Supporters of Cork City FC were expecting a busy summer in 2010, following their club in the UEFA Europa League. However, instead of European trips, Cork followers will be heading to venues like Limerick, Waterford and Monaghan in a campaign to win promotion back to the Premier Division as Cork prepares for its first season outside of the top flight since the two-tier system was introduced in 1985.
They are not too upset about their unfamiliar status as a second-tier club though, as evident in the attendance of 4,000 which turned up to see Cork in their first home game of the new season – a 2-0 loss against Waterford United FC. It was the second biggest gate in Ireland this term. They may be out of Europe and out of the Premier Division, but the club is now owned by the fans and run by the fans.
The very presence of Cork's senior football club, now called Cork City FORAS Co-op FC after Cork City were denied a licence by the Football Association of Ireland (FAI)'s club licensing department, is a comfort. "The most important thing is that we are still here, that we have a team to support; everything else is secondary," said John O'Sullivan, chairman of FORAS, the supporters group which took over the running of the new club just days before the season started.
Senior football in the city has had a chequered history: from 1930 on, almost a dozen different clubs represented Cork as outfits like Cork Alberts FC and Cork United FC came and went. They attracted big crowds and world-famous players like George Best, Rodney Marsh, Uwe Seeler and Trevor Brooking, who all turned out for Cork clubs, but by 1982 the city had enough and Cork spent two years without a senior club.
Cork City emerged in 1984 and in recent times enjoyed success on the field, a Premier Division title in 2005, and a reputation for producing top-class talent; Cork players like Kevin Doyle, Shane Long, Roy O'Donovan and David Meyler all went on to play in the English Premier League. However, two changes of ownership in the last five years created instability, and following numerous court appearances and a winding-up order relating to unpaid tax bills, Cork City were denied an FAI licence to compete in the 2010 season.
So FORAS stepped in and, with only a week's notice, set up a new club with a new name, new crest and new manager. It was a hectic time for manager Tommy Dunne, as he had just 13 players in his matchday squad for Cork's first game of the season.
Dunne, previously assistant manager at Cork City, quit his base in Finland to return to Ireland and take up the post, and while he's heartened by the large support shown so far, he's pleading for patience. "We had 4,000 people for the first home game and it just showed that football in Cork is still alive and kicking and there is still a future for it but it's going to take a bit of time, a number of weeks and months, to get things right," he said.
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