IN the end, things proved to be fairly clear-cut as members of Foras gave a clear preference on Wednesday night, signalling the beginning of the end of a supporters-owned Cork City Football Club.
In the 11 years since the supporters’ trust had taken over control of the club, City had gone from the League of Ireland First Division to becoming regular challengers at the top of the Premier Division, finishing second for three straight years – and winning the FAI Cup in 2016 – before going on to achieve the domestic double in 2017.
The period of just over a decade provided some special days and nights for fans. Anyone who was in the Riverside Stand in Tolka Park exactly nine years ago – October 29, 2011 – to witness Graham Cummins’ last-minute winner against Shelbourne to confirm City as first division champions will never forget it.
Similarly, the 2017 campaign was laden with moments that stick out, not least Mark McNulty’s save in the FAI Cup final penalty shootout, following by Kieran Sadlier’s winning spot-kick. Those memories won’t hold any less of a place in supporters’ hearts just because it now looks as if the club will be in private ownership once more.
City returning to the first division for next year completes the Foras circle in a way, with poor results coming in tandem with a trying financial situation which ultimately led to the takeover discussions with Grovemoor Ltd.
Last February, the club came breathtakingly close to not being granted a licence and only the co-operation of Preston North End, owned by Grovemoor owner Trevor Hemmings, saved the day.
It was that act which was ultimately influential in the Foras board of management backing the proposal on Wednesday night where members were asked to vote on whether Grovemoor should be allowed to exercise a call-option to commence the takeover process.
With the club’s administrative staff also in favour, almost 70 percent of members gave their support and Foras chairman Declan Carey was pleased to have reached clarity on the situation.
“The board feel the members ultimately delivered the right result for the future of the football club,” he said.
“Foras will continue on in the same guise as it was originally intended back in 2007. We look forward to immediately working with Grovemoor to ensure as smooth a transition as possible and also mapping out the future of Foras Trust.”
Carey’s comments are interesting in that they signal that this need not be the end of Foras. Former City player Neal Horgan had expressed the view that there should be some form of co-ownership and, while that is unlikely to come to pass, it’s believed that Grovemoor have intimated that they would like some local representation in helping them to run the club.
It’s a logical course of action, as is the notion of Foras maintaining a background presence, ready to become involved at some stage in the future. While this stint has had to come to an end, it doesn’t mean that the whole period has been a failure.
There is no reason that lessons can’t be learned and for the organisation to prosper down the line. That is for another day, though, with the immediate focus on a smooth handover, should Grovemoor decide to push ahead with the takeover.
“We have to work hard on the transition to Grovemoor,” Carey said. “They have to ensure that a licence for the 2021 season is secured and we don’t have to get too ahead of ourselves.
“The short-term goals of Foras are to assist Grovemoor in getting that licence for Cork City and we’ll work on the medium-to-long-term goals when that task is dealt with.”
Ultimately, the most important thing is for all of the stakeholders of the ‘new’ Cork City – Grovemoor, Foras and wider fanbase – to move forward as one, ready to ensure that the stint in the first division is but a brief one and to bring back the glory days of the recent past.
Carey is pleased with how a healthy debate was had and is now keen to look ahead.
“Now is the time for unity among Cork City supporters,” he said. “The democratic process played itself out and we’re pleased with the result. We’ll do now what the members mandated us to do and is to facilitate the transfer of ownership to Grovemoor.”