THE DARKEST hour is before the dawn. A line borrowed by Bob Dylan for one of his songs but which could have come straight from the programme notes of honorary Corkman Damien Richardson.
But it rings true for fans and officials of Cork City FC today, as there is a genuine hope now that the demise of the club -- as it's been known in its chaotic state for the dismal period overseen by Tom Coughlan -- could lead to a rebirth of a club that has the potential to be stronger than ever.
When the pain of relegation starts to fade away after Monday night's decision by the FAI to deny the entity previously owned by Coughlan a Premier Division licence, it could in time be seen as one of the best things to happen to the club.
If Cork City supporters are feeling depressed this week, as they are denied big games against Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers next year, they should just look back to 2005 (the year Cork won the league, by the way) when it was Shamrock Rovers FC who made LOI football a laughing stock, court appearances, unpaid debts and an angry taxman all over them.
Control of Rovers went to a supporter-led group (400 Club).
They were genuine fans who were appalled at how low their club had fallen and genuinely wanted the club to thrive. Now, Rovers have come through all their pain and the club is the best-run outfit in the country, in the strongest position in the club's history.
Some of the questions surrounding the affairs of Cork City still beggar belief.
How can a club, which walked away from massive debts by going through an examinership process less than two years ago, a club which has provided more players for the Ireland international team, and sold more players to British teams than any other Irish club in recent times, find themselves €1.2m in debt?
Why, when the club barely survived at all by going through that examinership related to the previous owners Arkaga, was control of the club then handed to an individual, Tom Coughlan, who had neither the money nor the experience needed to keep the club in business?
How, when the club failed to pay its few remaining playing employees for three months, was the club allowed to even get as far as being in business two weeks before the start of the season, only for the FAI's licensing committee to finally "grow a pair" as they say in dressing rooms, and boot the debt-ridden embarrassment of a club out of football?
It's important for those matters to be faced, but sadly there is little time for those who care about football in Cork to deal with those questions today. Their season as a Division One club starts on Friday week and as of this morning, the club didn't have a manager, squad, coaching staff, training ground or a kit. Right now, finding a couple of defenders willing to play for Cork and finding proper facilities is the priority.
A manager will be appointed soon -- Damien Richardson was mentioned but he may not be ready in time so it could go to City legend Liam Murphy -- and there is enough goodwill towards the new owners for 16 players to be found in time for the game with Derry City on Friday week.
But Cork fans, if they really care about the club, should not be sulking about the prospect of Division One football for the next year at least.
They should be thankful that they now have control of their club and they will decide the future of senior soccer in Cork.
Cork City FC had a conveyor belt of talent that every other League of Ireland club could only envy: former players Kevin Doyle, Shane Long and Alan Bennett all played for Ireland, Joe Gamble was capped while he was a Cork City player, three ex-City players are currently on the books of English Premier League teams (David Meyler, Roy O'Donovan, Kevin Long), another (Colin Healy) is starring in the SPL.
If the new Cork City discover another brilliant young talent, they may not make the disastrously short-sighted decision to allow themselves to be bought out of the sell-on clause at a knockdown price, as happened with Kevin Doyle before his £6m move to Wolves, but instead invest the money wisely to make sure that future Kevin Doyles prosper -- and prosper in the colours of Cork City.
Money is key and money is another reason why the fans should be glad that FORAS are now in charge.
The group hoping to take over revealed yesterday that: "In the course of our negotiations we uncovered liabilities in excess of €1.2m, well above the €600,000 that was initially stated by the clubs owners."
So taking over the club in its present guise and taking them into the Premier Division next season would have saddled the new owners with double the debt they had envisaged.
Last night on Newstalk radio, Cork player Greg O'Halloran -- back with the club for another spell -- laid the blame for the club's demise on the shoulders of the FAI, and Roddy Collins took the same tack, attacking FAI people for "sitting in their ivory towers" and stating that there was no sympathy shown by the FAI towards the Cork players who are this morning out of work. One admitted on radio last night that today he was heading to the dole office to sign on.
Yet players who were last month fined two weeks' wages for publicly complaining about the fact that they hadn't been paid in 11 weeks found no sympathy from Collins or Coughlan in their time of need.
But given the havoc created at the club over the past 18 months, one man, Tom Coughlan, should look in the mirror and ask himself why he took over the club in the first place and why he didn't relinquish control until it was too late.
And fans should thank heavens that they now control their club and that Cork will have a presence in senior football this year.