ONE would imagine that this year’s Foras AGM, starting at 7pm this Thursday at the Metropole, would be a pretty sedate affair, given the year Cork City have had in 2017.
Another lucrative European run, and four trophies out of five, including that elusive league title — City’s first in 12 years — which has been lighting up faces around the city and county in schools, hospitals, nursing homes and special education centres alike.
No better image to vindicate the hard road the Trust have been down then the beaming faces at the Cope Foundation, or in the paediatric wards of Cork University Hospital, City able to give something small back to a community that have rapidly had their trust regained in the organisation.
And while many may not realise it, it’s Foras’ driving role behind the club, both as a stable overseer, and community centred driver, that has given the club it’s fresh family-friendly image we associate today.
It’s difficult to imagine where Cork City would be today without the role the supporters trust played throughout the difficult process at the end of 2009, and the long hours dedicated since as the Rebel Army re-established themselves as a force in Irish football.
However, there is little time to rest on their laurels. 2018 is a massive year for both organisations on-and-off the pitch, and while John Caulfield’s men have the — albeit enviable — task of regaining their perch at the top of Irish domestic football, the work the members of the board of management have is altogether less enticing.
The time invested by these hardcore Cork City fans is difficult to imagine for any casual goer to Turner’s Cross, but anyone who has worked for a sporting organisation in any code will know the kind of commitment required, particularly on match-night, by those who are unpaid supporters.
That hasn’t put off many, mind, with the most open contest in years for the three spots on the BoM available this year due to current members stepping down, with one, Mike Derham, seeking re-election.
Derham and former member Patrick Shine will be counting on their previous experience and understanding of how the board works put them in good stead, while new blood in the shape of Declan Carey, Garrett Fleming, Nevin Power, and Eoin McCarthy will be hoping to put their spin on things.
The aforementioned quartet have been kind enough to give the Evening Echo further details of their involvement in City, but all four are well known by regulars at the ‘Cross.
Carey is already heavily involved in the day-to-day running of the club as website administrator, winning five national awards, as well as looking after social media accounts, and advising the club on their marketing strategy. Indeed, if you want to see Carey’s stamp on Cork City, you need only look at their crest, designed by the online design and marketing guru back at the end of 2009.
Fleming, too, has directly contributed in the past number of years, through his company Aspira’s sponsorship of the Rebel Army.
The IT Consultancy group are based out in Little Island, and have been sponsoring players for the past few seasons, even featuring on the back of the shirts in recent times. The 44-year-old has followed the club since 1994, and having run his own successful company, is now looking to add what he can to the board.
Some of you regular Echo readers will remember that Power wrote a regular column for this very publication not so long ago, looking at the Rebel Army from a fans point of view. Cork City is in the blood in the Power household, with Nevin’s brother, mother, and father all dyed-in-the-wool City fans.
McCarthy, meanwhile, can be seen at grounds up-and-down the country supporting the Rebel Army, and is a face instantly recognisable amongst Rebel Army supporters, without ever knowing the name behind it! The Togher native is running for the board for the second time, having decided to withdraw late-on last year; this time he is more determined than ever however to bring his expertise to the fore.
Shine and Derham politely declined the offer of a personal profile, not that their past work with the trust needs any further introduction.
The pair have already shown themselves to be hard-working and dedicated members of the board, and will be front-runners for election this time around.
Foras meetings aren’t exactly renowned for their brevity, and with an absolutely packed agenda, even apart from the election, it’s set to be another long night at the Metropole.
It’s nothing the membership aren’t used to however, and the trust have shown some initiative in postponing John Caulfield’s Q&A segment to the start of next month, a move that will not only allow more time for more exhaustive discussion on Thursday night, but also give the City manager an opportunity to field more questions from the club’s owners.
That Q&A session, given Caulfield’s insight and deference, is usually the highlight for those attending on the night, and is a special treat rarely afforded to supporters of any other club. One will imagine another packed night on Thursday, February 1, and it’s a definite selling point for those considering Foras membership.
One of many benefits, including first access to limited tickets, particularly pertinent given the club will be playing its first Champions League campaign since 2006 this season, and given Caulfield’s deft work in the transfer window, look like they’ll be securing plenty more sold-out occasions at Turner’s Cross this season.
It’s difficult to imagine another professional club where supporters get such access to ask questions directly related to club business, and while it’s clear that those behind the scenes are succeeding in their roles, that’s not to say there won’t be difficult questions come Thursday night.
All the better however, particularly when one is reminded of the cloud of unknowing and smoke and mirrors that surrounded the business of many owners in the past, Brian Lennox probably one of the only — and by far the best — to tap into that link with the supporters, no surprise that he was the most popular (and successful) single owner in the club’s history.
And while the meetings can often be tiresome and taxing, the opportunity to directly influence the path of your football club is an absolute privilege, cheap at the price at €120 a year — and with four trophies, Champions League football, and record attendances, is continually proven to be a winner.
An opportunity that, without Foras, would never have been close to becoming a reality.