Few days off at Cork City can have been more eventful in the history of the club than yesterday.
The players might have been on their midweek break from training but phones were soon hopping with confirmation that John Caulfield, who had been appointed to the role in November 2013 and brought unprecedented success to Leeside, was no longer their manager.
It’s believed that the decision was made when Caulfield met with members of the board on Tuesday evening before a second meeting at City’s Bishopstown headquarters early yesterday morning ratified the terms of his departure by, as they say, mutual agreement.
But, in fact, this seismic day had been coming for a while as the club’s hierarchy, reflecting the growing mood of unease in the stands, became increasingly concerned about the slump in form which, after eight games without a league win – and with a correspondingly marked drop in attendances at Turner’s Cross - now sees City just three points above the relegation zone.
Although the manager had shipped much criticism in recent times, the prevailing mood around the club in the wake of his departure might best be summed up as one of sadness mixed with a sense of inevitability that, like all good things, the Caulfield era had to come to an end.
“It’s the best decision for Cork City FC and everyone on the board has the best interests of the club at heart because we’re all life-long supporters of the club,” chairman Declan Carey told the Irish Examiner.
“It was a mutual agreement with John and we’ve nothing but praise for him.
"And we’re hoping that we can turn that around over the next couple of weeks and get back up the table where we feel the club should be.
“We just want to consolidate again and raise morale among everyone – players, fans, everyone around the club.
2Europe is something we obviously have an eye on, we’re looking forward to exciting nights in the Europa League in Turner’s Cross and hopefully we’ll get a good draw for our fans in terms of travel. But the first priority is get up the table and get back to where we should be.”
Going on to pay his own tribute to the departed manager, Carey said: “John has done an absolutely wonderful job for Cork City FC. I’m kind of lost for words in terms of his accomplishments as a player and as a manager.
"He was a legend when he started the job and he is leaving an even bigger legend as far as I’m concerned.
"As a Cork City fan myself, I have fond memories of John’s playing days and, again as a fan when, with John as the manager, we won the double.
"And in my time on the board John was a pleasure to work with over the last couple of years.”
Not surprisingly, there was a deep emotional content in the personal statement John Caulfield released yesterday, just 24 hours after he had presided over what would prove to be his final press conference, during which he had said of the team’s current woes, “there’s nobody that takes it to heart more than myself”.
In his public farewell, he said: “It’s with great sadness that my time at a truly great club, that I’ve had the privilege to serve for over 20 years of my life, has come to an end.
“I have loved every goal, every game, every win and every trophy as a player and as a manager at Cork City FC.
"I have seen the club grow over the years and it was a pleasure to work with so many great players, coaches and people at the club.
”I am so grateful to my family and to my staff, in particular John Cotter, Liam Kearney, Lisa Fallon, Mick Punch and Phil Harrington.
"I thank Pat Lyons and the previous board for their support and would like to wish Declan Carey and the new board every success moving forward.
”To the supporters, there’s not a lot to say except thank you. Thank you for all the memories and all the great moments that we have shared. Your fantastic support has always meant so much to me.
”There’s something truly special about Cork City FC and I thank you for letting me be part of it for so long, both as a player and manager.
"I’m looking forward to my next challenge but will never forget how much pleasure and epic memories the Rebel Army have given me.
”Thank you and continued success to this very special football club.”
City are due to make an announcement on their “interim management structure” today ahead of tomorrow night’s trip to Dalymount Park to take on high-flying Bohemians and, although it was expected that Caulfield’s assistant John Cotter would be in charge for that game, there was no official confirmation of that yesterday.
Club captain Alan Bennett could be part of the interim coaching ticket, while former Ireland international Colin Healy, City’s Head of Academy and Head Coach of the club’s U19 team, has also been linked to the vacant position, with the club stating that after an interim appointment “for the foreseeable future” they will begin “a thorough recruitment process for a new first-team manager.”
For Caulfield, a management CV which includes laying hands on the biggest trophies in Irish football – one league title and two FAI Cups in five years - suggests that the 54-year-old won’t want for suitors as he contemplates his “next challenge”, hard though it will be many for many on Leeside, and indeed elsewhere, to picture someone so synonymous with the Rebels in the dug-out at any another club, either in Ireland or further afield.
Ireland striker Seani Maguire, who revived his career under Caulfield, said: “Gutted to see John leave @CorkCityFC. Can’t thank him enough for what he did for me, owe the man a lot. I wish him all the best in the future”.
Former City man Steven Beattie, now playing in the USA, tweeted thanks to Caulfield for “taking a chance” on him four years ago.
“He brought the glory days back to Cork City,” he said, “while providing me with some of the best memories of my career.”
Another ex-City man, Kieran Sadlier, now with Doncaster, said while it was “sad” that Caulfield had left, he was “not entirely surprised the way that things were going”.
He added: “They haven’t been on a great run this season but I think he’s got to be remembered for all the good things he’s done for the club.”