SATURDAYS are usually quiet for those associated with Cork City, apart from kitman Mick Ring.
The playing staff will have a recovery session after a Friday night game and office employees enjoy the weekend.
However, Ring will be at the training ground in Bishopstown early on a Saturday, sorting the kit that he will have dropped off and put washing after the match – as late as 2am after an away journey.
Last Saturday was different. With no Premier Division fixture for the second week in a row, and none on the horizon until at least June 19, Ring was at something of a loose end and so he decided to impart a history lesson.
As well as being the kitman, he is also the owner of one of the most complete collections of Cork City shirts and he displayed them all in chronological order before sharing on social media, where the response was unanimously positive.
The jerseys told the history of the club in shades of green, white and red with the occasional black, blue or grey.
The kits worn for major trophy wins stand out of course, but those which saw tough times are memorable in their own way, not least for the fact that City came through them.
It is likely to be the case that the new shirts launched for the current campaign will be similarly remembered for being part of a trying period, as Saturday evening brought the news that City won’t be able to pay playing staff beyond the coming week.
Given that other clubs had already taken such a move, there was an inevitability that similar action would be coming for City.
There is something of a grim irony that Covid-19 has taken hold at a time when the club’s finances were already in peril – generally, the feeling would be that, no matter how bad things got, at least they could rely on having somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 at Turner’s Cross for a home game.
In the bigger leagues, gate receipts are almost an after-thought, with television money, sponsorship and commercial income ensuring that clubs shouldn’t – but don’t always – flirt with financial disaster. However, here in Ireland, the attendance income forms a much bigger part of the profit and loss account. Take that away and the takings are negligible.
To be fair to City, they did move quickly, setting up a Patreon scheme where fans can sign up to watch classic games.
This will continue but the revenue generated was never going to cover the costs of paying the entire playing staff, even if the wages are modest.
A plan to offer season tickets at a reduced rate was scuppered when the league cancelled the fourth round of fixtures, meaning a 27-game season.
Then, while it was hoped to have the new red away shirt on sale last week, there has been a delay with that too, the fault lying with manufacturers adidas rather than with the club.
In such a climate, the board of management had no other option but to suspend payments to players and City definitely won’t be the last to do so.
Whether the FAI or Uefa will step in to assist clubs in these unique and unprecedented times remains to be seen, but it would be disappointing if the governing bodies did nothing.
Without clubs, there is no football, and the longer this situation runs on, the likelier it is that clubs will be unable to carry on.
Naturally, you have to feel for the players who have been laid off, however temporarily.
It’s not a nice thing to have your livelihood taken away like that and, while sometimes it’s easy to forget, they are human beings too, existing outside of the 90 minutes on a Friday when they display their wares to the fans.
Some may not play for Cork City again and it could well be the case that, when the league resumes, Neale Fenn will once again be having to try to gel a new team.
But the key thing is ensuring that there will be a team there for the Rebel Army to support.
The statement issued by City on Saturday was clear in the fact that a move like this was essential in terms of the bigger picture.
“We believe that this action, while regrettable, is the most prudent approach we can take to ensure that the club will be in a position to offer employment once the football resumes.”
Ultimately, that is all any City fan wants.
And, hopefully, in a few years’ time, when Mick Ring shows off his updated collection of shirts, we can look at 2019 and think, “It was tough but we came through it.”