‘The World Never Knew How Close It Came To Annihilation’: The Untold Story Of How Cork Almost Nuked Dublin

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NOBODY knows where Cork got a viable nuclear device from in the 1970s. Maybe an aborted warhead launched during the Cuban missile crisis floated over the Atlantic and washed up in Bantry. Perhaps a fisherman woke up one morning with a banging hangover and a 5 megaton weapon of mass destruction after a bleary night of drinking with some Russian navy personnel on shore leave. Or maybe some enterprising young Corkonian built it himself using off-cuts of Wavin pipe and some home-depleted uranium. However it came to be in the possession of Cork county council, nobody knew anything about it.

Until the day it nearly wiped out the world.

August, 1974. The nation was preparing for an long-awaited All-Ireland semi-final clash between fierce rivals Dublin & Cork, including 23-year-old Macroom native Eoghan O’Finn, who travelled up to the big smoke with a ticket to Croke Park, a pocket full of drinking money, a head full of devilment and a date with destiny.

O’Finn, known locally as a bollocks, watched his fellow Corkmen lose as Dublin routed the Rebels by 2-11 to 1-8, prompting the youngster to go on what he later described as ‘an unmerciful charge of drink’. At some point on that fateful Sunday, he would become embroiled in a plot that saw the world teeter on the brink of ending.

Maureen O’Finn became aware that her son had not arrived home from ‘that Dublin’ on the morning of Monday, 12th August 1974. A panicky and doom-laden woman at the best of times, she immediately jumped to the conclusion that he had been kidnapped by Dubs and was being held against his will.

Although Mrs. Finn’s ranting that ‘heads will fucking roll over this!’ would normally have fallen on deaf ears, anti-Dublin sentiment was high following their All-Ireland humiliation the day before. A hastily-convened council meeting determined that Mr. Finn was being held prisoner by unknown forces in Dublin, and a message was relayed to the capital; return our boy, or reap the consequences.

By afternoon, politicians in Dublin were wondering what to make of the strange request (strange even by Cork standards). Who was Eoghan O’Finn? Why would they have kidnapped him? Where were they supposed to find him? And what possible consequences could Cork have in mind? Cut off the nation’s Tanora supply?

The laughter stopped suddenly when Cork sent word that the repercussions they had in mind was a nuclear strike that threatened to destroy hundreds of pounds worth of property on the north side, and millions on the south side.

Once Dublin became aware of the seriousness of the threat Cork TDs in Dublin confirmed that yes, the county had access to ‘some sort of nuke yoke’, a scramble was made by Dublin to obtain a nuke of their own. The government reached out to the UK for ‘the lend of a missile’, which the Brits were more than happy to provide.

The Troubles in the North had given the UK ‘an itch’ to nuke Ireland in some way or another, and although Cork was the complete opposite side of the island to Belfast, it was believed that it would show the IRA that Britain meant business when it came to dead Irish people.

Down south, the deadline for returning the missing young man had passed, and a launch was ordered. It was at this point that Cork realised that it did not have any aircraft capable of an airstrike on the nation’s capital, nor indeed any aircraft at all.

Plans to ‘hoosh’ the bomb towards Dublin were deemed unfeasible, so the decision was made to launch the nuke via bus. The bomb was loaded on the 9:30am CIE from Cork to Busaras on Tuesday 13th, giving the government 7 hours to prevent obliteration (traffic providing).

Elsewhere, word of the stand-off had reached Washington and Moscow. Both nations were itching for an opportunity to blow the other off the face of the earth, and saw Dublin V Cork as being ‘as good a proxy war as any’. The US backed Dublin (Nixon called ‘dibs’) leaving Russian to fly the flag for Cork (Brezhnev claimed to have a cousin from Cork as his reason for backing his Rebel brothers). As the CIE bus trundled up through the midlands, every human being in the world stood on the brink of death by nuclear fire if Eoghan O’Finn wasn’t found in the next three hours.

O’Finn was in Phibsborough, less than two miles away from Croke Park, sleeping off ‘a bastard of a hangover’ in the home of ‘some young one’ that he fell in with in the pub following his team’s defeat. After two solid days of drinking, he came to around lunchtime to find no sign of his trousers, his bus ticket home, and only a note on the fridge saying ‘I had a nice time but get the fuck out of my house by the time I get home from work’.

Groggily, O’Finn turned on the radio, only to be met with a newsflash that his disappearance had caused a major international incident that threatened the existence of life on earth.

He was now faced with an impossible choice: admit to his mammy that he went on the lash for two days, missed work, and slept with a Dublin woman, or allow the world to perish in flames.

It took him until 4pm to lift the phone to the guards and admit that he was safe and sound, and could they send someone round with a bottle of Lucozade and a pair of trousers.

News that O’Finn was found made its way to Leinster house as the CIE bus passed up through Naas, just 30 minutes from it’s destination. A squad car was dispatched to wave the driver down and inform him that there was a nuclear device in the luggage hold, preventing nuclear war. Britain, the US and Russia all stood down reluctantly, annoyed that they hadn’t had a chance to kill billions and vowing to ‘get the job done some day’.

O’Finn was returned to Cork and was never let out of the house again. Garda presence for all Cork v Dublin GAA matches has been doubled ever since. The bomb, we think, is somewhere in Kildare.

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