CORK CITY chairman Declan Carey has called for unity as the club seek to retain their SSE Airtricity League Premier Division status in the wake of the departure of manager Neale Fenn.
Fenn, appointed in August 2019, came to a mutual agreement with City’s board of management late on Wednesday night.
Colin Healy, the head of the club’s academy and manager of the U19 team, will take charge of the side for the remaining five SSE Airtricity League Premier Division games, beginning with Friday night’s clash with Bohemians at Dalymount Park.
“On behalf of the board, I’d like to thank Neale for his service and commitment to the club over the last year,” said Carey.
“He has helped us bring about major structural changes which will benefit the club long-term and for that, we are grateful.
"Sadly, this year has had a number of impactful events which have de-railed a lot of our plans.
“We are now in a battle to stay in the division. There are 15 points to play for and we hope now that that everyone will band together for what will be a hugely important three-week period for the whole club.”
For his part, former Longford Town boss Fenn expressed his regret at how things had turned out.
Having taken over from John Cotter – who had replaced John Caulfield on an interim basis last year – the 2005 title winner with City had kept the club up at the end of the 2019 campaign but the current season has yielded just two victories, at home to Finn Harps and Sligo Rovers.
“I’m disappointed to be leaving the club earlier than expected,” Fenn said.
“I’d like to thank my backroom team and the club’s staff for all their help over the last year and also the fans who welcomed me back to the club last year with open arms.
"It’s been a very difficult season for all League of Ireland clubs and I wish Cork City FC all the best for the remainder of the season and will be keeping a very close eye on the last five games.”
The City club statement also confirmed that Fenn’s assistant Joe Gamble is to leave.
“The club is grateful for the hard work Joe has put in over the last year and wish him the very best for the future.”
The Fenn news came just a day after it had been revealed that a special general meeting of Foras, the supporters’ trust which owns City, will take place on Wednesday, October 28 to discuss the potential sale to Grovemoor Ltd.
Grovemoor is owned by Trevor Hemmings, who also owns Preston North End.
In February, City surrendered sell-on clauses for Alan Browne and Seán Maguire in exchange for a fee in the region of €600,000 from Preston in order to secure a League of Ireland licence for the 2020 season.
From there, discussions grew regarding a potential takeover and, should a majority of the membership vote in favour, Grovemoor would purchase the club from Foras for €1.
The board of management of Foras has endorsed a vote in favour of this move.
While there has been concern from members regarding the position the board has taken, Carey has explained the rationale.
“The board don’t want to say too much at this time,” he said, “only that the board made a commitment to Grovemoor that we would back the authorisation of the sale-option agreement, and as a board we have always conducted our business in good faith, and that is what we intend to do.
“It is worth reminding everyone at this point that we would not have a football club today without the support of Mr Hemmings and Grovemoor Ltd last February, and it was through the receipt of the significant six-figure sum for both the sell-on clauses and signing of the sale-option agreement that we were able to obtain a licence for this season.
"For that, both the board and the supporters of Cork City FC are and should be incredibly grateful.”
At the meeting, a statement from the board will be read, but Carey is keen to make clear that all views will be heard.
“The shareholders of Foras will have the opportunity to ask us any questions they want on the evening of the vote about our position in favour of this vote and we will answer,” he said.
“Should our shareholders choose to authorise Grovemoor’s potential acquisition of the club, their resources would be hugely beneficial to the club.”