Crisis-hit Cork put on a brave face

HARD to know whether to best describe this one as a homecoming or a farewell, a celebration or a wake.

Roy Keane might have been back in his home town but for how long more Turner’s Cross will be home to Cork City was a question exercising the minds of the majority of people in a crowd of 3,200 who saw Paul Doolin’s men deservedly beat Ipswich Town.

City will make in the region of €50,000 from the game and owner/chairman Tom Coughlan, who was jeered by a protesting Shed End after the match – “I wouldn’t mind if it was the San Siro,” he remarked – remains hopeful that, with now just seven days to go before the club returns to the High Court to contest a winding-up order, an 11th hour plan can still be agreed with the tax man to settle a bill of €360,000.

“Monday week is the deadline and we’ve got to do something for then,” said Coughlan, who confirmed that there are ongoing contacts with the Revenue. “We’ll see what happens. But we are in tough negotiations – the Revenue are taking a very hard stance in terms of the revenue they must get in at the moment but we’re trying to create a sustainable football club and we don’t want to put ourselves in a position where we’re putting ourselves under pressure in the long-term – maybe getting out of this hole only to get back into another hole next November. The Revenue and ourselves want to create a business plan sustainable over a longer period.”

Despite the vocal criticism of the fans, Coughlan said that he does not feel personal responsibility for the situation the club is in.

“No, not at all,” he said. “We are doing our best and I must say collectively most people – sponsors, supporters, staff – everyone genuinely involved in sport in the city and county are very supportive of us. The people of Cork would not allow this (the Ipswich friendly) to be the last Cork City game at Turner’s Cross. There’s a very genuine support for sport in Cork and Turner’s Cross has a long legacy of football – and we showed that to the likes of Ipswich Town. We battered them off the park, there was nothing fluky about the win. I think this is the start of something, not the end of anything.”

While it remains to be seen if the High Court begs to differ on that score, there was no doubt Cork fully merited their win against a lethargic Ipswich side whose display left manager Roy Keane fuming. But for City – having to compete without Colin Healy and Denis Behan, who have been sold to Hartlepool – there were plenty of positives after they survived an early scare when Ipswich’s Connor Wickham was gifted a clear run on goal but, in the vernacular of the game, Dan Connor “made himself big” to block the 16-year-old’s effort. Just before the break, the City keeper came to the rescue again, diving to make a close range save after Jon Stead had turned inside full back Danny Murphy. Nor could the Ipswich striker make the most of a second bite of the cherry as, under pressure from Dan Murray, he blasted the rebound over.

But after Paul Doolin made four half-time substitutions, Cork ran the show and deservedly took the lead in the 51st minute through a well-taken Faz Kuduzovic penalty after the striker had been pulled back in the box by Tommie Smith. “We’re from Cork and we’re better than you,” the Rebel Army gleefully chanted, proof that even as the club remains on life support, the traditional Leeside superiority complex is alive and well.

And then, three minutes from the end, City wrapped things up in fine style, Davin O’Neill showing his class by disposing of two defenders in a gliding run before slipping the ball past Irish keeper Shane Supple in the Ipswich goal. Afterwards, City manager Paul Doolin heaped praise on his players – including defender Kevin Long – and on his side’s overall performance. “I thought we were fantastic,” he said. “That was a great result against a Championship team.”

But the manager was also cognisant of the bigger picture at the club.

“Losing Colin and Denis doesn’t make life easy for us,” he said. “But it’s more about the club now and hopefully it can survive. The only thing I can say is that you’ll have to ask me about it on Monday week.”

CORK CITY: Connor (McNulty 45), Horgan, Murray, Long (O’ Halloran 80), Murphy, Kiely (Sullivan 45), Lordan (S Duggan 88), O’ Donnell (C. Duggan 88), Dennehy (O’ Neill 45), Kuduovic (Deasy 88), Silagailis (Cambridge 45)

IPSWICH TOWN: Supple, Wright (Bruce 60), Smith, Balkestein, Delaney, Martin, Garvan (Shumiloski 60), Trotter (Lisbie 60) Walters (Norris 60), Wickham (Rhodes 79) Stead

Referee: Graham Kelly.

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