Extension of Airtricity League season not ruled out by FAI
Cup replay or postponements for Dundalk could also lead to later finish this season
Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny
FAI competitions director Fran Gavin says an extension to the current Airtricity League season has not been ruled out in the event that Dundalk’s run-in is made even more daunting by a cup replay or matches being postponed.
Gavin also suggests the association is on the verge of prolonging future seasons in order to avoid the problems that have arisen this year because of the club’s European success.
“Dundalk in Europe is bringing up challenges for everybody and it’s a great position to be in,” he said, at the launch in Abbotstown of the Umbro- sponsored colleges football season. Eighty-six players involved with third-level sides are also in the first team squads of league clubs, with more set to be added over the coming weeks.
“Over the next few weeks we’ll make some announcements around that, particularly around starting the league a little bit earlier. That’s a possibility from next year. This year with the Euros, we had a longer break, but that will be shorter. I think there’s a recognition that that needs to happen.”
With regard to the immediate future, Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny made it clear on Tuesday that he is still hoping the current season will be allowed to run a few days over, perhaps to the bank holiday Monday at the end of October. As of now, the season is due to end the previous Friday.
“We are just waiting to find out when the final days of the league is going to be,” he said after his side’s draw with Shamrock Rovers. “I’m not sure if the fixtures can be physically fitted in [as things stand] so we will see. The powers-that-be will make the decisions that are fair for everyone.”
Gavin, though, seems to believe that the current scheduling could still work as long as nothing else happens to further complicate things.
“At the moment, yes, on the Friday,” he says; “That’s what we are aiming for. We are talking to all the clubs involved and seeing how is the best way to work it in, bearing in mind that there is a level playing field for all the clubs. So far, so good, but there is still a lot to play for. There could be FAI Cup replays and maybe postponements due to bad weather, they all come into the mix.”
Cork City boss John Caulfield has suggested that too much is already being done by the association to facilitate Dundalk which, he feels, is disadvantaging his side. Gavin insists that the manager’s public complaints have not been repeated in private.
“I spoke to John yesterday and John has not mentioned anything like that to me. I fully respect John’s position. And Stephen Kenny’s position. And Kenny Shiels’s and all the other managers. All those guys, they want what’s best for their clubs. If I was in their position I’d be looking for the same thing, I understand that. You can be frustrated.
“I think sometimes there’s a bit of mind games going on around the place. John Caulfield wants to win the league. So does Stephen Kenny and you can understand some of the things they say.”