Kieran’s Lord Mayor’s Echo Column, 17 February 2023

Last week I had the pleasure of hosting a civic reception in City Hall for Cork City FC who are celebrating their fortieth birthday this week. It is appropriate that the first event to mark the club’s birthday was held in City Hall, as, in the words of the founding Chairman, Jim Hennebry, “Cork City FC was conceived in the Cork Lord Mayor’s office”. The idea was mooted by the late Hugh Coveney (RIP) with Joe Delaney (RIP) FAI and Pat O’Brien, President of FAI (RIP).  Officially the Club was born in Bundoran at the League of Ireland AGM in July 1984.

For the People of Cork:

On 25 September 1984, the Cork Examiner published a write-up of an address of Jim Hennebry to the Cork Rotary Club luncheon on the vision of the club. He noted that Cork City AFC belongs to the people of Cork rather than to the group of individuals who formed the club. Jim further praised the efforts of the individuals who took up the challenge of getting a team into the League of Ireland in serious recessionary times.

Jim highlighted that much of the club’s income is derived from contributions from the private and commercial sectors in Cork business life, and he felt that sponsorship has a major role to play in the future of the game here;

“There is an urgent need for commercial involvement in the club, and having a team in the League of Ireland can only benefit Cork City as a whole. It is important that a city the size of Cork should have a recognised League team. With the support and backing of the people of Cork the team will continue to prosper. A successful team will have great effect would have on the city in terms of community spirit, and the commercial life of the city…The people behind Cork City soccer team hope to bring back top class football to the city, and hopefully it will not be too long before the League championship, or the FAI Cup are back on Leeside”.

From 1984 onwards, a boldness to put football in Cork and Cork itself on the map grew. The connections grew and the ambitions grew. Partnerships, friendships and followers grew.

Unrivalled Longevity:

Whilst many great clubs have been celebrated on Leeside over the years, such as the great Cork United, Cork Athletic, Cork Celtic and Cork Hibernians, the longevity of Cork City FC is unrivalled.

Much credit for the club’s longevity must go to FORAS, who stepped in to ensure the continuation of Cork City FC ahead of the 2010 season. Ten years ago, when the club celebrated its 30th anniversary, it became the first League of Ireland club from the city to do so, so to reach 40 years is yet another precious milestone.

Over the 40 years, the club has enjoyed some great days – the first national trophy, the League Cup, in the 1987-88 season, a first league title in the 1992-93 season and, finally, the first FAI Cup in the 1997-98 season.

The club has won the Premier Division title twice more, in 2005 and again in 2017, when City then lifted the FAI Cup as well to become the first Cork club to win a double since Cork Athletic in the 50’s.

As well as the national stage, the club has proudly represented our City, County and Country on the international stage in European competition for over 30 years. Beginning with a defeat against Torpedo Moscow in 1989, the club has memories such as the famous draw with Bayern Munich, defeating former European Cup finalists Malmo FF and Dutch side NEC Nijmegen in 2004 and Europa League runs in 2016 and 2017.

A Social and Cultural Asset:

Cork City FC is a really important social and cultural asset to the city and region of Cork. It matters in our city and region and how it adds significantly the essence of building community values in Cork and grassroots sports initiatives in Cork – the tangible and intangible benefits.

One does not have to look far to see how Cork City FC is rooted in the life of the city and how proud the city is of it, and how it represents the many legacies of football clubs going back over 100 years.

Indeed one just has to go to any match to see the sense of pride, ownership and love for Cork City FC amongst players, management and the supporters who chant, laugh, cry and shout more and then even chant, laugh, cry and shout more Cork City FC on.

That essence of pride is hard to physically replicate. There are individuals who have spent decades every week supporting the team and there are parents or guardians who proudly bring the next generation on in all kinds of weather, and they wouldn’t miss it for anything. There are incredible special moments of human connection are bound up with Cork City FC.

One cannot buy that energy or connection but it is so important to have in a city such as Cork whose heart when it comes to social and cultural capital beats very passionately.

It is a testament to the impact and reach of the club in the city that so many friends and supporters joined the 40th birthday celebrations in City Hall. You can also see this reach clearly in the range of Cork City FC provides an enormous ripple effect across different layers of Cork City FC from the physical street corner green all the way up to the professional side of the teams – as well as the senior men’s team, there are seven academy teams (boys and girls), an amputee team and a senior women’s team.

As well as their loyal fans, I know the club is very fortunate to have the support of many great sponsors, without whom the club would simply not be able to function.   Zeus Packaging are in their second year as the club’s main sponsor, while the club is also fortunate to count University College Cork, the Mardyke Arena, SONAS Bathrooms, EZ Living, Everseen and Audivox among their key sponsors.

How lucky is our city to have a club with such memories and cultural and sporting heritage and which promotes community values and togetherness. Happy 40th birthday Cork City FC!