Roy Keane and Martin O’Neill with Ciarán McMahon of Henry Ford & Son Limited (centre). (Picture: John Allen)

The Republic of Ireland men’s international football team were in Cork recently for a training camp at Fota Island Resort in preparation ahead of the team’s key World Cup qualifying game at the Aviva Stadium against Austria on Sunday June 11. 

During the team’s visit to Cork, Ford Ireland chief, Ciarán McMahon, met with team Manager, Martin O’Neill and his Assistant Manager, Corkonian Roy Keane, and in this centenary year of Ford in Ireland, the three discussed the company’s long and rich football heritage.

The Fordsons FC team with the 1926 Free State Cup: (Back) Paddy Kelly; Mal McKinny; Dinny Driscoll; (Centre) L R Dalton (finance); Sally Connolly; Barney Collins; Bill O’Hagan; Jack Caribine; Jack Baylor; Jack Finn (Trainer); J Leddy. (Front): Percy Rocky (Treasurer); Billy Hannon; Jack Sullivan (Captain); Frank Brady; H Scott (Manager Ford Cork); Harry Buckle; Dave Roberts; Paddy Barry; PJ Gilhooley (Secretary).

Very soon after production started in the factory that Henry Ford established in 1917, football fans at the plant set up the Fordsons FC team and went on to play in the Munster Senior League and in the Free State Cup, the forerunner of today’s FAI Cup.

In only their second year as a League of Ireland team during the 1925/26 tournament, Fordsons FC defied expectations and went all the way to the final where they met seasoned campaigners, Shamrock Rovers, who were the cup holders from the previous year.

The St. Patrick’s Day 1926 final which took place at Dalymount Park in Dublin was a thrilling affair for the thousands of loyal fans from Cork who took the train to Dublin in support of ‘the Tractors’ – the nickname for the Fordsons team.

In a hard fought game in which the Tractors were behind twice and Rovers missed a penalty, Fordsons eventually won out with a winning goal two minutes from time to clinch the game 3-2.

The homecoming party for the winning team was legendary and the names of all the Fordson heroes, among them Harry Buckle, Paddy Barry, captain Jack Sullivan and goalkeeper Bill O’Hagan who saved the penalty are spoken with pride to this day across Leeside.

“This year is special for us in Ford as we celebrate the rare achievement of 100 years in business in Ireland”, said Ciarán McMahon. “And among that rich history is the great sporting tradition that was born among the factory workers including the great achievements of Fordsons FC. 100 years later we are carrying on that tradition as Ford is official vehicle partner of the FAI, football is still hugely important to us”.

Martin O’Neill said: “It was great to be here for our training camp in Cork, a county where sporting traditions run very deep, and football has been a huge part of that. Indeed, that is true right up to today, look at Cork City FC who are the current holders of the FAI Cup. During our visit to Cork it was also great to remember the wonderful achievement of the Fordsons FC team in 1926 – a factory team winning the national tournament, which is the stuff of dreams. Congratulations to Ciarán and the Ford team on achieving the great milestone of 100 years in business.”