AS a red sun set over Turner’s Cross ahead of kick-off, the stage seemed set for Cork City to finally clinch the league title last night.
The damage left by storm Ophelia was on display in the form of the empty Derrynane stand but the defiant City supporters were out in force to roar the team over the finish line. Two losses and two draws in the last four games allowed second-placed Dundalk to creep back up the table and into title contention, leading to a very nervous atmosphere at the Cross.
“I’m in my lucky seat,” said Paul Kavanagh before kick-off as the tension in the stadium began to rise.
“We’ve never lost at home when I’ve been in this seat,” added the Fermoy man.
Fans who had followed their team through thick and thin all season converged to see if their prayers would be answered.
“We’ve followed them all season and we’ve waited for tonight for a long time,” said Aidan McGrath who was at the match with his son.
“Hopefully by the end of the night, we’ll be crowned champions.
“It’ll give the city a lift after the storm, especially when you look over and see the Derrynane stand empty but it’s great to see the other stands full.”
Although they did not storm to victory, John Caulfield’s men did clinch the title after a nervous run into the final few games. The sense of relief around the stadium was clear to everyone.
“I think we’re all hugely relieved,” said Pat Daly, who has been supporting Cork City since the days of Evergreen FC and one Georgie Best.
“It would have been great to see a goal and to win the game but at the end of the day, we’re league champions,” he added.
City’s holding company went into liquidation after financial difficulties spanning between 2008 and 2010. The club has been owned since 2010 by a supporters’ trust called the Friends of the Rebel Army Society.
With the title clinched for the first time since 2005, most Cork City fans can point to the positives of last night while also admitting that they would have liked to see the back of the net bulge.
“It’s great to see the club succeed but I think we were all hoping for a goal,” added Mr Daly “The performances have been a bit nervy lately since the likes of Maguire left.
Another City supporter, Chris O’Connor, is hoping for more goals in the games to come.
“We should be able to put a few past Bray,” he said.
“We might have got a few tonight if we’d been shooting towards the Shed End in the second half.”
Although some fans were disappointed at the lack of goals, others were philosophical on the situation.
“We were nervous throughout and in fairness to Derry, they were very professional and made it very difficult,” added Paul Kavanagh. We got the result and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.
“Hopefully we can push on now, play with a bit more freedom and see about clinching the cup and the double and maybe the treble with the Cork ladies team,” he added.
Although there was a nervous electricity in the air, as full time approached, chants of “Champions of Ireland” were rocking Turner’s Cross.
As flare smoke descended across the hallowed turf adding to the mystical sense only a title-winning night can provide.
The City fans roared their team over the line, not exactly in style, but with a sense of pride and dedication that Irish football thrives on.