Saturday 18 November 2017

Rebel stars make Coughlan stand

Denis Hurley

THE players of Cork City broke their recent silence yesterday to confirm that they would not play competitively for the club again as long as controversial owner Tom Coughlan remains involved.

Coughlan resigned as chairman of the troubled Leesiders on Thursday, but has not yet handed over control to a consortium who believe they can capitalise on a period of grace to rescue the club's Premier Division status, despite another licensing deadline passing with debts outstanding.

At a press conference in the Maryborough Hotel in Douglas -- coincidentally also the place where the Cork hurlers held their conferences this time last year -- a number of issues with Coughlan were aired by the existing playing staff at Turner's Cross, with skipper Dan Murray flanked at the top table by goalkeeper Mark McNulty and defender Cillian Lordan with others scattered around the room.

Current boss Roddy Collins, appointed by Coughlan, was absent, and is understood to have conducted a separate training session with some trialists at the same time.


In the statement, read out by solicitor John Boylan, the players revealed that they had not been paid since November while club staff -- who were also present -- have not received wages since July.

It was also alleged that the club doctor had not been paid in two years and that the physiotherapist has left as a result of non-payment.

The statement also described as "ridiculous" the amount of litigation that the club has been involved in over the past 12 months, and pledged full support for the FAI's sanctions against Coughlan.

Murray stressed that Coughlan's decision to step down as club chairman would make no difference, and urged him to go further and walk away completely.

"He's still the owner and it doesn't really change our situation to be honest," he said. "We came to a conclusion that the morale of the club is so low that we have to do something now."

Murray, who has skippered the club to the Premier Division title, FAI Cup and Setanta Cup in the past four years, described Christmas as a particularly difficult period and claimed that Coughlan had tried to get him out of the club, thus irreparably damaging any working relationship that existed.

"I can pretty much guarantee that I won't be dealing with him again; I'll either have to have a solicitor or a PFAI rep working on my behalf, because there's no chance of me personally talking to Tom Coughlan or his associates," said the Englishman.

"He was face-to-face with every single player, the manager, the coaches, promising that we'd be paid and things would be done, and every single time it was a lie; it was a blatant lie to your face, and that's where the relationship broke down. You can lie all you like behind my back, but if you do it to my face, it's just wrong."

Club secretary Jerry Harris, who has been involved in League of Ireland football in Cork for over 40 years, also expressed doubt about Coughlan's ability to meet the FAI's licensing requirements for the new season with such a large amount of wages still outstanding. "He has no agreements made with any players or staff to make payments over any period of time," Harris said.

"We decided that we wouldn't sign these agreements because we do need change, and it might pressurise him into making an agreement with the investors who have expressed an interest in making a bid for the club.

"At the moment, I believe his position is totally untenable, he has lost the trust of every one of us. At the start, things seemed to be okay, but bad administration caused all these problems, and it went from bad to worse as the season progressed."

For his part, solicitor Boylan felt that the players deserved huge credit for their action.

"I don't think the players are fully even saying how hard it has been on them living their daily lives, with children, with partners and wives," he said.

"Dan Connor was travelling up and down from Dublin for training because he couldn't afford to stay in Cork.

"It's the furthest possible set-up from a professional set-up and there is no question in the world that Mr Coughlan's resigning as chairman is a purely cosmetic exercise by him.

"It's an extraordinary situation. If they were secretaries in an office or accountants in an accountancy firm, they wouldn't turn up for work.

"It's the only time I've come across this culture where people will still turn up even though they've not been paid, As an employment lawyer, I've never seen that before. It wouldn't happen in any other environment.

"It's a credit to the players that they're more interested in the overall picture of the club continuing."

Irish Independent

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