Should both clubs successfully negotiate their first-round ties, Cork City are intent on hosting their Europa League game against Rangers at Turner’s Cross – unless the authorities dictate otherwise.
“As things stand, we have the category licence to play our second round game in Turner’s Cross,” says Cork City chairman Declan Carey. “Unless we’re told otherwise by our regulators, the FAI and UEFA, our plans are to stay in Turner’s Cross and play our European games there as much as we can.
“Obviously plans can change but Turner’s Cross is our home ground and that’s where we feel we’ll perform our best in Europe.”
Yesterday’s second-round Europa League draw in Switzerland set up the prospect of a high-profile meeting between the Rebels and the blue half of the Old Firm, although there’s a fair bit of football to be played before the tie could come to pass, with City having first to play the winners between Luxembourg’s Progrès Niederkorn and Cardiff Metropolitan University, while Rangers will have to overcome either Prishtina of Kosovo or St Joseph’s of Gibraltar to qualify for the second round.
Although sophisticated policing and efforts by both clubs have helped take a lot of the heat out of Old Firm games in recent years, memories remain in this country of Rangers’ UEFA Cup game against Bohemians in 1984, when a famous 3-2 win for the home side was marred by serious crowd trouble in Dalymount Park and on the streets of Dublin. It was as a result of security concerns arising from that night that Shelbourne forfeited home advantage when they drew the Glasgow giants in 1998, playing the first leg of their UEFA Cup tie on the ‘neutral territory’ of Tranmere Rovers’ Prenton Park. (In what turned out to be a memorable match, Shels were beaten 5-3 before losing 2-0 in the second leg at Ibrox Park).
Asked about security concerns around the possible visit of Rangers to Cork in 2019, Declan Carey quipped:
There would be because I know there’s lots of Liverpool fans in Cork who will probably want to get a selfie with Steve Gerrard.
In truth, the chairman says he is confident the club could meet all the logistical and security demands which would be associated with such a big game.
“With every tie we assess all of the security measures that are required,” he says. “We plan efficiently and effectively, we’re professionals and we treat every game or potential tie with the seriousness it deserves. We’ve got a great team off the pitch that has huge experience with European competition.
We’ll work very closely with the Gardaí, like we do with every European game, to make sure supporters have a great night in Turner’s Cross. There’ll be no stone unturned no matter who we face.
“Overall everyone at the club is very positive about the entire draw. We’re going to face either Progres or Cardiff University in the first round and, look, it’s one game at a time, but there is now the possibility of us playing a big tie in round two which is great.
“We’ve played big teams before that have brought large crowds to Turner’s Cross, like Genk and Legia Warsaw and Rosenborg, and I’m sure it would be a packed out crowd at Turner’s Cross for Rangers if that game does come to fruition.”
Officials of City and Rangers held informal preliminary talks in Nyon after yesterday’s draw, with the Glasgow giants’ initial concern understood to centre mainly on the fact that the Turner’s Cross capacity of 7,000 would mean a maximum allocation of tickets for away fans of no more than 400, creating an obvious supply and demand problem for a club whose own capacity at Ibrox is just over 50,000.