Usher takes a positive interest in the women’s side of Cork City

Usher takes a positive interest in the women’s side of Cork City

Dermot Usher awaiting the start of the meeting. Members of FORAS attended a Special General Meeting at the Clayton Hotel, Lapp's Quay, Cork City on Sunday 4th December 2022. ECHO/Irish Examiner. Pic: Larry Cummins

THE Cork City Women’s first team squad had a special guest at one of their training sessions in the lead-up to Christmas.

“It was a really good opportunity just to go to say hello to the girls, introduce myself, and wish everybody well,” new City owner Dermot Usher told the Echo.

Usher had been in regular with Manager Danny Murphy since taking the helm but this was just another sign that it’s not just the men’s side of the club that he’s hoping to improve.

And he’s already made a couple of significant changes behind the scenes.

“There were a number of issues last year,” he added.

“For example, Jess Lawton was managing the girl's U17 and U19 teams which is just something that couldn’t continue.

“That’s been dealt with. Jess is staying on board but we have now sorted out the coaching staff for each of those teams.

“The coaching staff hadn’t been paid, they were all doing it purely for the love of it but they are now starting to get expenses on par with what the men's academy is getting.

“That’s an immediate change that we have seen and I think it has been appreciated, that allows us to attract better coaches.

“There is a plan in place with Danny. It’s a measured plan so we’re not going to jump two feet first into everything.

Cork City manager Danny Murphy encouraging his players against Galway in the Women’s National League at Turner's Cross.
Cork City manager Danny Murphy encouraging his players against Galway in the Women’s National League at Turner's Cross.

“He certainly feels there is enough talent in Cork and we are trying to attract anyone that’s working, living, from Cork into the setup as much as we can and try to have a sustainable model built around the Cork ladies themselves.” But one change that won’t be introduced just yet is the club paying their female players.

Since the 1st of December, clubs in the Women’s National League have been afforded the opportunity to offer their footballers professional contracts.

The returning Shamrock Rovers have taken full advantage of this development by signing Republic of Ireland internationals Áine O’Gorman and Stephanie Roche amongst numerous other notable acquisitions.

But Cork City will not be following their lead in the immediate future although the hope is that they will be able to do so in the years ahead.

“For us, that (turning professional) would be irresponsible to be perfectly honest,” admitted Usher.

“Women’s football, before we even open the doors, is costing us a significant amount of money.

“When you look at gate attendances, sponsorship, and stuff there are huge areas for improvement there.

“We can also achieve a better performance (on the pitch) than what we did last year and that will help improve the gates and then improve corporate sponsorship and maybe private patrons as well.

“I do feel there is an appetite for people in commercial and private individuals who would like to support ladies’ football and not necessarily see everything going towards the men’s side of the game and that’s what we want.

“There’s plenty of experience from across the water where money has gone into ladies’ football and then as soon as the men’s first team doesn’t do well suddenly that money is pulled back into the men’s side.

“We don’t want that to happen. We want to make it self-sustainable and that’s what our focus is for the moment.” It is understood that Cork City received just over €2,000 for finishing second from bottom in the league last season while it costs them close to €1,500 for every trip they make to Dublin.

Around the time Usher was meeting the City women’s first team squad, he was also holding conversations with League of Ireland Director Mark Scanlon about that issue.

“I do think, and I’m hoping, that there will be some funding to come through from the FAI which would help offset some of the costs because the costs are absolutely significant,” he continued.

“I’m hoping that will come through in the not-too-distant future from the FAI and that will pay expenses like the cost of going to away matches is quite significant.

“The scholarship programme in place with UCC and the support for all the ladies that are there is great but we absolutely need to grow the sustainability of the club.

“We need to get gate numbers up, we need to improve our own performance because they are all tied together.

“It’s not going to be a massive quick burst and we are just going semi-pro or going pro. It needs to be built just a little bit slower maybe than some of the other clubs have decided to go.

“That needs to be our model. With the size of the county and the city, in particular, we have enough players and enough talent that we can go and achieve results without necessarily going down the full pay-for-play model at the moment because that just isn’t possible to do as a club right now.

“But the plan down the road… would we love to see it? Absolutely.

"But we are not there yet, we have a bit of work to do.”

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