By Plunkett Carter
Albert Rovers in its brief history had by then already changed name to Cork Alberts in an effort to gain greater recognition and expand their support base. Then after Celtic’s elimination in 1979, Alberts became Cork United and managed to attract a few hundred League of Ireland die-hards who needed a team to support. A change of home venue from the spacious Flower Lodge to the compact Turner’s Cross, which had lain idle following Cork Celtic’s expulsion, had a desired effect of doubling the gate receipts as well as sounding the death knell for the Lodge which eventually fell into a derelict state. Cork United had the soccer scene all to themselves and further efforts to woo the fans and climb the table resulted in the signing of Liverpool legend Ian Callaghan who on his debut at Tolka Park drew 9,000 fans. Cork United brought Irish International Miah Dennehy home to captain the side and Ian Hutchinson (Chelsea) also had a spell in their colours. On paper they looked very strong buttheir ageing team failed to make the push beyond mid-table. In December they invested heavily in bringing Manchester City to Turner’s Cross for a friendly which, unfortunately, was a loss-making venture from which they never recovered. Hampered by postponements and cancellations, they slipped further into the red. They were forced to play a home game away in KilcohanPark when miserly gate receipts of just £180 were returned. Soccer was in a state of depression and Cork United suffered more than most. At a meeting of the FAI in June they were given just four days to come to an agreement with Manchester City concerning an £8,000 fee which the English club claimed to be owed. At a meeting a few weeks later the League expelled Cork United claiming that their financial position had worsened, which was denied by Cork United supremo Jerry Harris who complained that they didn’t get a fair hearing.
So far I have reviewed the stories behind the departures of eight Cork-based League of Ireland clubs, departures which contributed to directors being disingenuously portrayed as the cats that licked the cream. In 1996, during Cork City’s crisis-torn stay in Bishopstown, Evening Echo writer T P O’Mahony wrote under a ‘What is going wrong with Cork soccer?’ banner headline:
Just what is it about soccer in Cork? Sometimes you’d be forgiven for thinking there’s more drama off the pitch than on it. Look at all the chopping and changing over the years, the failure to sustain a single successful club. It’s not that there haven’t been successful clubs. But instead of leading to a consolidation, soccer success in this city has a way of leading to the grave.
Cork City FC was saved on that occasion when the FAI Council agreed to buy their new ground at Bishopstown for £270,000 in an effort to bail them out of a severe financial crisis. The deal would enable the club to clear debts which were built up during the construction of the new stadium. Unfortunately there was a hitch in the sale over an access road and parking facilities. On 22 January 1996, an order for the winding up of Decvale Ltd, owners of Cork City FC, was made in the High Court. Fortunately, within a matter of hours, continuity was maintained when the liquidator allowed a new consortium take over the club. Forty-four years earlier, TP’s predecessors in the Echo and Examiner were gobsmacked as they tried to come to terms with the shock liquidation of Cork United FC who, during an amazing seven-year spell, won the League Championship five times and the FAI Cup twice. Just about everyone in Irish soccer — rival teams, sportswriters and fans —found their liquidation almost incomprehensible. How could this happen?