It was announced in early February that University College Cork, The Mardyke Arena and Cork City Football Club, would continue to work in tandem with one another until 2022. The partnership, since its origin in 2016, has been a monumental success for all involved and places Cork City FC firmly in the heart of the city and the community.
The relationship between the club and UCC continues to grow and in terms of match-day support there is also a considerable link. There are a number of people in UCC who have long and strong connections with the club, including Marketing lecturer Dave Alton and Law lecturer Seán Ó Conaill. Hundreds of UCC students are also part of the regular fan-base that turnout at Turner’s Cross stadium on Friday nights. According to information released, the partnership includes front and rear jersey sponsorship, player fitness, training and rehabilitation support and university scholarships and educational supports for players in City’s men’s team. Cork City FC merchandise has in recent years also been made available for sale, most notably from the visitor’s centre.
However, the latter of these agreements is arguably the most important in terms of player development and security. In the past, young players who have grown up in Irish academy football would tend to leave Ireland and travel across the water to the UK at the first sign of foreign interest. At times this transition occurs prior to the player completing their Leaving Certificate and while in some cases they do go on to other education abroad, it is not as substantial as what is on offer here. Unfortunately the ruthlessness of sport means that many of those who leave Ireland will return home after being let-go by their football club, and suddenly they’re back to the real world but with no qualifications to their name. Not only will partnerships and programmes such as this encourage younger players to stay in Ireland and play with League of Ireland Clubs such as Cork City, but it also offers older players the chance to study and take a degree that they can use after their footballing career. Speaking to the University Express, Dr Ó Conaill explains of how he believes that the teaching of the educational value of sport is extremely important in this context. “This is a key strategic priority of the University and one which will be even clearer in the new Sports Strategy plan due to be announced soon. It’s an example of both institutions getting involved in the community to benefit each other. That includes scholarships for male and female players but also includes opening up of opportunities,” Dr Ó Conaill says.
The partnership is mutually beneficial according to the law lecturer and the use of UCC’s logo on Cork City’s jersey is just a fraction of the exposure that UCC has gained as a result. “I think Cork City FC have been shown on Prime Time TV many times since the agreement started, they have huge exposure in print and online media, they’re the biggest Irish club on social media networks etc. This offers huge benefits from the University’s point of view in getting their message out in areas where perhaps the University might not traditionally be strong,” Dr Ó Conaill tells the University Express.
Another enthusiast of the partnership is the President of UCC, Professor Patrick O’Shea. Speaking at the announcement of the extension, Professor O’Shea said, “sport is very much in the DNA of UCC. This partnership of sport, fitness and education has been a wonderful experience since we came together in 2016. Education combined with sport has huge potential for personal development and this partnership is a unique example of UCC’s continued expansion of its regional engagement with sporting partners and the wider community”. The concept of Cork City embedding itself into the community is clearly evident and this was also reiterated by General Manager of CCFC, Paul Wycherley, who said, “our aim is to be the best football club in Ireland on and off the pitch, and competing in Europe. We have shown in recent years, in line with this partnership, that is where we belong. The announcement of this extension will enable us to continue this and grow as a football club, owned by fans and fully engaged in our community.”
Dr Dave Alton from the Department of Marketing and Management here in UCC told the University Express, “working with UCC, and having previously worked with Cork City FC, there are many similarities between both institutions. Both are leaders in their respective domains of sport and education; both are pillars of the Cork community; and both persistently strive for ambitious growth. The synergy between UCC and CCFC as partners is evident, and it’s great to see our University contribute in such a meaningful way to one of Cork’s great sporting representatives”.
Over the next nine months many of the players will be seen in The Mardyke Arena and perhaps on campus too. However, the most important place to see the squad and Cork City FC is at their games in Turner’s Cross this season. The league campaign began last week where Cork travelled to Dublin to face St. Patrick’s Athletic. The opening home game of the season takes place on Friday 22nd of February against Waterford FC with a 7:45 kick-off.