Book Review: Second City By Neal Horgan

Fri, Nov 04 2016

None Credit: Matt Kirkham (ETPhotos)

Second City by Neal Horgan

Having thoroughly enjoyed the first book written in 2014 by Neal Horgan or “Hoggy” as he is referred to as by a generation of Cork City fans, it was nice to find out that the following season 2009 was also documented and would be coming out in a book format to be officially launched this Friday night.


The previous book “Death of a football club” was widely praised by all in the Irish football community and this book is another that has racked up its fair share of praise with Alan Smith formerly of this parish and a host of other journalists all heaping praise on the former right back’s book.


The book written in a diary style, details all the madness that went into the 2009 season when following an examinership period in 2008 following Arkaga’s decision to leave the club throwing it into danger of folding, but local property developer Tom Coughlan rescued it and the club won a Setanta Cup that season.


 The new season saw a new manager in Paul Doolin installed in the hot seat and right throughout the book his professionalism shines through  in light of difficult circumstances regarding wages etc. from having regular video analysis sessions with players something that the players found alien along with more specific training sessions. It is as much a credit to Doolin as it is to his players that the team finished third that season.


Yet being a Cork City fan myself for many a year, I would have known that people referred to Coughlan as a cowboy, gangster [insert word of your choice], when he was in charge, but some of the background stories that originate in the book make it clear just some of the things that never made the public eye.


My particular favourite story was in July 2009 when the club had already been served a winding up order over tax issues for a few weeks and were struggling to get it paid. On one day local soccer journalist Noel Spillane was asked could he get Real Madrid over for a friendly after Coughlan heard that Shamrock Rovers would play the Spanish giants.

“Later I spotted our local reporter Noel ‘Spillachi’ Spillane, who’d come in for the latest scoop. He was chatting to Denis (Behan). Afterwards Denis came in and said, laughing, ‘You’ll never believe what Spillachi said to me.’


‘Go on Denis,’ we said.


‘Well he was talking to Coughlan and Coughlan says, “Noel, you have contacts up in Dublin, don’t you?” “Ya,” says Spillachi.” “That’s good, so could you find out if we could get Real Madrid flown down [from Dublin where they would soon play Shamrock Rovers in a friendly] for a few hours to play a game and they can fly off again after that?”


Unbelievable he’s using Spillachi to contact Real Madrid.”


Yet despite all the turmoil that surrounded the players on a daily basis they kept training as that was what they wanted to do when many others could just as easily have gone on strike. In most other professions people would have but not these Cork City players despite all the happenings around them on a daily basis. An example near the end of the book was when the power got cut in Bishopstown the players just used a flashlight to navigate the dark corridors.


Regarding the players, the most embarrassing moment of their season occurred on Friday 25th of September when the bus driver refused to drive the bus owing to money owed. This left the players stranded at the side of the road and they were forced to go on local radio in order to secure the necessary monies to fulfil the fixture. Yet the banter amongst these players is evident at all times but especially here when Stevie O’Donnell plays a prank.


After being on the bus for a while and the local radio had picked up on the case a minibus of City fans passed the bus but O’Donnell didn’t realise this at the time.


“As we were driving towards the tunnel a minibus passed us on our left, slowed down to out speed and beeped its horn. We all turned to see the people on the bus, some waving their hands out of the windows, all waving what looked like leaflets. I was trying to figure out what the leaflets were, and then I saw... ‘They’re waving €20 and €50 notes, the b*****ds!’


All the boys enjoyed the humour.


‘They must’ve been listening to the radio and then spotted out crest on the bus,’ said Stevie.


They moved past us again and slowed down so that we had to pass them again. Again they waved their money at us, and I saw a few of them drinking bottles of beer and realised they must be Cork City fans going to the game. Just as I was about to tell Stevie, who was standing in the aisle near me, he jumped up on the seat next to the window and turned around and pulled down his pants.


This got a huge reaction from both buses, and Stevie, egged on by the reaction turned his head, still with his pants down, and gave the other bus a two-fingered salute.


Stevie was delighted with himself until Nults told him, ‘that was a f**king fans’ bus, ya idiot.’


Stevie stopped grinning and said, very seriously, ‘You’re f**king kidding.’


I won’t spoil the rest of that story for you the reader but you’ll laugh at the ending. Horgan a 15 season veteran of the league of Ireland used a huge amount of research in compiling the book. A chapter at the end focusing on how the league can be improved is well worth the read alone.


Interviews with both Robert Mezeckis and Joe Gamble help to give a great insight into the time around the club and I would recommend it as a great stocking filler this Christmas.


*The book will be launched Friday, 4th of November in the Heineken brewery, Cork from 6-8pm. Trevor Welch will be the M.C. on the night.


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