Despite heartache for fans and players, the harsh reality is that City got what they deserved
Published 24/02/2010 | 05:00
THE slow, painful demise of Cork City FC has been an emotional experience for all involved and, in the end, there are no winners and plenty of losers.
It is a sensitive time. People have lost their livelihoods. Creditors are left with little hope of getting the money they are owed. Genuine football fans are without the club they supported.
There are plentiful anecdotes to tug the heart-strings and, in turn, broadcasters and DJs who know little about the League of Ireland pick up on the news and proclaim it a terrible shame. "Couldn't something have been done?" they cry, with little grasp of the carnage that went before.
In some respects, the sentiment is understandable. Human nature dictates that there will be sympathy for Tom Coughlan, whose behaviour through the course of the day made for uncomfortable viewing and listening.
A remarkable rant on Cork radio in the morning was followed by a steadfast defence of his honour outside the High Court after an ambitious ploy to secure another 48-hour stay of execution had failed.
At one point, he was extolling the virtues of the squad assembled by Roddy Collins, glossing over the fact that they have no league to play in and no chance of a reprieve. In the next minute, he was speaking of possibly taking his case to the Supreme Court, despite acknowledging that everyone around him was advising him to give up after Cork City Investments FC was finally put into liquidation.
And then, after earlier admitting that sufficient patience had been shown by Justice Mary Laffoy over the course of the last year, he declared the whole legal process to be 'horses**t' before veering from a chirpy demeanour to choking up and rushing off on the verge of tears.
Don't feel too sorry, though. The undignified mudslinging from all parties about who did what wrong and when over the past seven days is typical of the chaos which has enveloped Cork City in their terminal decline since they won the League in 2005.
They were blessed to even make it this far, somehow surviving winding-up orders served by the Revenue last summer. After what was literally a last-minute escape, Coughlan promised that lessons had been learned and that wages would be paid and commitments met.
Alas, in little time, employees and those who provided services to the club were hearing the same excuses again.
The bus driver refused to bring the team to a game until his company got what they were owed. Players and staff were unable to pay their bills and, in some cases, look after young families.
Further tax bills were accrued, and liberties taken. Last week, a seven-day extension from the court was secured, largely because Cork claimed they had money in cold storage from the transfer of Kevin Long to Burnley.
That came as a surprise to businessman Stephen O'Keeffe, who had given a loan to Cork on the basis that he would receive the monies from that deal.
After regularly missing deadlines and flouting regulations, the future of Cork City depended on the FAI granting a Premier Division licence, even though their late application did not contain audited accounts and there was no tax-clearance certificate.
The consortium which agreed a conditional takeover with Coughlan on Monday argue that, if the controversial owner had handed over the reins earlier, they might have secured a licence.
However, that misses the point. If Cork City, under any ownership, had been allowed continue in the top flight, it would have destroyed the credibility of the new season before it had even started.
After all, the actions of Cork have contributed largely to the negative publicity that dogged the domestic game over the past 12 months.
Other clubs, who do pay their taxes and employees, and understand the concept of deadlines, have lost sponsors and waved goodbye to potential investors fearful of negative association to a league oozing bad-news stories.
To save a club purely because of their support-base and location would be asking the FAI to aim a gun towards a foot that is already peppered with bullet-holes.
There's still an opportunity for senior football in Cork to be saved, possibly even re-invigorated, although it will be a race against time for that chapter to begin next week.
Encouragingly, businessmen Peter Gray, Michael O'Connell and financial group Quintas have indicated that they are willing to back up fans' group FORAS, who have secured a First Division licence.
With no debts or baggage, they can try to build something believable. If they set the bar low, for now, they've got half a chance of overcoming their inexperience.
They could hardly do worse than their predecessors.
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