Club insiders on moving Cork City to the next level
I’ve been a member of FORAS, the supporters’ trust that owns and runs Cork City FC, right from the beginning in 2008 and served as a board member and volunteer in the years since. I love the idea that people can come together and do something for the collective benefit of their city and county, putting aside their own interests to demonstrate that there is a better way to go about your business in modern-day football. A club can and must be inclusive, open to all, and put its people (players, supporters, staff, and local community alike) first and never last.
David O’Leary and Italia 90 introduced me to the beautiful game but it was Cork City FC and Foras that showed me what being part of a football club actually means. City has been part of our upbringing and once Dad, who grew up on Derrynane Road and the streets around Turner’s Cross, took us down to our first game over two decades ago now, my younger brother and I were hooked.
At the end of every season, I always linger for a few moments to take in the sight of Turner’s Cross on a floodlit evening — the searing light, the glossy green of the pitch, the calm following the storm. It still takes my breath away each time, just a little. Add in the faces of the members, volunteers, staff, and players that have made our club what it is today, and a lump of immense pride will catch my throat.
The ‘we might actually do this’ moment
There are two common clichés about championship-winning teams. One, title winners have a strong defence; two, winning when you don’t perform on the day is absolutely essential in achieving ultimate glory. Late May, 1-0 down away to Sligo Rovers and Seanie Maguire has missed a penalty, leaving City heading into the final half-hour of the game in right trouble. A tap-in against his former club from Achille Campion and a late winner directly from Kevin O’Connor’s corner clinched all three points though — showing the team possessed the composure to see out games and, vitally, the ability to nick a win when fortunes seemed to be leaning another way.
Player of the season
Seanie Maguire is the obvious candidate here on account of his goals tally and general play, but he did move on to pastures new in July. Instead, the man that made everything tick over in front of the back four all season long was Conor McCormack. Arriving from Derry City, the midfielder had to battle to get any game time for the Rebel Army initially but after making an early impression at centre back and then full back, the Louth man quickly became indispensable.
Comeback of the season
There has always been a bite to City v Rovers fixtures over the years, and the talented Trevor Clarke stunned Turner’s Cross with a sublime individual goal to open the scoring when the two sides met on Leeside back in May. City’s response was immediate and once Ryan Delaney got his side back on level terms, there was only one team pushing for victory. The 4-1 win was secured thanks to a cracking goal from the right boot of Gearóid Morrissey, a second from Delaney, and a fine header from captain John Dunleavy but it was the performance, reaction, and clinical finishing that set down a marker.
Another away win in Europe. Cork City have recorded just five away wins in Europe throughout their history and a hardy bunch of about 30 supporters got to witness victory number five when they travelled to Parnu in Estonia back in July. I’ve seen three of those five wins, and each one is special. League of Ireland clubs venture into the relative unknown during the early rounds of European competition each year and being drawn against Levadia Tallinn — experienced European performers in their own right
— was no easy task. Owned and run by a Russian businessman, it was fascinating to see the reaction of club officials as the Foras ‘one member, one vote’ co-operative model was explained. The idea of permitting a football manager entire control over his playing budget seemed incredulous to the man footing the bill in Tallinn, but a 2-0 away win (6-2 on aggregate) was enough to secure progression to the second qualifying round, a decent European prize money cheque for a second consecutive year, as well as a tie against AEK Larnaca of Cyprus. European games are more than a chance to secure vital income though. They raise the profile of League of Ireland clubs, give us a chance to proudly support our own overseas, and, very often, attracts the irregular followers into the ground for something a little different. Long may they continue.
One for the future
Coming up through City’s underage ranks, Conor McCarthy made his senior debut last season before focusing on his Leaving Cert and then signing his first professional contract with the club at the beginning of the summer. The young defender, capped at international under age level, is comfortable across the back four but his job in man-marking ex-City man Chiedozie Ogbene — who had caused Caulfield’s side all sorts of problems during the league clash in Markets Field the previous week — in the FAI Cup semi-final was simply outstanding. The 19-year-old has shown himself to be calm, composed, and a very capable leader already. A stellar future seems assured.
Goal of the season
Karl Sheppard v Bohemians City. Fans have witnessed plenty of goals and several excellent finishes but none were as impressive as Sheppard’s exquisite volley against Bohemians in Dalymount Park on Good Friday.
Watching from behind the goal, my first initial response on seeing Shepp line up to hit it first time was one of anxiety, followed very quickly by amazement and delirium.
The words still echo in all our ears and City fans everywhere will hope to hear it ringing around the Aviva for years to come. ‘Seanie’s on fire’ became a statement of fact for the first half of the season as the striker’s potent form left defenders, midfielders, goalkeepers, and even his own team-mates for dead. For context, in the first five months of the season, Maguire equalled the club’s record of 20 league goals in a season (now held jointly with Pat Morley), before leaving for Preston in time for their preseason fixtures. It was a privilege to watch Seanie don the green, white, and red of City for 18 months and his goal in the FAI Cup final at the Aviva last November will go down in the annals of club history. Watching him move on has been bittersweet — no one can wish him anything but the best of luck but it’s also entirely frustrating that he needed to move across the Irish Sea before getting his talents acknowledged at senior international level. Preston are a fine club but their training methods and league fix- tures cannot wholly transform a player’s quality in just over two months. Hopefully we’ll see Seanie at a World Cup next summer.
Picture of the season
Caulfield hugs Sean Maguire. A significant amount of credit for City’s league win will be assigned to Maguire’s goals; however, that undervalues the contributions of the rest of the squad as well as John Caulfield, his management team, and club staff. The manager has revitalised the club since arriving in 2013 — his dedication, hard work, and obsession for getting every detail right apparent from the very first conversation I had with him once he was appointed. Being the gaffer is a tough role. John bears the brunt of high expectations and few will ever see the impact of small, subtle conversations and decisions behind the scenes.
We did get some insight from the glowing tributes that Maguire paid to Caulfield on his departure. The 23-year-old was considering quitting football until he spoke with the CCFC boss and made the decision to move to Cork in 2015. The pair’s relationship is best captured as they embrace while Sean leaves the pitch in a Cork City jersey for the last time back in July.
Both Mark ‘Super Keeper’ McNulty and Gearóid Morrissey have been with the club since those initial Foras days, and were vital cogs in a welloiled machine this season. McNulty has been in top form, making vital saves and marshalling his defence while Morrissey’s ability on the ball is second to none, making him one of the most talented midfielder’s in the league.
A THROWBACK: While Seanie Maguire commanded most headlines, over the course of the full season, was ex- Derry City man Conor McCormack City’s MVP for his drive and versatility?
SPECIAL MOMENT: John Caulfield bids an emotional farewell to Seanie Maguire after the striker’s final game v Bray in July.