Cork Hammers welcome West Ham

Sunday's pre-season fixture between West Ham United and Cork City will be particularly special for one group of supporters.

The Cork Hammers supporters' club was formed in 1994, but the links between the southern Irish city and east London go back much further.

Nearly 100 years ago, in 1918, the Ford Motor Company opened a plant in Cork - the ancestral home of the Ford family - followed five years later by a second plant in Dagenham. As the east London plant continued to expand, many workers moved over from Ireland to continue their employment.


The links grew during the 1940s and 1950s, when a succession of Ireland's top players swapped the Emerald Isle for the Boleyn Ground - Cork United midfielder Tommy Moroney and wing-half Frank O'Farrell, Cork Athletic full-back Noel Cantwell, Shamrock Rovers centre forward Freddie Kearns and Shelbourne inside forward Danny McGowan among them.

Thanks to the support of Cork Hammers chairman Stephen McCarthy and his fellow members, those links remain as strong as ever.

"My late uncle Jim worked with Ford in Dagenham in the 1970s and brought me home a West Ham shirt when I was just six years old," said McCarthy.

"This is a story that many fellow Cork Hammers will also repeat from that time. Despite having two older siblings supporting Leeds and Liverpool respectively, I was drawn by the passion that is West Ham and have not looked back since.

"Ford had a major car manufacturing plant in Cork dating back to the 1930s, as well, and many employees of the company transferred between the two.For this reason, and the fact that London was always so accessible from Ireland, there has been a long connection with the Irons."

Since the pioneering Moroney, O'Farrell, Kearns and Cantwell, West Ham have continued to attract some fine Irish players, including Noel Dwyer, Liam Brady, Robbie Keane and current squad members Joey O'Brien and Stephen Henderson.

"There is a long history of Irish players going to West Ham and passionate West Ham supporters in Ireland," McCarthy confirmed. "Our very own Sir Trevor Brooking even played two games for Cork City before his retirement in the 1980s.

"In fact, many Irish fans will tell you that West Ham are their second team. The history that goes with the Club and the fact that West Ham won the World Cup in 1966 resonates with many of us."

Nowadays, West Ham's presence in Ireland's second-largest county is personified by the Cork Hammers, who meet in the city to watch the team on television, while also making regular trips over the Irish Sea to the Boleyn Ground.

"Cork Hammers was founded in 1994 after a notice was placed in the local Evening Echo newspaper seeking fellow West Ham supporters in the Cork area to come together and form an official supporters' club," said McCarthy.

"The supporters' club was formed by Denis O'Donovan, John Kelleher and Brendan Ryan and took up residency in the aptly-named Sir Geoff Hurst room in the Telecom Social Club on MacCurtain Street in the city.

"Membership grew over the years and several ups and downs were witnessed, either on trips to the Boleyn, Cardiff, Wembley or indeed on TV here in Cork.

"The Cork Hammers have grown ever since and the visit of the Irons to Leeside, we hope, will encourage further Cork Hammers to join the club."

The Cork Hammers will be out in force on Sunday evening, when West Ham take on League of Ireland Premier Division side Cork City in a pre-season match at Turner's Cross, with kick-off at 6pm.

Chairman McCarthy confirmed that excitement is growing ahead of the Hammers' first appearance on Irish soil since 2000.

"We have been waiting for more than 13 years to see the Hammers play in Ireland since we played St Patrick's Athletic in Richmond Park, Dublin in 2000.

"Cork City are a decent footballing side and in the middle of their season so the Hammers' fitness will certainly be tested on Sunday.

"The Cork Hammers will be making a presentation to the Club to mark the occasion and are looking forward to a great game."

Looking further into the future, McCarthy is hoping for more success under the guidance of former Limerick manager Sam Allardyce.

"We feel the Hammers are on the brink of bigger things again. There is a good vibe about the Club.The owners are putting their hands in their pockets, we have a world-class stadium to move to and even a quality smart-looking kit.All these things augur well for the Hammers.

"We need to strengthen the squad now with quality in certain areas and build for the future.A quality Academy will breed success in due course as well, but we need to bring in quality and maintain momentum now.

"A top-eight finish would be good in the 2013/14 season, while a trophy with it would be even better! We need to look above and beyond this and take the Hammers back to the heights of the Boys of '86 and better again.

"Our new kit even has a remarkable resemblance to that worn by the likes of McAvennie, Brooking and Cottee!Let's look to secure Champions League status by 2016 and bring Europe's best to the Olympic Stadium.

"Above all, for Cork Hammers it is fundamental that the Club retains the openness and genuine willingness to welcome supporters like Cork Hammers to the East End on trips to cheer on the Irons.COYI!"

Sunday's Cork Airport Friendly Series pre-season match between Cork City and West Ham United will kick-off at Turner's Cross at 6pm. For tickets, click here.