FAI to meet liquidator in effort to rescue Cork City

 

THE future for National League football in Cork is in doubt following the decision yesterday by the company which operates Cork City FC to go into liquidation. A critical series of meetings will take place to attempt to rescue senior football in the city.

A hectic day in Merrion Square culminated in a meeting of the FAI National League's board of control last night. There, it was agreed that the parent body would seek a meeting with the liquidator John Hyland, the secretary of Cork Constitution RFC before beginning the search for prospective consortiums who might be interested in taking over the existing club or establishing a new one. Late last night insiders were optimistic that all was not yet lost.

An FAI delegation, including the chief executive, Sean Connolly, and the honorary treasurer, Joe Delaney, were expected in Cork today for talks with Hyland. The results of their consultation will be discussed by the FAI management committee on Thursday evening.

Earlier in the day, the High Court had granted an order for winding up the company which operates Cork City Football Club namely Decvale. The order was brought by Martin O'Callaghan Ltd, of Carrigaline, which is owed over £46,000 for building work carried out at the club's Bishopstown ground.

The application was supported by the Inland Revenue Commissioners, who are owed £80,000, and a Clontarf company which is owed £17,000. The judge had rejected a request to have the hearing postponed for a week.

This means, in effect, that the assets of Cork City FC are already in the hands of the liquidator, rather than Decvale and the club's chairman, Pat O'Donovan. Critically, these assets include the players.

Realistically, the only salvation for senior football in the city is if someone steps in to buy the players from the liquidator, and then, most likely, form a separate company/club.

The new club might even rent the Bishopstown ground from the liquidator or, a more viable alternative by far, rent Turner's Cross from the Munster FA.

But time is running out, as the players would have to be bought by February 1st, after which, according to National League rules no players can be signed or transferred. What happens in the meantime depends on what the liquidator decides to do with the club's assets. Cork City are due to play Drogheda United in United Park next Saturday night.

In response to the High Court decision, the FAI National League expressed "its sorrow at the difficulties in which the Cork City club now finds itself", and said it "will do all in its power to ensure that the Cork City club can fulfil all its football commitments in both the FAI Cup and the FAI National League until the end of the season".

Formed in 1984, the club failed to buy Flower Lodge from the Ancient Order of Hibernians, losing out to the GAA even though they made an identical bid of £250,000. After renting Turner's Cross, O'Donovan and his board moved the club to its Bishopstown site of approximately seven and a half acres. A couple of Cup finals and a league title in 1993 came and went, but mounting debts, off field controversies, the notorious Bishopstown surface and boardroom resignations all took their toll.

Last November the 50 member FAI council agreed to a proposal by the association's president. Louis Kilcoyne, to buy the Bishopstown grounds for £70 000, with the money going to the club's creditors. In the meantime, the club were to remain at Bishopstown as tenants with the option to repurchase.

The two parties subsequently disagreed on a number of clauses in the deal, one of which concerned the car park at Bishopstown. The club's chairman, Pactrick O'Donovan, maintained that this issue was "not a problem".

Pending advice from his own solicitors, O'Donovan was in the dark about the consequences of yesterday's events. "I'll be honest with you, I've never been in this position. I wouldn't say I'm fully versed, but I would say it's not looking good. I think it'll take a day or two to wash itself out."

Asked whether this marked the end of his involvement with Cork City football, he responded "I'm not being evasive. I really don't know." But he still saw a shaft of light.

"I think maybe it had a bit to do with running out of time also. The winding up order came just too quickly for us to finish the deal with the FAI. I would say that if the FAI were willing to still show goodwill to complete the deal that was already sanctioned by the senior council in November, there could be a deal done with the creditors." This seems highly unlikely.

Player manager Rob Hindmarch was even more uncertain as to what the future held. "It's very demoralising. I don't really know the ins and outs of it yet. I'm still waiting to hear from the chairman to clarify what's gone on.