My only previous stay in Cork was 8 years ago when I went to watch Cobh Ramblers, 30 km south, and the old White Star office and The Titantic's very last port of call. Ireland's second city is a buzzling place with lots of shopping, pubs, museums and easy transport.
I took the bus 20 minutes or so north to the village of Blarney, with its world famous Blarney Castel and gardens. The travel page lied...it said 100 steep steps up one of the towers. Actually I counted 104 steps up and 110 down another tower. You lean back with one guy holding your legs and another taking photos on the top battlement and kiss the stone. I did it 40 years ago so it was time to renew THE GIFT OF THE GAB !
Back into the city through the suberb of BLACKPOOL, and another bus to the pretty port of Kinsale, which is the start of the WILD ATLANTIC WAY.. www.wildatlanticway.com Famous for its trendy eateries.. but many didn't open until the evenings. I did manage to consume a gigantic fried cod and chips lunch at Dinos on the Pier Road. A huge yacht basin, three marinas and on the promenade a memorial to two locals, Tim and Mort' McCarthy who were part of Ernest Shackelton's almost tragic 'ENDEAVOR' Antarctic expedition in 1914-17. The ship was crushed by pack ice and sank as the 28 men made it to Elephant Island then 6 men including Shackelton and Tim rowed 800 miles in the JAMES CAIRD, an open boat, to the Norwegian whaling station on South Georgia. and a ship returned to rescue all of the survivors.. Tim returned home and 6 months later joined the navy and his boat was torpedoed by the Germans with all hands lost.
Cork City FC are now a supporters owned club after a short demotion and almost extinction a few seasons ago. They have the best supported club in the SSE Airtricity FAI Premier League. I was at the Friday night clash with Finn Harps, from way up north in Ballebofey , Co. Donegal in the far north west. I watche Harps lose to Cork at Finn Stadium years ago. There were NO visiting fans and the crowd of 2,500 was less than normal.
After wild spending during The Irish Tiger times teams no longer pay 3,000-4000 a week for players, with very few now full time earners. The Harps team had driven over 6 hours earlier today and were driving 6 more hours home straight after the match. CITY is now run by FORAS-Friends of the Rebel Army. www.corkcityfc.ie and I received a warm welcome from chairman Pat Lyons.and administrator Eanna Buckley. They produce a remarkeable 60 page official programme..with loads of full page ads....an AWESOME read !
What caught my eye on page 3 was the invitation to brave Rebel Army fans to go bungee jumping from a tall crane in aid of The Mercy Cancer Appeal and Cork City FC's young Player Academic Educational Programme, at the training ground in Bishopstown. ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY FOOT indeed. This is on May 28th.
The TURNER'S CROSS Stadium is all seater and owned by the Munster F.A. It is in good nick and has been rewarded by the FAI with an international match between Ireland and Belarus on May 31st prior to the national team heading off to France for EURO 2016. There will be a full house of maybe 8,500 for the farewell match. Assistant manager Roy Keane is a Cork man, but he played for Cobh Ramblers, before fame and fortune across the Irish Sea in England.
Within 7 minutes Cork were 2-0 up through goals from Gearold Morrissey and Sean Maguire and it seemed that the visitors were going to get a trouncing. It didn't happen. It was an exciting contest with both teams trying to play constructive and entertaining football.and then home player Kenny Browne received a red card. City scored a third late in the match but Harps came back to make it a respectable 3-1. through Ryan Curran. The Rebel Army was in full voice with lots of singing and flag waving. The Noisy Section in the Family Enclosure were waving a multitude of flgs. Referee Padraigh Sutton did an outstanding job despite some over agressive tackling late on.
My local mate James and I stopped off for a nightcap at the Beer Garden pub, on Evergreen Road, round the corner from The Cross, packed with GAA and football fans drinking and watching sports in two separate bars with lots of good humoured craic..
Cork City host Shamrock Rovers today, Monday 25th April, when maybe 500 Rovers fans will come down from Dublin for a large crowd.