REGARDLESS of the result between Cork City and Athlone Town tomorrow night, there will be one man in attendance who simply can’t lose.
He isn’t a Corkman and he’s not from Westmeath. In fact, he’s a Kerryman living in Tipperary. Oh and it’s not the referee.
John O’Sullivan, the face of the group which resurrected Cork City a little over two years ago and brought it back from its death is now chief executive of Athlone, meaning that whichever side wins he’ll have some reason to be happy.
Then again, now he has a business hat on a draw would be the ideal result from a financial point of view.
Athlone aren’t exactly flush, even by League of Ireland standards, and due to the fact that they have to go without a home game for six weeks because of the mid-season break and the lopsided nature of the second tier this season, a replay next Tuesday night would be a welcome boost to the coffers.
“It’ll be a strange one but I’m looking forward to it,” O’Sullivan says ahead of the cup clash. “I’m not sure how it’s going to go.
“Obviously enough I’m an employee of Athlone Town now so I’m hoping for a win for them. In terms of what the club is doing and the plans that are there, it would help us on our way.
“The only brightside is that whoever comes out of the tie, I can support them all the way to the final, although there’s a small bit of trepidation there.”
Inevitably there has been a stream of messages from friends at City, slagging him and adding an additional layer to a clash which isn’t going to exactly set the pulse racing for the occasional fan.
O’Sullivan’s story makes a mundane early cup tie much more entertaining than it usually would be, though he insists it’ll be a decent game to watch due to Athlone manager Mike Kerley’s insistence to play football on the deck.
“When the draw was made I had a period of two or three days when my phone was going non-stop but there has been constant slagging online and although it’s died down a bit now I don’t expect a bad reception or anything like that.
“Whatever happens, hopefully it’ll be a good game of football. Mike Kerley likes to keep the ball on the ground so it should make for an entertaining match.”
At FORAS O’Sullivan was chairman, effectively making him chair of the club too, but now he has moved into a more hands-on role at Athlone in the past few weeks he has noted some key differences.
“There are some changes in the sense that when you’re a chairperson you provide oversight while others execute the task but now I’m executing and taking directions.
“At Cork City, as a member of the board you were driving the club in the direction it was going whereas I have to take directions and rein in certain ideas I might have.
“From FAI meetings I’d have known people like Damien Middleton, who’s the vice-chairman up there, and I would have viewed them as a progressive club all along. It’s a nice town and when Cork City played away there, it was always a good spot to be in.
“It’s a club with a big history and a huge tradition, plus there’s genuine goodwill up there from the people. When they offered me the role, I snapped their hand off to be honest and it’s been very enjoyable so far.”
It’ll be a busy day for O’Sullivan tomorrow because he is also speaking at the Irish Sports Summit in Oriel House earlier in the afternoon, a function which will focus on financial stability and growth within Irish sport.
“It was set up by James O’Reilly and a group called Spóirt Fest, looking at things like funding and sport as a business and that’s unique because there isn’t much focus on the playing side of it, though there are some athletes speaking, like Rob Heffernan,” he explains.
“Over the course of the day, I’m going to take in as much as I can because there’s a really great line-up, like Professor Simon Chadwick from the University in Coventry, who I’ve always found interesting on Twitter, and there are even speakers coming from America.”