St Francis elected as Gate lose out in tale of two saints


DUBLIN club St Francis were elected to membership of the National League by a specially convened meeting of the management committee in Merrion Square last night. However, the meeting was informed that the club they are to replace, St James's Gate, intend to begin High Court proceedings if their expulsion is confirmed.

Delegates at the meeting were told that a letter had been received from solicitor Maurice Lyons informing the League that any attempt to proceed with the expulsion of St James's Gate would prompt the club to take legal action.

Despite the threat, club representatives on the management committee voted, with only two abstentions, to go ahead with the election of St Francis to membership. They are now likely to play their first match at this level at the end of next week against Longford Town.

The club had been recommended for membership by a sub committee which met yesterday with representatives of those clubs which had applied to fill the vacancy in the league created by the Gate's exclusion.

Applications from other clubs including Fanad United, TEK, Belgrove and Tallaght Town were also to be considered over the course of the day. But in the end Tallaght's letter, which had only been received yesterday, was not considered because of its late arrival while Belgrove withdrew at the last minute.

The committee of five, chaired by League president Michael Hyland, met the remaining applicants yesterday afternoon. Shortly after the discussions had ended, St Francis's status as the front runners was confirmed when members of the sub committee visited their ground off the Naas Road to inspect facilities.

Most of the questioning that the club faced from the League's representatives - Milo Corcoran, Donal Crowther and Niall Cummins - centred on their ability to meet the additional financial commitments that would come with the step up from Leinster League football to the national stage.

Pete Mahon, the club's first team manager and a driving force behind its development, expressed confidence that the extra funding would be available from a number of sources. Although further talks will take place over the coming days, the League's representatives accepted his assurances.

"They were placing great emphasis on the area of finance, but I told them that I didn't see it as a big problem. From our point of view the outlay won't be much greater. The only extra cost that I can think of is the travelling and already there's been a very positive response to the whole thing from a sponsorship point of view - and that's before we could really approach anyone because we didn't know for sure that we were going to be in," said Mahon.

Asked whether he felt that the 1990 FAI Cup finalists could end up in the same sort of financial difficulties that prompted the expulsion of St James's Gate in the first place, Hyland said: "No, I don't think that could happen. There are very good structures at St Francis and we're confident that they will be very good members."

After the meeting an FAI statement confirmed St Francis's election to membership, but conceded the existence of a legal threat to the decision by the Gate. The statement concluded: "The FAI National League will contest, any legal challenge and are confident of the outcome.

Hyland added that he didn't feel that the threatened action would succeed because "we have all the paperwork to show that everything we did was proper and above board".

"As far as we are concerned," he added, "the club have been very fairly treated."

It had been expected that the Gate, who lost their major financial backers to Shamrock Rovers during the close season, would return to membership of the Leinster League, which they left in 1990 in order to take up National League membership.

A Division 1B (effectively the fourth division) vacancy was believed to have been created for them. It is not clear what they will do in the short term. Nobody at the club was available to comment last night.

St Francis, meanwhile, will bring up their reserve team to replace them in the Leinster League's Premier division.