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It's D-Day for Cork -- again

CORK CITY fans should today be preparing for the trip to Crosshaven to see their team play Cobh Ramblers in a charity pre-season friendly.

Instead, there's no guarantee that the game will go ahead, or that Cork City FC will even exist as a going concern by kick-off time tonight as, despite yesterday's vow by controversial club owner Tom Coughlan that he was stepping down as chairman, the long-term future of the Leesiders is not certain.

Cork have had many D-days and deadlines in the miserable period that Coughlan has been in charge at Turner's Cross, City the subject of three winding-up orders (the third comes up before the courts in Dublin on Monday) and a dozen court appearances.

But 5pm today is now the latest deadline to be met if the club is to survive.

Coughlan yesterday announced that he was standing down as chairman of the club, a position he was, in reality, unable to fulfil anyway due to a 12-month ban from football-related activities imposed by the FAI last month for bringing the game into disrepute. He also stated that he would facilitate the handing over of control of the club to a new consortium.

But that handover has been delayed over the financial terms of the deal, as Coughlan, who has claimed to have put €800,000 of his own money into the club since he took over in 2008, is looking for some form of severance payment, while the head of the takeover group, local businessman Mick O'Connell, is unwilling to meet Coughlan's demands.





DEBTS

O'Connell has reportedly already made a significant contribution to the club when they were trying to pay off a tax bill to avoid being wound up last year, and is said to be unwilling to hand over a large cash sum to Coughlan to persuade him to walk away.

Timing is vital as 5pm today is the deadline for submission to the FAI of final accounts for last season for all League of Ireland clubs.

Cork owe a sum in excess of €300,000 to a number of creditors, including former managers Alan Mathews and Paul Doolin, former player Gareth Farrelly (owed €40,000) and the six players who have been under contract since last season. As of this morning the club had not paid those debts or reached an agreement with the creditors.

Cork are due to receive a payment of €150,000 from Burnley on Monday in relation to the sale of defender Kevin Long, but that cash won't even touch the club's bank accounts as it has been promised by the Revenue Commissioners for payment of back taxes.

The non-payment of those debts is why the Cork players took the unusual step of arranging a press conference in the city this morning to highlight their concerns and make clear their views: that they would take no part in football activity as long as Coughlan remained in charge.

"It's gone beyond a joke at this stage so we, as players, have to take a stand," said Cork keeper Dan Connor, one of those six players who has gone unpaid since last November, even though he's under contract.

"We have made it clear that we will not play a competitive game for Cork City as long as the current owner is in charge. I have not been paid since November 14. I am owed a substantial figure in back wages and I am not prepared to just walk away from that.

"Other players are in the same position. One player has been evicted from his apartment because the landlord got fed up with broken promises about him paying the rent, because the club had repeatedly broken promises.

"What has happened here at this club is a joke. For the players, it's not just about the money, it's the way we are treated. We started back pre-season training last week but there was no physio at training, which is a clear breach of club licensing.

"If any player had got injured, there was no one there to treat him, so we were putting our health in danger. We alerted the club to this but they said they would have a physio in place on February 1," added Connor.

Cork players and supporters almost choked on their evening meal when they heard Coughlan defend himself and his regime on RTE radio last night, especially his assertion that Cork City FC was in a healthier state now than when he took over in 2008.





DISAPPOINTMENT

"I did a couple of naive things. I inherited back pay of nearly €500,000 and paid that to all the players over a period of time, but I got nothing but bad press for it. I have done my absolute best," said Coughlan.

"I don't think the League of Ireland is working. There are problems at Bohemians, Derry, there are issues with the workings of the League of Ireland and that's the FAI's responsibility.

"I have lost a significant amount of money in this. The money's not the issue, my disappointment is the lack of genuine conviction among certain elements of the executive of the FAI to promote proper, quality football in Ireland. The priority now is that Cork City has League of Ireland at Premier Division level next season and we have to get that moved on as soon as possible.

"We are in discussions, there is an interim chairman being appointed to oversee the due diligence and the procedure that's required. What we don't want now is someone coming in and finding problems that they're not happy with; the audit is being completed at the moment, when that's finalised these new purchasers can have a look at it," added Coughlan.

"They are a good bunch, they are enthusiastic and have good experience in football and hopefully they can take it forward.

"It's up to the FAI if the club get a licence but hopefully the FAI can work with the new lads and get that done as soon as possible."

Sadly, time is one asset that Cork City FC do not have.