A member of the Carrick United club sent me an interesting email after observing at first hand the superb facilities of College Corinthians in Cork, whom the Hoops beat in the Munster Junior Cup on Sunday.
As well as three full-size pitches with bowling green-like surfaces that teams in England would be proud of, the Leesiders have astroturf and at least three grass training floodlit areas – all floodlit – and a massive clubhouse. “Very, very impressive indeed”, says our contact in Coolnamuck (no mean arena itself). Indeed, it’s a complex Cork City (RIP) would be proud of, he suggests, adding pointedly that “countless junior clubs all over the country have similar fine facilities, paid for in full, only upgrading their grounds when funds are available.”
These clubs, Carrick included, “are managed by unpaid amateurs and most are run to the highest standards,” he asserts. “All this while catering for many, many junior, schoolboy and schoolgirls teams. All funded properly and all living within their means.”
By contrast, “look at Cork City and the senior game in Ireland… League of Ireland clubs run by paid officials, whose only assets are over-inflated footballers.” Indeed, as the man from Tom Drohan Park points out, “only one League of Ireland club in Munster actually own their own ground” (Cobh, the singular Premier/First Division outfit in the province that also caters for schoolboy football). “The rest are depending on others to provide facilities for them.”
Yet, he senses, the majority of League of Ireland members “look down on junior clubs”, seeing their only value as producing players for senior soccer.
Cork Corinthians on Sunday was “a hive of activity” – three games going on simultaneously, a kids tournament on the astroturf watched by proud parents; all thanks to the effort and diligence of so-called ‘amateurs.’ “Then you think of Cork City, and of all the money in grants poured into the former Kilkenny City’s ground and see it unused.”
In this Carrick clubman’s view, “most junior officials and members will not shed any tears over Cork City’s problems, or indeed those afflicting the League of Ireland Premier Division – or should we say the now Senior Dublin District League!?”