After the loss to Dundalk on Monday, Cork City languished at the foot of the Premier Division table. They were without a point, having lost their three opening fixtures. They hadn’t scored a single goal, and had shipped 10 in the wrong direction. This was relegation form for sure.
It shouldn’t really have a come as a surprise to me. Cork finished last season just above the relegation play-off spot, in eighth place, having been constant members of top two for the five seasons 2014 through 2018 [including, of course, the 2017 title win].
I was reminded of a book I was given and read at Christmas. It’s called ‘’Too Good To Go Down’’ by Wayne Barton and is the inside story of Manchester United’s relegation from the old English First Division at the end of the 1974-75 season. Matt Busby had retired, and the stars of the 1968 European Cup win had gone too, either to retirement [like Bobby Charlton], to other clubs [like Denis Law] or off the rails [like George Best].
United’s relegation had been well signposted. In the five season’s prior to the one that saw them go down [1968-69 through 1972-73], they had finished eleventh, eighth three times in a row, and eighteenth [the top flight in England was a 22-team division back then]. Contrast that with the five seasons before that [1963-64 through 1967-68] when the side finished in the top four straight through, including two titles.
What are the similarities then? The Busby bubble burst in the wake of the 1968 European Cup win. Could you say the same about John Caulfield post the 2017 double? As I’ve said already, United’s demotion had been signposted. Are Cork’s poor showing last season and the dismal start this term not just that?
I hope Cork turn things around and survive this year, but it won’t be easy. Shelbourne have come up and have acquitted themselves well so far, including an opening day win in Cork. Finn Harps, who finished in the play-off spot last term, have made a flying start this term. City entertain Harps this Friday, incidentally.
Ireland’s top-flight has been without a Cork representative before. There was no Cork side in the League of Ireland [then a single tier] in 1982-83 or 83-84 after the demise of Cork United [Cork City made their debut in 1984-85]. In 2010 and 2011, in the wake of City’s own financial meltdown, Cork was represented in the First Division by Cork City FORAS Co-Op. The first two terms back in the Premier [2012 and 2013] saw successive sixth place finishes as Caulfield came on board as manager and primed the club for greatness.
Being a supporter of Rochdale in England’s League One, I’ve seen a litany of clubs drop down into the third tier in recent times, amongst them clubs you would never think could drop that far down the pyramid. This term we have Ipswich Town, Coventry City, Portsmouth and Sunderland down there, and in the last decade have had Wigan Athletic, Nottingham Forest, Leeds United and Blackburn Rovers. Leicester City played in the third tier in 2008-09, and Manchester City in 1998-99 [when their neighbours United were lifting ‘the treble’].
Good luck to Cork on Friday. It would be great to see them start to turn things around. Rejuvenation of a club doesn’t always have to be on foot of a relegation.