Cork City need to follow path travelled by Atletico Madrid and River Plate

After relegation, Leesiders can rebound stronger than ever
Cork City need to follow path travelled by Atletico Madrid and River Plate

Antoine Griezmann on Champions League duty for Atletico de Madrid. Picture: Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

CORK CITY lived the dream from 2012-2018.

Their rise from the graveyard of Irish football to winning a near clean-sweep of silverware was something to behold. Their fall from grace was just as quick.

In three years the club went from winning the league and cup double to being relegated.

The way back might seem like a dark path, but it’s one well-travelled, with footprints from some of the biggest clubs in world football guiding the way.

Argentine super club River Plate were relegated for the first time in their history in 2011. Los Millonarios went down to the Nacional B after losing to Club de Gimnasia y Esgrima in the promotion/relegation play-off.

River regrouped and fan favourite players Fernando Cavenaghi, Alejandro Domínguez, and Leonardo Ponzio came back to help the club.

The club won the division outright and were promoted. After a comfortable 2013 season, River won the 2014 Primera División title and that year’s Copa Sudamericana.

Twelve months later Los Millonarios defeated UNAL Tigres to lift the Copa Libertadores for the third time in their history.

The successes did not stop there, as they won the Copa Argentina in 2016, and the Libtertadores again in 2018.

A definitive image of the 2018 Libertadores final came from apartment blocks in Buenos Aires when thousands of people flocked to their balconies to roar out in celebration.

The pain of 2011 had vanished. River Plate were back.

Argentinian midfielder Javier Mascherano playing for River Plate. Picture: AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko
Argentinian midfielder Javier Mascherano playing for River Plate. Picture: AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko

Two of the most extraordinary rebirths in modern football took place after Sevilla and Atlético Madrid were relegated from La Liga in 2000.

Sevilla were the first to rise, as they won the Segunda División in 2001.

The club used their season in the second tier to rethink their methods, which led to a transformed worldwide scouting system based on modern innovative data.

Sevilla also adopted a policy that no player is unsellable, which immediately started making the club massive profits.

Out of this model, a team was assembled which conquered European football. In 2006 they lifted the UEFA Cup and Super Cup and in 2007 they defended their European crown, while adding the Copa del Rey and Supercopa de España to their haul.

When silverware dried up in Southern Spain, Atlético Madrid struck gold. Following their Segunda División winning season in 2001/02, club president Jesús Gil, whose policies contributed massively to Atlético’s relegation, resigned. Madrid used this as a clean slate and began to restructure the club.

The arrival of Quique Sánchez was the catalyst foruccess. In his first season, the club won the Europa League and that summer they lifted the UEFA Super Cup.

A foundation was laid which Diego Simeone strengthened after his appointment in December 2011. The Argentine guided the team to another Europa League success that May, and the following summer, his Atlético team hammered Chelsea 4-1 in the Super Cup final.

Nine months later, Simeone got the better of José Mourinho’s Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final. Everything climaxed in 2014 when a battle-hardened squad assembled by Diego Simeone won La Liga and reached the Champions League final.

Shamrock Rovers are a domestic example of taking the right path. In 2005 the Hoops were relegated to the First Division after losing the play-offs to Dublin City.

That season the club were dogged by financial issues, which led to examinership. Rovers regrouped and restructured the club, under the ownership of the ‘400 Club’ a fans group similar to Foras.

Under the management of Pat Scully, Rovers went straight back up, and finished fifth in 2007. Using the foundations laid by the 400 Club, Rovers slowly built a squad and in 2009 they challenged Bohs for the title.

In 2010 they lifted the biggest prize in Irish football and a year later they defended their title while also becoming the first Irish team to qualify for the group stages of the Europa League.

Rovers, like other clubs mentioned, repeatedly look back at their days in the second division as a watershed moment.

Similar sentiments are echoed around El Estadio Monumental, Southern Spain, and Madrid. The darkened path has been threaded and clubs have come out the other side, thankful for their experiences.

Cork City need to follow their lead.

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