LIFE without live football has been tough for one of Cork City’s main supporters Gary McSweeney.
The 33-year-old Model Farm Road man is an ever-present supporter of City since 1994 and not been able to attend the games in recent months has been very disappointing.
“It’s being tough not been able to attend the games because anyone who knows me, knows I eat, sleep, drink and bleed Cork City Football Club,” said McSweeney. "As bad as the season has been, I felt the team needed the support more than ever and I was gutted not to be able to attend. I suppose we are lucky in a way that RTÉ brought out a stream to see the games but it’s still not the same.”
McSweeney first began supporting his beloved club back in the ’90s and throughout the years he has rarely missed a game and is thankfully to all those he brought him to the games.
“My first game was a friendly against Manchester City back in 94/95. My dad fights with me when he hears me saying that, as he says he was bringing me to games much sooner than that, however, that is my earliest memory. Since then I've religiously gone to watch City play.
“My dad obviously was a huge part of me getting to games over the years. He never drove so we relied on spins or buses or trains. I could never thank him enough for the amount of travelling he did with me. Unfortunately, he's in a home now, so his days of coming with me are finished. We had some amazing times.
“My cousin's husband Andrew Buckley and Finbarr (Flash) O'Shea were also very good to me over the years and thankfully I started driving myself when I was around 18 so I've been able to repay them. In recent years I've managed to drag every member of my family to a game at some stage.
"My mother Cathy has been to all the recent cup finals in Dublin with me, so that was nice. My three nieces Sasha, Sophie and Chloe and my nephews Tony and Lee have all been with me at some stage."
The permanent fixtures by his side have been Sasha and his father, Jack.
He's grateful for the understanding his employers show him.
“I've been working in the HSE for 13 and a half years. The minute the fixtures come out they get an email with the hours I need off for away games and there’s never an issue.
“I absolutely hate missing games, home or away. The only away games I'd miss most seasons are Sligo, Derry and Harps. Results basically determine my humour for the rest of that weekend. My mother will vouch for me here. If we lose you better not come near me until Monday,” laughs McSweeney.
“In my younger days, I was lucky enough to be selected as the mascot for a lot of games, thanks in no small part to the late, great Noelle Feeney she looked after me like one of her own.”
2020 is a year that a lot of us will want to forget. And for McSweeney, on and off the pitch for the club this season has been horrific.
“First and foremost a word on the recent passing of my friend John Kennedy. John was everything that is good about Cork City Football Club and the Community of which he was highly involved in and has left a huge void in and the club and the league as a whole. Sincere condolences to his wife Chris and kids Aaron and Grace.
“It’s times like this that we stop and think of what’s really important. Up until that point, I suppose we were feeling sorry for ourselves for our performances on the pitch.
“This season has been a real struggle for everyone involved in the club. Without supporters at the games, I feel there was definitely a knock-on effect, especially in Turners Cross. You can't help but think that in some of the home games the team needs the fans behind them to spur them on for a goal, so they are definitely missing fans from that aspect."
He believes the fan-base must be patient with manager Neal Fenn
"When you look at it from when he came in, he's had to work with three different squads really, players leaving, players coming in on loanm players injured and bringing up U19 players. We have a very young and inexperienced squad, people forget that. I certainly wouldn't be sacking him right now.
"It kills me to say it, but I think we are going to find it very difficult to stay up this year now. I hope I am wrong but I think the Finn Harps result will come back to haunt us. That was a must-win game in my opinion. All the lads can do now is just give it their all for the rest of the season and hope for the best.
“Being relegated doesn't even bear thinking about. The first division is just so hard to get out of, so again, I am praying the lads can turn it around in the last few games and make me eat my words. The crowds will disappear if we are relegated I think. Up until Covid, as bad as we had been from the start of the season we were getting huge crowds. I don't think we will get them if we go down.
“For the good of the club, I think the sooner the takeover happens the better. And I say that as a proud member of FORAS. We need investors and we need them fast.