TED Owens is the first chairman of the new Cork supporters’ club, Cairde Chorcaí.
It is a position he took on reluctantly as he felt there were many more qualified people for the position. ‘I was approached to get involved two years ago when it was just a support club for Cork footballers, but my initial response was that it was a mistake to confine it to just the footballers,’ explained Owens.
‘I wasn’t fully certain either that it was an initiative that would be welcomed by the County Board. I felt it wouldn’t work without a proper working relationship with the Board.
‘I didn’t think I was the person to lead it, that it needed some high-profile player, I was told at the time that my experience was needed to bring some governance to the whole scheme. A few of the lads went on a test visit to San Francisco last year to see what the reaction of the Cork emigrants would be and when they came back they had decided they wanted me to lead the effort, so here I am.’
Owens’ first stop as chairman was at the County Board offices as he fully believed the new group needed to get the full backing of the Board. ‘I spoke to Tracey Kennedy as soon as she was elected as chairperson of the Board and I got the impression that the Board was fully open to the new initiative. I met with the rúnaí, Frank Murphy, and explained what it was all about.
‘There was a meeting of minds that this new initiative was definitely for the betterment of the GAA in Cork. We decided to broaden the committee to involve people from a hurling background as well, and to involve business people. Senior accountants, etc, were brought on board because the most important thing if you’re looking for people’s money is that the money would be properly looked after and we set about setting up a proper structure.
‘We’re independent of a Board, not a sub-committee. We’re a company with limited guarantee which intends to work closely with the Board to promote football, hurling, camogie and ladies’ football in Cork.’
What does Owens see as the main function of Cairde Chorcaí and what would the main priorities be in the future? ‘The main focus is raising funds,’ explained Owens.
‘We are looking at the whole area of training facilities because every club knows there is a lack of training facilities for our county teams. Other counties have developed centres of excellence, that’s one long-term goal, but we’ll be looking at working with UCC and CIT, even Clonakilty and Mallow, augmenting their facilities with a view to having them available to the county teams.
‘The 4G pitch here at Páirc Uí Chaoimh is a great addition and is something that we could repeat in Clon and Mallow.
At the moment Cairde Chorcaí seems to consist mostly of past inter-county players but has the committee any plans to involve the ordinary Cork supporters? ‘We would love to get the ordinary Cork supporters to buy into this, too,’ said Owens. ‘The ordinary supporter might afford a small membership for the year, while the big companies might invest a few thousand.
‘The Cork supporters in San Francisco were adamant that, although there are some very wealthy Cork supporters there who want to get involved, they are anxious that the ordinary working man and woman should be involved, too.’
Other groups have attempted to set up supporters’ clubs in Cork in the past, only to fade away so what is there about Cairde Chorcaí that suggests it is here for the long stay? ‘We don’t really have any mandate for this as such except that we’re a group of real passionate GAA people, most from a professional background who have a great level of experience and we’re very hopeful for the future.
‘We can’t be seen to be an elite group and we’re putting in a solid foundation involving all levels of Cork GAA. We’re in the process of setting up the structures now,’ said Owens.