26 February ~ Next season's League Of Ireland will include a team with an unusual official name – Cork City FORAS Co-op. Cork City finished third in the League of Ireland last season but will begin next season one level lower down, having been saved from extinction by supporters. In July the club's holding company saw off a winding-up order from the Revenue thanks to an 11th hour injection of cash. Chairman and owner Tom Coughlan admitted that he had "made a balls of it in the first six months here" but was optimistic. "The worst is over because the stuff we have inherited is over," he said. "And the end of this season will be the very end of all that. Having said that, we have to constantly watch our costs."
In practice, costs were watched to such an extent that they were rarely met. Players and staff of the club were never paid on time and not at all after the season ended in November. In the midst of all of this, the supporters' trust set up to safeguard the future of the club, FORAS (Friends Of the Rebel Army Society – in Irish "foras" means "development") withdrew its co-operation with Coughlan.
Eventually FORAS, after consultation with the FAI, applied for a licence for 2010 in its own name, as City's own application looked like it would fall short of the required criteria. While a winding-up order in late 2009 from Gareth Farrelly, once of Aston Villa, Everton and Bolton Wanderers, was postponed, there was no such luck when Revenue brought another in mid-January for more unpaid taxes of around €100,000 (£89,000).
In late January the few remaining contracted players, not paid for 11 weeks, went public with their disquiet and said that they would not play for the club again while Coughlan remained in charge. For that, unbelievably, they were fined two weeks' wages for a breach of contract.
There then followed a couple of trips to court and a late bid for control by a consortium that offered to take on the club's debts (estimated at €600,000 before due diligence showed the figure to be around €1.2 million, with Coughlan's father and brother listed as creditors) provided that Cork was given a Premier Division licence for 2010. The FAI's licensing committee refused this request, however, with the prospective new owners unable to get everything done in time, largely due to a lack of co-operation from Coughlan.
The silver lining was the granting of a Division One licence to FORAS. Tom Coughlan was bullish until the end, still looking for a reprieve from the court and the FAI and, in what can only be described as a diatribe, blaming everybody except himself on local radio. He is gone now, however, and the supporters can begin again with a clean slate. Denis Hurley