match scenario after a playing career that saw him spend seven years with Cork Celtic, two with Waterford and the remainder of his career with his home club Cobh Ramblers as both player and manager.
  During his spell with Ramblers one of his most noteworthy achievements was captaining the then Munster Senior League side to the FAI Cup semi-finals in 1983, when they played Sligo Rovers in a four-game epic before eventually bowing out 1-0 in the third replay.
  As a manager he guided the fortunes of Rockmount for a season  before taking over at Ramblers for a four-year spell. During that period he guided them to premier division status before moving to Cobh Wanderers last season.

Jan 11 1999
Added-time blunder by O'Connor foils Cobh
Cobh Ramblers 2
Garda 2
by Noel Spillane
  YOUNG Liam O'Connor might well have some recurring nightmares about his added-time miss, but the fact of the matter is that a performance of some substance and steel from non-league Garda nearly producecd one of the shocks of this Harp Lager-sponsored FAI Cup weekend at St Colman's Park.
  The little Cobh winger, just back in the side after injury, missed a sitter two minutes into added-time when the ball caught up under his feet inside the six-yard box after Tony Izzi had picked him out with a terrific diagonal ball.
  That wasted opportunity forced a mid-week replay at Garda's Westmanstown's sports complex at Clonsilla in Dublin and happened just minutes after ex-Brighton trialist Dave O'Brien had equalised at 2-2 for the Leinster Senior League side with just three minutes of normal time to go.
  "Okay, the match had all the excitement, drama and passion of a Cup tie, but it was a depressing result for us given that we were supposed to be the home team, up against non-league opposition and expected to win," blasted Cobh boss John O'Rourke afterwards.
  It will be a backs-to-the-wall exercise for the Ramblers in Wednesday's replay, for cente-half Pat Maher and midfield ace Anthony Kenneally, who scored one of the goals on Saturday night, are both suspended.
  And to compound the situation for the travelling Ramblers, young midfielder Keith Dalton, who missed the first clash with a combination of 'flu and gastro-enteritis, is highly unlikely to recover in time for the return match which has a 1.45 p.m. kick-off.
  Garda, who are mid-table in the Leinster SL and in the quarter-finals of the FAI Intermediate Cup at home to Workmans-Dunleary next month, stunned the home team and their hardy supporters by taking the lead after just 11 minutes.
  Cobh struggled to clear a short corner and when Dave O'Brien's cross landed on the edge of the box there was big central defender Darren Coogan to volley the ball across goalkeeper Alan O'Shea and into the far corner of the net. Cobh could have been 2-0 down minutes later when Seán Mulhall's chipped effort grazed the crossbar.
  Anthony Kenneally saved Cobh's blushes when he equalised in the 44th minute as he rounded goalkeeper Vincent Daly before shooting low to the net after Tommy Bulter's incisive pass had opened up Garda's defensive ranks.
  Cobh grabbed a rather fortunate 2-1 lead after 57 minutes when Tony Izzi scored his first goal since November with a tap-in after goalkeeper Daly spilled Willie Byrne's free kick at the striker's feet and virtually on the goal-line.
  Ramblers were stunned once again when Garda made it 2-2 through returned exile Dave O'Brien with just three minutes to go. "I suppose Cobh shaded it on chances created but overall a draw was a reasonable result. We probably got out of jail in added-time, but we have a replay to look forward to now and we will give it our best shot again," said Garda manager Gus Keating.
  "I think we really shook Cobh and they will respect us even more for that come Wednesday. We will have a big crowd behind us and I think the soccer neutrals in and around Dublin will come out to support us too," added Keating.
  COBH RAMBLERS: O'Shea, Kelly, Murphy (capt), Maher, Byrne, Keane, Butler, Kenneally, L. O'Connor, Francis, Izzi. Subs: Coughlan for Keane (74 mins), D. O'Connor, Long, Cregoe, Bennis (not used).
  GARDA: Daly, McCarthy, Coogan (capt), McElroy, Cooney, S. Mulhall, Schutte, O'Hanlon, O'Brien, D. Mulhall, Hearne. Subs: Millar for S. Mulhall (83 mins), McCauley and Dempsey for McElroy and D. Mulhall (both 92 mins).
  Referee: J. Casey (Waterford).
  Gate receipts: £1,400.

Jan 14 1999
Cobh hit six in rout of the men in blue
Garda 1
Cobh Ramblers 6
by Noel Spillane
  TONY IZZI helped himself to a four-goal haul as Garda's lingering romance with the Harp Lager FAI Cup was blown into oblivion by Cobh at the magnificent Westmanstown sports complex near Lucan, Co. Dublin yesterday. Three first-half goals in a magical five-minute spell crushed the Cup minnows.
  Cobh now head for the Sligo Showgrounds early next month to rekindle memories of their 1983 FAI Cup semi-final epic with Sligo Rovers in the second round.
  "I am delighted to be back among the goals again because I had hit something of a goals drought in the last few weeks," said Izzi.
  "I think the third goal gave me the most satisfaction because that gave me the hat-trick and the match ball.
  "It was good to score so many because I had not scored since November," added a mud-splattered Izzi, whose league and Cup tally now stands at 16 for the season.
  Under the watchful eye of Garda Commissioner, Mr. Pat Byrne, the mid-table Leinster Senior League team looked out of their depth from the start.
  Cobh were far more assured and direct in their approach. Their neat, crisp passing game stretched the Garda side's defensive resilience to the maximum.
  It was one-way traffic from the start on an overcast afternoon and after Sean Francis had twice cracked the ball off the outside of the same upright and wide in the 15th and 18th minutes, the omens were not good for the 'boys in blue'.
  Full-back Willie Byrne forced goalkeeper Vinny Daly to a fine diving save from a free kick as early as the 10th minute. The only thing that baffled the few pockets of watching fans on the sidelines was how long it took the Ramblers to break the deadlock. Daly also saved well from a Sean Francis drive at the end of a mazy run and then mid-way through, Izzi only just failed to connect with a Francis cross right in front of goal.
  The breakthrough came after 33 minutes when Paul Coughlan's exquisite ball split the home defence and after Izzi cut inside Darren Coogan's tackle on the edge of the box and switched the ball to his left foot, he scored with a low drive into the corner of the net.
  Cobh went on a bit of a goal-scoring spree then, making it 2-0 two minutes later when Izzi tapped the ball home. Tommy Cregoe's shot was blocked by Daly but the ball spun away from him for Izzi to gleefully pounce on the loose ball.
  Liam O'Connor, the young man who might have won the first match in Cobh had he produced a better finish deep in added time, scored direct from a 38th minute corner to give Cobh the cushion of a three-goal half-time lead.
  The Garda team put the pressure on at the start of the second half. They were rewarded with a consolation goal when Darren Coogan scored a controversial goal after 78 minutes. Liam O'Connor back on the goal-line cleared Coogan's drive off the line but the linesman on the near side signalled to the referee Hubert Byrne that the ball had crossed the goal-line and the 'goal' stood.
  However, O'Connor was adamant afterwards that the ball never crossed the goal-line. Cobh were spurred back to life by that disputed goal and they scored three more goals in the closing four minutes. Izzi completed his hat-trick making it 4-1 after 86 minutes. Sean Francis cracked home a fifth goal inside a minute.
  Then it was that man Izzi who bagged his fourth goal of the afternoon to give Cobh one of their biggest ever away victories in the FAI Cup.
  GARDA: Daly; O'Hanlon (capt), Coogan, McElroy; Cooney, Schutte, Dempsey, S. Mulhall, O'Brien; D. Mulhall, Hearne. Subs. Millar for Dempsey (half-time), McAuley for Hearne (77 mins) and Doherty for D. Mulhall (89 mins).
  COBH RAMBLERS: O'Shea; Kelly, Byrne, Murphy (capt), Cregoe; L. O'Connor, Butler, Keane, Coughlan; Francis, Izzi.
  Referee: Hubert Byrne (Dublin)

Jan 25 1999
Ramblers go joint top as Maher scores first goal
Cobh Ramblers 2
Longford Town 0
by Noel Spillane
  COBH RAMBLERS were happy with their two-goal win over Longford Town over the weekend but none more so that centre-half Pat Maher. The ex-College Corinthians star, in his first season with Cobh, was celebrating his first League of Ireland goal after he fired the home team into a 2-0 lead ten minutes from the end to seal the Ramblers' latest victory.
  Cobh left it late with their two goals coming in the last 15 minutes but they now join Drogheda United and Galway United in a three-way tie at the top of the promotion race with all three clubs on 39 points though Drogheda do have games in hand.
  "I felt we left it late okay but we deserved to win tonight,"" said Cobh boss John O'Rourke.
  "At least, we prevented them from chalking up a hat-trick of wins over us and I was well pleased with that," added O'Rourke, whose side face Limerick at Rathbane on Friday night (7.30) before they go into their Harp Lager FAI Cup second round tie away to Sligo Rovers early next month.
  "It was something of a novelty for us to score from set-pieces because we are not known for that and both goals were similar in their execution on the night,"" said O'Rourke from his sick bed yesterday. The action was watched by Irish U-21 boss Ian Evans and while Willie Byrne, Liam O'Connor and Keith Dalton were the only Cobh players to fall into that age category, he was adamant that he had no agenda in Cobh.
  Tony Izzi, who hit four goals against the Garda in the Cup volleyed over early on and Paul Coughlan just failed to connect with a great Liam O'Connor cross as Cobh, inspired by a revitalised Pat Keane in midfield, carried the game to the visitors.
  Sean Francis headed over the bar from in front of goal from Willie Byrne's 25th minute corner and the only real surprise over the half-time cuppa was the fact that Cobh were held scoreless.
  Pat Maher and Pat Keane picked up bookings in quick succession on the restart and mid-way through it took a tremendous ball-winning challenge from Willie Byrne on Enda Kenny to prevent Longford taking a shock lead.
  Cobh persisted with their Route One approach as they continually pumped high balls into the box but with two of the smallest strikers in the league in Izzi and Francis it made life very easy for Longford's fresh-faced defenders and they lapped it up.
  The breakthough goal came after 76 minutes when Paul Coughlan spun over a free kick from the left. Anthony Kenneally, back in the side after missing the Cup tie because of suspension, met it well but goalkeeper Stephen O'Brien parried the ball on to the crossbar and out.
  But there was the goal-poacher himself Izzi to gleefully smack the loose ball home. It was his 13th league goal of the season and his 17th overall.
  Ten minutes from the end Pat Maher's moment of glory arrived when he fired the ball high into the roof of the net in a crowded goalmouth to seal Cobh's win and ease them back into a shared leadership of the First Division.
  Cobh had to survive two other anxious moments when goalkeeper Alan O'Shea and Liam O'Connor combined to keep the visitors out in the dying minutes.
  "I wasn't happy with the way we played at all tonight. We defended poorly for both goals and we have gone off the boil a bit in the last few weeks," said Longford's Stephen Kenny, whose side set the early pace in the promotion race.
  COBH RAMBLERS: O'Shea; Kelly, Murphy (capt), Maher, Byrne; O'Connor, Keane, Kenneally, Coughlan; Izzi, Francis. Subs. Butler for Kenneally (87 mins), Dalton for O'Connor (89 mins) and Cregoe for Maher (90 mins); Long & Bennis (not used).
  LONGFORD TOWN: O'Brien; Byrne (capt), Thompson, McNally, Flanagan; V. Perth, Kenny, P. Perth, Lundy; Vaughan, Zellor. Subs. Toland for P. Perth (65 mins), Farrell for Lundy (78 mins); Gavin & McHugh (not used).
  Referee: Joe Casey (Waterford).

Feb 03 1999
Ramblers knocked out of Cup
Cobh Ramblers 0
Rockmount 0
AET, Rockmount won 5-3 on penalties
  ROCKMOUNT of the Munster Senior League scored a thrilling penalty shoot-out victory over Cobh Ramblers to qualify for the Munster Senior Cup semi-final at St. Colman's Park last night.
  The sides failed to score despite extra time but Rockmount showed their accuracy from the penalty spot when they scored all five attempts. Jason Lynch, Declan Foley, Michael Deasy, Brian Walsh and Alan Falvey hit the target to give Rockmount their 5-3 victory. Cobh's successful penalty takers were Keith Dalton, Tommy Butler and team skipper John Murphy.
  The sides were level at 3-3 in the shoot out before Cobh slipped up and missed their fourth kick. Rockmount now join Cork City, College Corinthians and Everton in the semi-finals.
  COBH RAMBLERS: O'Shea; Kelly, Long, Murphy, Byrne; O'Connor, Butler, Dalton, Clifford; Coughlan, Quinlan.
  ROCKMOUNT; Cassidy; Lynch, Lane, Busteed; Yelverton, Falvey, Martin, Oldham, Cullinane; Deasy, Walsh, subs. O'Sullivan for Cullinane, O'Brien for Yelverton, Foley for Busteed (all second half).
  Referee:. A. Buttimer (Cork).

Feb 08 1999
Ramblers bundled out despite gallant effort
Sligo Rovers 2
Cobh Ramblers 1
by Noel Spillane
  COBH RAMBLERS were within nine minutes of banishing the ghosts of '83 and probably deserved a replay, at least, at the Sligo Showgrounds on Saturday.
  John O'Rourke's young ghost-busters had a Paul Coughlan "goal" disallowed after 73 minutes when referee, John Stacey of Athlone, called back play after Tommy Butler's quickly taken free kick set Cobh towards the home goal. Butler picked out Liam O'Connor on the right wing and when his inch-perfect cross was fired home by Coughlan, the visitors' felt they had won the match. But play was whistled up by the referee as Cobh's Tony Izzi lay injured on the pitch and the 'goal' was ruled out.
  "It was a little controversial okay to have it ruled out. It was a quickly taken free kick and that's something that I try to encourage in the team. I know it was one of our own players that was down but we were penalised on our own free kick and, perhaps, the referee could have
allowed the advantage," said Cobh boss John O'Rourke.
  The Cobh boss worked as a ball-boy back in 1983 when Sligo took Cobh to four games before they finally won through to the decider where they beat Bohemians by 2-1 at Dalymount Park.
  "The sad thing for us is that the ball ended up in the back of the net and was a perfectly legitimate goal but we suffered for taking a quick free kick. It's hard to say what the outcome might have been if we'd scored then and led 2-1 with less than 15 minutes to go," he added.
  There was little to choose between the teams even though Cobh had to absorb the bulk of the second half pressure after they grabbed a sensational lead through Sean Francis just 19 minutes into the game.
  "It's very upsetting for the lads because they know they were not outplayed, they were not played off the park tonight and we should have had a replay, at least, out of this one," he added. Goals from Dutchman John Hoeks and Glen Shannon clinched Sligo's place in the last eight.
  It was Hoeks' first goal in four games since he arrived in Sligo on a free transfer from Belgium but one that earned him an extended loan spell at the Showgrounds.
  Cobh missed the midfield influence of the suspended Pat Keane and experienced centre-half Pat Maher was ruled out by injury on a night when Sligo's Mark Hutchinson won the Harp Lager sponsored man-of-the-match award.
  Sligo's Nicky Reid was convinced the game would go to a replay before he made the vital match-winning changes in the last quarter.
  "The last thing we wanted was to have to go all the way back down to Cork and Cobh in the middle of the week and I think I will have to stand young Glen Shannon a drink or two tonight."
  Reid continued: "It was a sweet strike from Glen Shannon and one that was worthy of winning the game. He has been out injured for some time but what a comeback he's made now."
  SLIGO ROVERS: Brujos; McLynn, Sheridan, Charles, Lynch; Hutchinson, Ogden, Reid, Rowlands; Hoeks, Oates. Subs. Shannon for Oates (75 mins), Flannery for Hoeks (80 mins).
  COBH RAMBLERS: O'Shea; Kelly, Murphy, Byrne, Cregoe; O'Connor, Kenneally, Butler, Coughlan; Izzi, Francis. Subs. Dalton for O'Connor (86); Long for Byrne (inj 92).
  Referee: J. Stacey (Athlone).

Mar 01 1999
Drogheda rout Cobh to confirm title credentials
Drogheda United 4
Cobh Ramblers 1
  DROGHEDA hammered out a timely warning to their main rivals in the National League first division title race with a hugely impressive defeat of a very disappointing Cobh side at United Park on Saturday night.
  The Boynesiders produced their best 45 minutes of football this season to go 3-0 up before half-time. Although their display after the interval lacked the same fluidity, they could have added another three in the second-half.
  It was a pleasing night for young striker Mark Revins - one of three United players sent off in Galway a week earlier - who claimed his first hat-trick in senior football and the first hat-trick in the division in over a year.
  He could barely hide his delight afterwards. "It was really nice to get the goals but to be honest it didn't matter who scored. We were on fire in the first-half but we knew we could play like that," said Revins who missed two other chances including one ten minutes from the finish when he hit the side netting having pulled the ball wide of Cobh keeper Alan O'Shea.
  But if Revins was the home side's man of the match, teenage winger Derek Thornton, who laid on three of the goals and also scored one, wasn't far behind and was praised by his team mate.
  "Degser was superb and his crossing was terrific," said Revins, who is in no doubt that Drogheda will be promoted.
  "It was great to bounce back like that after last week's fiasco and it will give people something else to talk about this week."
  "We are the best team in the League and we will be up there in the Premier Division next season battling with the big boys."
  The game was five minutes old when Drogheda got their first with Revins racing on to a perfectly weighted through ball before squeezing his shot inside O'Shea's right hand upright.
  Ten minutes later he claimed a second when stabbing home from close range after James Impey directed a far post Thornton cross back across the Ramblers' goals. It was Thornton who claimed the third after 25 minutes, rifling an 18 yard shot past O'Shea following good work by Fergal Coleman on the edge of the area.
  At the end, Ramblers' boss John O'Rourke held his hands up and admitted his side's promotion hopes had taken a battering for the second time in a week.
  "We were terrible in the first-half and never got going at all over the 90 minutes. We had a number of players coming back from injury and it showed," said a disappointed O'Rourke.
  Ramblers looked to have good claims for a penalty turned down after Impey handled inside his own area before the break. But the Cobh boss made no excuses for his side's poor display.
  "I don't want to get into that. We have lost the game and to the better side and you couldn't take anything away from Drogheda after a performance like that. We had hoped to get something out of this match but instead we are left with an awful lot to do if we are to make up lost ground and get ourselves back in contention for promotion."
  The one bright spark for Ramblers came six minutes into the second-half when a dreadful mix-up in the home defence between keeper Gareth Byrne and Impey - Drogheda's other two red card victims last week - allowed Paul Coughlan the opportunity to shoot to an empty net. But the visitors' joy was shortlived and Revins copper fastened the win when completing his hat-trick with a close range header seven minutes later.
  DROGHEDA UNITED: Byrne, A. Murphy, Boyle, Impey, Maher, O'Keeffe, Coleman, Fox, Revins, O'Dowd, Thornton. Sub. C. Murphy for O'Keeffe (53 mins).
  COBH RAMBLERS: O'Shea, Kelly, Cregoe, Murphy, Maher, Kenneally, Coughlan, Keane, Izzy, Byrne, O'Connor. Subs. Butler for Byrne (53 mins), Dalton for Kenneally (68 mins), Clifford for O'Connor (85 mins).
  Referee: Eddie Barr (Dublin)

Mar 15 1999
Battlers slip up as Ramblers continue surge
Cobh Ramblers 2
St Francis 0
by Conor George
  ST FRANCIS are hardly the envy of any other side in the National League. They are the only amateur side left playing in the League of Ireland, are long-term residents at the foot of the First Division and last tasted success on September 2, 1998.
  Life could hardly be more difficult for the side that caused shock waves back in 1990 when they qualified for the FAI Cup final while still playing in the Leinster Senior League.
  Their present predicament could hardly be a greater contrast to that balmy Sunday when they paraded their stuff during the domestic game's showcase match. Two wins, 11 draws and 10 points adrift at the wrong end of the table tell the tale of a club struggling to make the breakthrough in what is a semi-professional league.
  Despite this rather bleak outline of life as Irish soccer's whipping boys, St. Francis, insists manager Jimmy Harte, are far from being disillusioned.
  "We own the two pitches at our home ground and we do have plans to continue to upgrade our facilities. There is no way that we are going to leave the League of Ireland. We are here for the long haul.
  "Obviously it is very difficult to keep going but there is no going back. We have done all we can in both the Leinster Senior League and the junior division so this is a new challenge for us and one that we are determined to answer positively."
  St Francis' latest outing against Cobh Ramblers on Saturday night at St Colman's Park once again ended in disappointment for the Dubin side when two Paul Coughlan goals, one in each half, gave Cobh the full points and propelled them into fourth place in the league.
  Apart from standing out because of their position in the league, St Francis are also unique in that they are the only team playing in either division in the National League to still be a totally amateur club.
  Instead of their players receiving wages for playing, they fork out week-in-week-out to help with the finances incurred in running the club.
  "We are obviously a breeding ground for young players who will eventually be snapped up by clubs who will offer them money to play but we are trying to upgrade our facilities and need every penny. If we got into the practice of paying players then we would have nothing left.
  "We are only at the first stage of our development as a National League side and while it is difficult for the players to keep going every week all I can do is keep encouraging them."
  COBH RAMBLERS; O'Shea, Kelly, Cregoe, Murphy, Maher, Butler, Coughlan, Izzi, Dalton, O'Connor. Subs; Quinlan for Coughlan (87 mins), Clifford for Keane (89 mins).
  ST. FRANCIS; Gallagher, Connolly, Tracey, Donnelly, McNally, O'Sullivan, Ward, Murphy, DeCourcey, Irwin, Ledwidge. Hevey for McNally (half-time), Heffernan for Donnelly (60 mins), Hart for Decourcy (76 mins).
  Referee; M. O'Brien, Clare.

Mar 22 1999
Coughlan winner keeps Cobh in promotion hunt
Home Farm/Everton 0
Cobh Ramblers 1
  COBH RAMBLERS kept up their chase for promotion to the Premier Division with a crucial win over struggling Home Farm Everton at Whitehall on Saturday night. The victory was the perfect tonic for John O'Rourke's side to take on Kilkenny City at home next Sunday in what is an equally important game for the Cobh outfit.
  Poor defending contributed to the home side's down fall following a bright start from Liam Byrne's side. They showed plenty of endeavour down the flank but at times required an older head to settle things down. The problem stemmed from the uncertain displays by the two centre-backs John Costigan and Justin Gleeson.
  Gleeson was turned over on several occasions by Cobh striker Tony Izzi who created all sorts of trouble for Home Farm. The all important score came after 61 minutes when Gleeson failed to clear a simple ball allowing Paul Coughlan to shoot home from inside the penalty area.
  Farm's only real strike of the game came just on half time when Darrell Mooney pounced from the edge of the box but keeper Alan O'Shea was alert to the danger.
  The only dint on O'Rourke's night was a similar 1-0 victory by fellow promotion candidates Kilkenny City but he was relishing next Sunday's home game against them which could well settle which team takes the crucial third place play-off spot.
  "Tonight was the game of two halves but the goal certainly calmed the nerves," said O'Rourke afterwards.
  "It sets us up for what should be a cracking game against Kilkenny at the weekend."
  HOME FARM/EVERTON: Whelan, Keenan, Gleeson, Costigan, Benson, McAuley, Mooney, Byrne, Flanagan, Kierans, Moore.
  COBH RAMBLERS: O'Shea, Kelly, Maher, Murphy, Cregoe, Keane, Dalton, Butler, O'Connor, Coughlan, Izzi. Subs. Kenneally for Butler (53 mins), Byrne for Murphy (60 mins), Francis for O'Connor (81 mins).
  Referee: D. Hanney (Dublin).

Mar 29 1999
Coughlan on target again as Cobh go on scoring spree
Cobh Ramblers 4
Kilkenny City 0
by Conor George
  COBH RAMBLERS look to have saved their best form for this vital stage of the season as they turned in a superb second-half performance to contemptuously brush aside the challenge of fellow-promotion hopefuls Kilkenny City at St Colman's Park yesterday.
  After nearly losing their way at the mid-way stage of the season when they went through a disastrous run of results, Cobh have once again re-found their early season form and are looking likely candidates for a play-off spot at the end of the season.
  Much of the credit for Cobh's re-emergence in the race for promotion honours can be put down to the form of converted striker Paul Coughlan who is enjoying a new lease of life since being moved from the right-wing to a more central position.
  Coughlan has been a revelation for the First Division side in recent weeks and yesterday he struck two goals to take his tally to seven in the last five games. After what was a very poor opening 45 minutes, Cobh burst into life nine minutes after the resumption, with Coughlan producing the necessary inspiration.
  After good work on the wing by half-time substitute Sean Francis - he played a clever ball to Tony Izzi and when the diminutive striker flicked it on, Coughlan was on hand to coolly slot the ball past John Moran with his left leg for the game's opener.
  Up until Coughlan's opportunist strike Cobh had looked a tired team but his opening goal had the desired effect and Cobh looked a different prospect for the remainder of the game. Kilkenny did have a new look to the side, lining out with former Nottingham Forest striker Tommy Gaynor at centre-half but he was always playing a losing game against the twin strike-force of Coughlan and Izzi for Cobh.
  Both players combined brilliantly throughout the second half and Izzi was rewarded for his industrious work after 59 minutes when he raced past a tired looking Gaynor to latch onto a booming kick-out from Alan O'Shea to beat the Kilkenny keeper with a perfectly executed strike.
  Izzi showed his delight with the goal by racing to the fans and sharing a hug with an equally delighted Cobh chairman John O'Rourke. Cobh were running riot at this stage and seven minutes later were three goal up when Izzi was bundled over in the penalty area by Kilkenny's David Breen and Francis made no mistake with the resultant penalty.
  Kilkenny were put on the rack once again six minutes from time when Coughlan benefited from a Tommy Cregoe through pass and rounded the keeper before grabbing his second goal of the game.
  COBH RAMBLERS; O'Shea, Kelly, Byrne, Murphy, Maher, Kenneally, Coughlan, Cregoe, Izzi, Dalton, O'Connor. Subs: Francis for O'Connor (inj half-time); Bennis for O'Shea (inj 81 mins); Butler for Keneally 87 mins).
  KILKENNY CITY: Moran, Arrigan, Gaynor, Breen, D. Walsh, P. Walsh, Cashin, Power, Vaughan, Reddy, Carolan. Subs; Hale & R. Walsh for Vaughan & Carolan (64 mins); Bowman for Cashin (6 mins).
  Referee; P. McKeon, Dublin.

Apr 05 1999
Referee's handling of game attacked by both sides
Cobh Ramblers 2
Athlone Town 2
by Conor George
  REFEREE Declan Hanney was the main talking point at St Colman's Park on Saturday night as his poor handling of the game came in for fierce criticism from both camps throughout the 90 minutes.
  Over the course of the game, Hanney saw fit to award a penalty for either side, both of which were missed, and send a player from either side to the line Paul Coughlan from Cobh and Athlone's Keith Colsh for an altercation after 27 minutes, and all this inside the opening 45 minutes! Such was the frustration of Cobh manager John O'Rourke that, yesterday morning, more than 12 hours after the game, he was still incensed enough to take time out to criticise Hanney's handling of the game.
  "It is not that the referee was for either side. He was simply disgraceful for both of us. I think that he showed on last night's performance that he is not capable of officiating at this level.
  "I know that there may be repercussions for me for saying that, but the simple truth of the matter was that he was brutal. Everyone in the ground and both teams saw that and there is no point in hiding away from it," said O'Rourke.
  Hanney first came in for criticism after 25 minutes with the score tied at 1-1. Pat Maher blatantly upended Athlone's Stephen Mullen and despite the visiting bench agreeing with Cobh that the incident clearly occurred outside the box, Hanney showed no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot.
  Two minutes after Paul McGee had wasted the opportunity by blasting high and wide, Coughlan was sent off for retaliation after becoming entangled with Colsh, and only after his lineman drew attention to Colsh's part in the drama did Hanney reduce both teams to 10 men.
  Athlone had the better start to the evening's proceedings when Alan Oliver connected brilliantly with a Michael Collins cross to beat Alan O'Shea with a well-struck half-volley 16 minutes into the match. Cobh were then further weakened five minutes later when Willie Byrne was forced to retire after sustaining a facial injury, but his replacement, Seán Francis, had an immediate effect when, a mere 60 seconds after his introduction, he whipped in a perfectly-flighted cross that Tom Silke turned into his own net.
  The half-hour mark saw Cobh return the favour done them by McGee when Tony Izzi's poorly-struck penalty was easily gathered by Gary Connaughton, but the striker's blushes were saved a minute later when Anthony Kenneally benefited from good work by Francis to put his side into the lead.
  Cobh turned over with their one-goal lead intact, thanks in the main to the brilliance of Alan O'Shea when he acrobatically denied Silke with a superb diving save, but their lead was short-lived as, three minutes after the resumption Gary Devine levelled proceedings following a Stephen Mullen pass.
  Cobh's share of the spoils does just about enough to take them into second spot on goal difference over Galway United, but with only four games remaining in their league programme they can ill-afford another slip-up.
  COBH RAMBLERS: O'Shea. Kelly, Byrne, Murphy, Maher, Kenneally, Coughlan , Keane, Izzi, Dalton, , Cregoe. Subs; Francis for Byrne (inj 20 minutes), Butler for Kenneally (70 mins).
  ATHLONE TOWN: Connaughton, Oliver, Houlihan, Silke, Colsh, Finn, Kelly, Collins, Mullen, Mullen, McGee, Devine. Subs; McLoughlin for Finn (32 mins), Patton for Collins (half-time), Carberry for McGee (59 mins).
  Referee: D. Hanney (Dublin).

April 12 1999
O'Shea on fire for Ramblers
Longford Town 0
Cobh Ramblers 1
  COBH RAMBLERS maintained their strong challenge for promotion in the First Division of the National League when they beat Longford Town at the Strokestown Road Grounds on Saturday night and are now in clear second spot.
  Delighted Cobh manager, John O'Rourke feels that his side can now clinch the second automatic promotion spot and while he felt his charges were lucky to collect all three valuable points, he praised the brilliance of goalkeeper, Alan O'Shea for keeping the Ramblers net intact. The only goal of the game came a minute into injury-time at the end of the first-half when Anthony Kenneally was left with the simple task of tapping the ball into the net after Longford keeper, Stephen O'Brien had done well to push a header by Paul Coughlan against the bar.
  The home side came storming back in the second- half but some poor finishing, allied to some outstanding saves by O'Shea denied Longford a share of the spoils. Their best chance of an equaliser came in the 74th minute when O'Shea somehow managed to keep out a point blank shot from Stephen Kelly which deflected off the crossbar and the ball was cleared.
  LONGFORD TOWN; O'Brien, McNally, Byrne, Thompson, P. Perth, Gavin, Kelly, V. Perth, Kenny, Farrell, Zellor. Subs; Creedon for Vincent Perth (inj, 20mins), Lundy for Zellor (74mins), O'Connor for Kenny (74mins).
  COBH RAMBLERS; O'Shea, Kelly, Byrne, Murphy, Maher, Kenneally, Coughlan, Keane, Izzi, Dalton, Cregoe. Subs; Francis for Cregoe (72mins), Butler for Coughlan (90mins).
  Referee; P. Whelan, Dublin.

Apr 19 1999
Ramblers, Limerick share spoils
Cobh Ramblers 1
Limerick FC 1
by Conor George
  COBH RAMBLERS used up more than their fair share of luck at St. Colman's Park on Saturday night when they somehow managed to hold Limerick to a draw.
  Cobh may have taken the lead in this encounter through a Pat Keane header after only six minutes but it was Limerick who went on to dominate the game, hitting the Cobh crossbar on no fewer than four occasions.
  In a first-half that had to be interrupted for 10 minutes when match referee had to be replaced after injuring his back, Cobh had looked set to further close the gap on league leaders Drogheda United when Keane put them in front.
  After starting the game at a ferocious pace Cobh pushed forward from the word go as they went in search of the three points that would have furthered their dream of playing Premier Division football next season.
  Everything seemed to be going according to plan when Kenneally sent a lobbed ball to the far post of the Limerick goal where Pat Keane was on hand to rise above the defenders and head home.However, Keane's goal had the effect of giving Limerick renewed determination.
  They should have been back on level terms after 24 minutes when a defensive mix-up gave Bobby Ryan the time and space to threaten the Cobh goal but he was denied by a brilliant double save from Alan O'Shea.
  If Cobh had lived near the edge by keeping Limerick at bay during the first-half they almost pulled off a miracle for the second 45 minutes when they soaked up an amazing amount of Limerick pressure. After a very poor run of results during the season Limerick have turned their fortunes around in tremendous fashion in recent weeks and Saturday night emphasised just how much they have improved.
  For the full duration of the second 45 minutes they threw everything at Cobh, dominating to such an extent that they kept Cobh's goal chances down to just one after 84 minutes when Tony Izzi tried to lift the ball over the keeper but steered it wide.
  With the clock ticking by Cobh appeared to have done just about enough to hang onto the three points despite being outplayed for the second-half when Limerick substitute Eoin Keating had a decisive impact. During yet another Limerick attack the ball broke to Keating on the edge of the six yard box and he somehow steered his header through the crowded goalmouth and into the net to give Limerick a share of the spoils.
  COBH RAMBLERS: O'Shea, Kelly, Byrne, Murphy, Maher, Kenneally, Coughlan, Keane, Izzi, Dalton, Francis. Subs; Cregoe for Keane (56 mins), O'Connor for Byrne (78 mins).
  LIMERICK: Fyfe, Hanrahan, Finnan, Hughes, D. Whyte, Smith, B. Ryan, G. Ryan, Doyle, J. Whyte, Considine. Subs; King for Doyle (57 mins), Keating for Hanrahan (78 mins).
  Referee: J. Feighrey (Dublin).

Apr 22 1999
Fate of Ramblers to be decided in Galway clash
by Conor George
  COBH RAMBLERS could not have expected a more dramatic climax to the season as, with two games remaining in their league campaign, their fate will be decided on Friday night when they take on Galway United at Terryland Park.
  After a season during which they topped the league and then slumped alarmingly, they are now in a position where a win on Friday will ensure them promotion to the top flight while having the cushion of knowing they are, at least, guaranteed a play-off spot.
  Their new manager John O'Rourke and his assistant Philip Long could not have asked for a more interesting (and perhaps frustrating) introduction to the management side of the National League with a club that have been see-sawing between the two divisions ever since they first entered the league in 1984.
  Throughout the years Cobh Ramblers have been an enigma in the National League. They have churned out players of international calibre such as Roy Keane as well as having some of the best players in the Irish domestic scene on their books, such as Frank O'Neill, George Mellerick, Patsy Freyne and even O'Rourke himself, but they have never enjoyed a sustained period at the top.
  Apart from being one of Cobh's most successful transfers (to Shelbourne) O'Rourke's ties to the club run to his father, also John, who is chairman of the club. At 27, John has the distinction of being the youngest manager in the Irish game, and while managing the side will never fully compensate for having to stop playing because of injury it does, O'Rourke says, keep him involved in the game.
  This weekend O'Rourke and his team face their biggest test of character to date. They are coming back from an atrocious showing against Limerick last weekend, when they were extremely fortunate to get away with a 1-1 draw and have the added pressure of knowing that their future is in their own hands.
  "Myself and Philip (Long) have been telling the lads we can do no more for them now. It is up to them to produce the goods on the pitch. They know a win on Friday will see us go up automatically, and it is now down to their attitude on the night. We are in a winner-takes-all situation and they must prove they have the bottle for the game.
  "We have shown that we can beat them in their place, and they have beaten us at home, so it all comes down to this meeting and which set of players want it more. I know we are capable of winning and taking that second spot but my belief alone will not win the game for us, only the players can do that," said O'Rourke.
  After their blistering start to the season Cobh began to experience chronic injury problems, and as a result their form suffered, and points were dropped. As a result their chances of gaining top flight status began to fade with every passing match.
 "We went through a bad patch but the players responded to that challenge and I expect them to respond again in Terryland Park. We were written off by many and yet we are still here and in with a great chance which is a testament to the players."
  Over the years gaining promotion has never been too much of a problem for the Cobh club, but once achieved has proved a singularly difficult task for them to maintain, a problem that has not escaped their present manager.
  "Cobh have been up and down over the years, and everyone knows the Premier Division is the only place to be, and while we will cross the bridge of attempting to stay when we do get up there it is clear that there are certain things we will have to do.
  "Obviously the squad will have to be strengthened, and that means that players will have to be brought in. The club as a whole and by that I mean the players, management, members and supporters will have to come together as a unit if we are to function properly, but that is for another day. I just want to concentrate of winning promotion first.
  "At the start of the season, when Philip and myself came on board, promotion was our only aim, and to be in this situation where we are at least going to have a play-off spot is a tremendous feeling. To be honest if we don't get the second automatic spot I will be hugely disappointed, but as we said at the start we want to be playing in the top flight any way we can.
  "We know we are in a winner takes all situation but so are Galway, and they have proved that they are quality opposition. The score is 1-1 between us this season and the bottom line is that it will come do to who wants it more on the night and I think that will be us," O'Rourke added.