Are Cork City Ready for A Long Stay in The Premier Division?

Cork City start this new week as SSE Airtricity League First Division champions, following the conclusion of the 2022 campaign.

The Rebel Army have now earned themselves passage back to the top-tier of Irish domestic football.

It was just over two years ago to the day, on the 24th of October 2020 that Colin Healy’s side were relegated. With a Finn Harps victory over Bohemians sealing their faith.

Cork City Championship Squad

Since that dark day in the club’s history, Healy and his backroom staff have breaded through an almost entirely new squad of players, mixing in youthful prospects with shrewd recruitment.

Defensively, club captain Cian Coleman, and Ally Gilchrist hit their stride as a partnership in the latter stages of the season. The pair will be a key element to the spine of the ‘City’ defence in their return to the Premier Division, as the centre-back duo only conceded 22 league goals all season.

Elsewhere, Barry Coffee finished up as the club’s top goal-scorer, with 14 league goals. The 21-year-old has remained at the club on a permanent basis. With Cork striking a deal with the player, when the midfielder’s initial loan move came to an end in June.

The arrival of Ruairi Keating from Galway turned out to be an inspired signing too. With the Mayo man netting 13 league goals this season.

They’ll need to add reinforcements to their ranks, most notably, between the sticks. With bona fide Cork City legend, Mark McNulty hanging up his gloves after 22-years of service. Along with the imminent departure of David Harrington to Everton, once the Ireland U21 star returns from his shoulder injury.

The current crop of players is extremely young. With McNulty now gone into a coaching capacity, the oldest age in the group is 27.

With a full-time structure in place, this also allows these young athletes ample time to focus on rest and recovery throughout their day after a morning training session. 

Changes At Cork

Beneath the first team, Cork has an ever-improving academy system for both boys and girls to feed their senior League of Ireland, and Women’s National League squads. With the likes of former experienced pros Dan Murray and Liam Kearny acting as underage coaches.

If the club can reignite the dead plans for the purchase of their own academy facilities, that would address the only notable downside of their current developmental system.

Since his appointment, Colin Healy has drastically improved the on-field capabilities of his Cork City outfit. Adapting a high-tempo style within a youthful and vibrant side. Which has made the patrons at Turners Cross relate to this group.

However, this is a club that is littered with previous off-field issues. This is an aspect of the club that’ll need to remain stable.

Cork City is seemingly a different club these days in many aspects, but this is a team hardened by their previous tales of woe.

The city of Cork has had their team take on a number of entities throughout the decades. Whether it be Cork United, Celtic, Hibernians, or the current day Cork City.

Just like previous editions, Cork City have had their day in the sun. Winning three Premier Division titles, two First Division crowns, four FAI Cups and happy memories in fruitful European qualification runs.

Troubled Past

In 2008, Cork City were in serious threat of becoming another League of Ireland casualty.

Venture capital firm, Arkaga owned the club at that time. Following investment difficulties, Cork City had to enter examinership, with debts calculating up to a reported €1.3m.

In October of that year the club exited examinership. The High Court ruled in favour of a takeover bid from Cork businessman, Tom Coughlan.

This doubt continued into the 2009 league season. The club were issued with a winding-up order when no agreement could be reached on tax payments owed to Revenue. Cork City received several extensions on the payment, and ultimately avoided closure by meeting their final deadline.

This financial disaster lingered with the club into the 2010s.

Under the management of the colourful character, Roddy Collins, the club failed to receive a license for the SSE Airtricity League First Division.

This would squash any hope of finding a new investor, and the courts enforced another winding-up order on Cork City Football Club.

However, the club did compete in that season’s league competition.

Cork City supporters entered the team into the 2010 First Division under a new company name, Cork City FORAS Co-op in the immediate aftermath of the wind-up closure of, Cork City Investments FC Limited.

That summer, the name of the club was restored when supporters’ trust, Friends of the Rebel Army Society, or FORAS completed their purchase of Cork City Investments Ltd, making Cork City a fan owned club, a status the club remains in to this day.

Vicious Cycle

The following year, the club won the First Division, and promotion back to the Premier Division.

This set up the appointment of John Caulfield to the hotseat in 2014, ushering in a modern-day golden age for the club. They’d win a Premier Division trophy, back-to-back FAI Cups and solid Europa League qualification runs in 2016 and 2017.

Unfortunately for the Munster natives, this purple patch didn’t last.

Following poor results, Hall of Famer, Caulfield was sacked during the 2019 season.

The club entered further financial turmoil in early 2020, with the future of Cork City again in question.

Just as the devastating walls began to close in, English group Grovemoor Limited, who also own Championship club, Preston North End, provided a cash injection that allowed Cork to secure a license from the FAI. They also bought out sell-on clauses for both Sean Maguire and Alan Browne, who left Turners Cross for Preston in the past.

Later in 2020, FORAS agreed to sell the club and its debt to Preston owner Trevor Hemmings through his company, Grovemoor, for €1.

This deal still hasn’t reached its conclusion with talks stalling due to Grovemoor not coming to terms with Munster Football Association on a lease agreement on Turners Cross.

Sadly, Trevor Hemmings passed away on the 11th of October 2021, aged 86. But there have always been rumblings that this takeover deal still isn’t truly off the table.

Cork City Are Back!

As richly deserved praise is showered on Colin Healy for Cork’s on-field bolstering. The same must be said about FORAS for once again stabilising their club from the ashes of another bust-period.

The Leesiders will enter the Premier Division fray in February as a structurally sound unit.

They’ve secured a deal with the Munster FA for use of their Turners Cross home for the next 2 decades. Plus, have extended their decade long partnership with University College Cork for a further five years.

Like all newly promoted sides, the aim on their top-flight return should be to avoid the dreaded drop.

However, this Colin Healy led project seems to be heading in the right direction on and off the pitch, to restore pride to the great city of, Cork.

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