Drogheda back but Galway wait on appeal
SOCCER:DROGHEDA UNITED were catapulted back into the Airtricity League’s Premier Division yesterday in place of Sporting Fingal. But the troubled build-up to the campaign took on a hint of the absurd as Monaghan United celebrated being promoted too, at the expense of Galway United, only for league officials to insist no final decision regarding the Terryland Park outfit, who were denied a top-flight licence, has been taken yet.
Galway, recently taken over by its fans, has five days to appeal the decision of the FAI’s licensing committee to deny it a Premier Division licence. But the fact the club was not even given a First Division licence would not auger well for its chances of overturning the decision at appeal.
Monaghan United officials, in fact, said they were told by the league they will be competing in Galway’s place this year, and were confident enough to announce the news on their website.
But last night league director Fran Gavin insisted no decision could be made until Galway had exhausted the avenues of appeal.
Still, among those involved with Galway there was considerable pessimism last night.
The club, which is due to elect its new management committee at a meeting of supporters at Terryland Park on Thursday, looks set to pay a heavy price for its financial troubles of last year and its inability to sort the situation out by last week’s licensing deadline.
The club appears on the verge of losing its top-flight status over combined debts of around €16,000 which, it is claimed, have essentially been sorted out. The difficulty is, according to club officials, that written confirmation of the agreements reached with the Revenue Commissioners and former employees, including current Dundalk manager Ian Foster, could not be obtained in time.
The problem is compounded by the fact the club’s appeal must focus on the correctness of the original licensing decision based on the information and documentation available to the committee at the time it was made.
The upshot, it has been suggested, is it will require the appeals committee to take a liberal interpretation of the regulations, with documentation produced now having to be viewed as serving to “clarify” the original submission if the club’s place in the Premier Division is to be salvaged.
If it is not, then United will, at best, play in the First Division, and a city with three League of Ireland clubs in its confines will be without a Premier Division club.
Monaghan chairman Jim McGlone could be forgiven for not worrying too much about that yesterday as he contemplated a long-awaited return to the Premier League.
“We definitely got word that we are replacing Galway and it’s great news from our point of view,” said McGlone.
“We’re happy to be there and we believe that we can be reasonably successful.”
The club has been preparing for the season, he confirmed, on the basis it could end up in either division, and manager Mick Cooke has held off completing his squad to be sure of what is required. The intention now is to sign a small number of experienced players to ensure the club can compete at the higher level.
Drogheda, meanwhile, were also celebrating their reprieve from relegation. Officials were relieved the club would not be plunged back into difficulty by having to compete at the higher level while also fielding A Championship and Under-19 league teams over the course of the year.
“It’s great news,” insisted a club spokeswoman. “It changes everything completely. We’ve had a number of calls already today from people interested in backing the club commercially now because we’re back in the Premier Division, and we have been talking for some time to a number of high-profile people about the possibility of investing.”
Limerick officials, meanwhile, are confident the issues regarding financial guarantees that resulted in them being granted only a conditional licence will be sorted out by Thursday’s deadline and that the club will compete in the First Division this season.
Bohemians, having been granted a Premier Division licence, will unveil a number of signings today.
Among those expected to be named are Liam Burns, Anto Flood, Ger O’Brien, Robert Bayly and Aidan Price.