Has it really come to this? Is it true that there might no longer be a League of Ireland representative from the largest county on the island? After months and months of speculation have Cork City FC finally gone for good?
I genuinely thought that League of Ireland football couldn’t possibly sink any lower after the day Milltown was sold under the noses of Shamrock Rovers in Dublin. That low point in Irish domestic football history has now been overtaken by the recent goings-on at Cork City.
At the time of writing, it seems the FORAS group have been granted a licence to field a team in the League of Ireland First Division. But with less than two weeks to go to the start of the season, there is no guarantee a team – let alone a competitive one – can be assembled in time.
Make no mistake; the city will suffer financially from the loss of Premier Division League of Ireland football visiting every second weekend but the sporting loss to the region cannot even begin to be quantified.
Before going any further let me clarify one important point. I am the perennial Cork City FC sunshine supporter. I travel to home games when it suits. I don’t make the effort to go to the away games like the die-hards who have stuck with City through thick and thin down through the years.
Yet I am just as much a member of the Rebel Army as they are. I am typical of the type of supporter the club were desperately trying to attract back to Turners Cross in the past couple of years in an effort to keep the finances ticking over.
My involvement with the SuperValu West Cork Schoolboys League Committee brought me in to contact with some of the backroom staff at City in the past year. It became obvious very quickly that the club were very anxious to extend their fan-base beyond the City environs and visited West Cork in an effort to attract more fans to the home games.
The WCSL Committee arranged for many West Cork families to make the trip to the Cross to watch their sons and daughters play exhibition games at half time in some of City’s home fixtures.
You could never put a price on the sheer joy and excitement on the faces of the West Cork children lucky enough to play on the hallowed turf and in front of a packed Shed end. Some kids took the opportunity to pull their jerseys over their heads after scoring a goal and ran arms outstretched towards the Shed.
The home fans would greet the youngsters’ efforts with a laugh and instant roar of approval. Instant memories carved into a child’s heart for the rest of their lives and all while playing on Cork City’s home turf.
My generation grew up with a Cork City who rarely played in front of a packed Turners Cross. In the mid-eighties the club were lucky enough to get a thousand fans unlike the crowds which heaved into the ground during the Championship winning seasons a few years back.
I saw Manchester United, Celtic and a Gazza-inspired Tottenham Hotspur visit the city for pre-season friendlies on balmy summer nights where City legends like Dave Barry, Patsy Freyne and John Caulfield cared little for the reputations of their more illustrious opponents and played their hearts out for their club. My club.Cork‘sclub.
If I am being honest I no longer care about Tom Coughlan. I don’t care about FORAS. I don’t care about Quintas, die-hard supporters, sunshine supporters, bar-room experts, pundit’s opinions, failed investments, un-paid wages, courts, judges, deadlines or outstanding debts.
I care about football.
I care about my football club Cork City FC. I care about the fact thousands of young Corkonians might never get the chance to enjoy the atmosphere of a full house at Turners Cross ever again.
I care about the fact young supporters will never enjoy moments like George O’Callaghan and the rest of the City first team celebrating winning the league with the fans in the Shed.
I care about the possibility of a lost generation of soccer-mad youths (especially during a World Cup year as well) will inevitably turn their attentions to the rugby, GAA and basketball clubs in their local area rather than aspire to one day represent Cork City in the League of Ireland.
I am angry that the opportunity to introduce my child to Cork City has gone before she is even old enough to walk through the turnstiles at Turners Cross.
I am angry I will never hear the Shed sing again. I am angry that the club who nurtured some of the best Irish footballing talent in the last decade such as Shane Long and Kevin Doyle is gone.
I am angry with the idiots who will point the finger of blame at each other and argue the reasons behind City’s demise in the pubs and clubs for the rest of their lives without ever considering the bigger picture.
League of Ireland football is gone from the region, not just the city and everyone who is a fan of association football loses.
It shouldn’t have ended like this.
Shame on the FAI. Shame on Tom Coughlan and anyone else responsible for allowing Cork City FC to die in this embarrassing manner.
Give me back my club.
Ger McCarthy is the author of Off Centre Circle, which chronicles the curious life of a West Cork League junior footballer.