From examinership and winding-up orders to a second place finish in the Premier Division. Cork City have come a long way since the dark days of 2010. Here we look back at the journey Cork City have been on in the last number of years.
Cork City have been through a lot in the last four or five years. Court decisions and football had gone hand in hand in the past but now the fans and the players have worked together to bring an Irish footballing cornerstone back to where it belongs.
We begin the story back in 2008, in which a period of examinership ensued following issues surrounding investment from a venture capital firm called Arkaga who owned Cork City at the time. Cork City were subsequently deducted 10 points, meaning they finished the 2008 season in fifth place.
Tom Coughlan took over Cork City and took the club out of examinership, however a winding up order was brought against Cork City Investment FC in 2009. The order was staved off at the last possible attempt as the High Court struck out the winding up order following confirmation that debts of over €400,000 were paid to the Revenue Commissioners.
As matters off the pitch escalated further, with anger from fans increasing all the time, Mr. Coughlan resigned as chairman in 2010 but continued his control of the holding company. Cork City failed to secure a Premier Division licence for the 2010 campaign due to debts owed as well as court proceedings on the horizon. A new ownership deal could not be secured and this time the winding-up order was upheld against Cork City Investment FC Limited.
FORAS (Friends of the Rebel Army Society) stepped into the breach – a supporters’ trust set-up with the objective of safeguarding and supporting Cork City FC’s future. However, in the aftermath of the financial problems, which reared their head in 2008 the role of the supporters’ trust, which now own’s 100% of Cork City FC became substantially different.
The acronym Forás means development or evolution in Irish. Ironically the trust itself had to evolve and develop in a very short space of time due to the club’s serious problems. The trust had the wherewithal to apply for a licence for the First Division in the event that Cork City Investment FC Limited should fold.
As the holding company went under Cork’s newest League of Ireland club name was to become Cork City FORAS Co-op, which was the title the club played under for one year. However, the rights to the name Cork City Football Club were purchased back in time for the 2011 season.
These difficult days are still fresh in the memory but the turnaround at the Leeside club in the subsequent years has been immense to say the least.
2010 saw a team hastily assembled just weeks before the First Division began with Tommy Dunne at the helm. A 1-1 draw in the Brandywell against Derry on the opening day was an early sign that things could, just maybe work out.
And work out they did. 2011 saw the Rebel Army win the First Division and return to the top flight in only the second year of supporter ownership. The Leesiders travelled to Tolka Park to face Shelbourne on the final day of the season knowing only a win would secure the title. This is just what happened in the 94th minute as Graham Cummins headed home to send the Rebel Army back to the big time.
Two average seasons in the Premier Division, finishing mid-table, and failing to add another trophy to the cabinet meant that improvement was needed and, as-ever, expected at Cork City in 2014. The return of City’s joint-all time top goalscorer John Caulfield as manager has heralded a new era for Cork City Football Club.
Off the field the supporters are proving that they can run the club in a sustainable manner whilst still evidently keeping matters on the pitch in good shape. The club’s underage structure bodes well for the future with three consecutive years of success since the under 19 league began in 2011.
This season the Rebel Army have proved a lot of people wrong by keeping up with Dundalk until the final day of the season, but ultimately falling at the last hurdle. The EA Sports Cup and the FAI Cup once again eluded Leeside but European football is set to return to Turner’s Cross next year for the first time since 2008.
The turnaround has been far swifter than one would have been imagined when watching a Cork City side cobbled together in the aftermath of financial ruin walking out into the Brandywell in March 2010.
However, here we are at the end of the 2014 season with disappointment etched on the City faithful’s faces following last Friday night’s defeat. Put into perspective, this has still been a fairytale season on Leeside. One of the old heroes of the club has returned to instil a pride and a confidence back in the Cork City jersey again and Turner’s Cross has once again become a fortress.
The Cork City boss has mentioned on numerous occasions this season that there is a bond now between the team and the supporters. Off the field, those supporters are striving to nurture and progress their club in a sustainable manner, whilst on the pitch the squad that is there has brought Cork City back to within the brink of footballing immortality once again.
In terms of trophies there has been no success this year, but this is a club which, at the beginning of 2010 looked as though it had reached it’s final resting place. This is a club which has defied all the odds, risen from the ashes and come out punching at every turn since.
It didn’t work out this year, but if and when Cork City claim the league title again it will mean more than it ever did before 2010.
Rob Lyons, Pundit Arena