Cabinteely manager Pat Devlin has said he is unaware of any discussions within the club regarding its future in the Airtricity League but says that it would be natural that, "every club would be looking at the different options it has in football and considering what is best for its future".
Devlin’s side play the last game of its regular league season away to Wexford on Saturday evening with third place in the First Division final table still very much a possibility but the club is already guaranteed a place in the play-offs for promotion to the top flight with Cabinteely initially set to play Longford Town.
Despite that, it is understood that the possibility of maintaining a pathway to senior league of Ireland football for the club’s players has been raised with Bray Wanderers in the event that Cabinteely withdrew from the league itself.
Club chairman, Larry Bass, who is out of the country on business and could not be contacted by The Irish Times, has set out ambitious plans for the club within the league. Many of those in the schoolboy ranks are said to have to come around to some of the benefits of participation in senior football, largely centred around the opportunities for progression it provides to young club members and the ability to attract outside talent who might, in some cases, be sold on at a profit. Vice chair, Brian McGovern maintained that there was "nothing of note, same as every year, assessing our options" and insisted that "the only thing on the agenda for the senior team is the play-offs".
It is understood, however, that the club is about to embark on an attempt to raise €96,000, essentially the upshot of having to fund fielding a team in the First Division.
Winning promotion would present major new challenges and potentially escalate costs at a club that has struggled to attract anything like the attendances it had hoped for when it entered the league in 2015 despite steady progress on the field since.
Stradbrook, the home of Blackrock rugby club, where Cabinteely play their home games, comes nowhere close to meeting Premier Division requirements. While the club has long term aspirations to build a stadium of its own, it would, more immediately, either have to spend money on improvements at Stradbrook or move further away from its base in Kilbogget Park where it runs a hugely successful schoolboy operation.
Devlin also has a major hand in the underage national league side of the operation but says he would have no part in strategic decisions made with regard to the future of the wider club. He was previously the manager of, and minority shareholder in, Bray Wanderers and any tie up with that club now would effectively mean forging links with Cabinteely’s major local rival, St Jospeh’s Boys.
“The FAI suggested back in July that clubs go back and look at all options and I think it’s natural that Larry and the board would have wanted to do that,” he says. “League of Ireland football is tough and every club needs to assess what it is best for it; a decision like that would not be mine but I am certainly not aware of any decision.”
The loss of the club to the league would be a significant blow to the association, however, at a time when Limerick is in examinership and ways of restructuring the two divisions are being explored.
Asked if Cabinteely would actually be in a position to take its position in the top flight if his team wins promotion, Devlin said: “That’s a very hypothetical question but as far as I am concerned we are in the first division to get out of it (by going up). I’ve been disappointed with the level of support the club has received from the local community and it would require a lot of work from everyone but yes, of course, we would. For now, our entire focus is on this game and the play-offs.”
Fixtures (7.45): Athlone Town v Galway United; Bray Wanderers v Drogheda United; Cobh Ramblers v Longford Town; Shelbourne v Limerick; Wexford v Cabinteely.