Salthill Devon set to join the Big TimeNovember 13, 2009 - 11:37am
GALWAY looks set to host three League of Ireland clubs in the 2010 season – giving it the same level of representation as the province of Munster – after Salthill Devon this week accepted an invitation from the FAI to apply for a licence to play in the First Division next season.
The invitation was sent after Devon were deemed to have won promotion from the Newstalk A Championship when Kildare County was unable to play in a two-leg promotion/ relegation play-off with the Galway club this week.
The FAI issued a short statement on the matter on Monday night which stated that “Kildare County FC today informed the Football Association of Ireland that the club is not in a position to fulfil the relegation/promotion play-off matches, originally scheduled for Tuesday and Friday of this week.
“As a result of today’s decision, Salthill Devon will have been deemed to have won promotion from the Newstalk A Championship into the League of Ireland First Division, pending the licensing process,” the statement read.
That opens the way for Devon to join Galway United (Premier Division) and Mervue United (First Division) in the League of Ireland next season, and yesterday club chairman Tony Johnstone confirmed to City Sport that the club had entered into the licensing process.
“We would be in that process anyway because, as a minimum, we would be applying for membership of the A championship again next season. The licence for the First Division is a bigger process, but we have started down that path.
“We are taking things step-by-step, and reviewing every stage of the process to evaluate what would be required and what would the benefits be, and at the end of the whole process we’ll sit down, take a look at things and make a decision.
“We want to play at the highest level possible, and it would be great to have that as something for all the younger members of the club to aspire to, but we are taking it very slowly, we’re not going to rush anything, and want to establish everything as a fact before we make a decision,” he said.
The players and management of the club’s A Championship squad are to meet tonight to discuss Devon’s potential membership of the League and discuss what level of commitment would be required, and what they would be able to provide.
Johnston says he does not envisage any difficulty from the playing point of view, but says it is just one aspect of the licensing process that the club needs to meet. Another is the infrastructure required.
“Our desire would be to play games at our own ground, and this season we hosted the A Championship final and the FAI Cup clash with UCD, and they were both successful from an organisational point of view.
“We are a private ground with one main access point so I don’t see a difficulty there, but there could be other matters which we are not aware of until a delegation from the Licensing Department of the FAI comes down, examines the ground, and advises us on what is required,” he said.
He said no approach has of yet being made to the Galway & District league, which owns Terryland Park, with a view to renting the ground for games next season, as both Galway United and Mervue United do, but a spokesperson for the FAI yesterday hinted that it would be difficult from its point of view in accommodating three League of Ireland teams playing in the one ground.
When asked if it would be possible to manipulate the fixtures list to ensure there was at least one of the three Galway clubs away from home every week, the spokesperson said that “it would probably be difficult to arrange that from a fixtures point of view”.
The spokesperson added that no ground issue “has been flagged” to the FAI, but stressed that the licensing process was a lengthy and detailed one, and said more would be known when the Licensing delegation visited Salthill Devon’s grounds in Drom.
The Galway & District League, which owns Terryland Park, is in talks with Galway United regarding the use of the ground next season, and is also due to sit down with officials from Mervue United to discuss their rental of the ground in 2010 as well.
Tony Samuels, the Chairman of the G&DL, said Galway United’s use of the ground is agreed upon on a year-on-year basis, and he has already held talks with CEO of the Premier Division club, Nick Leeson. He expects to enter into talks with officials from Mervue United in the coming days, but says there has, as of yet, been no contact from Salthill Devon.
Terryland Park has already hosted 88 games this year, including 23 games involving Galway United and 17 Mervue United games. The ground also hosted the FAI Schools Senior Cup final between St Joseph’s College (the Bish) and CBS Sexton Street Limerick in May, and the FAI Umbro Women’s U-14 Cup Final between Colga FC and Longford Town in August, as well as a range of games under the auspices of the G&DL.
There have been persistent rumours circulating for a number of weeks that Mervue United would not be applying to play in the League of Ireland again next season, but the club’s Facilities Manager and Club Licensing Officer, Declan McDonnell, firmly quashed such suggestions yesterday.
“The board of Mervue United voted to apply for a licence to play in the First Division next season, as did all 19 members of the club’s Football Committee, and our licence application has been completed and was lodged with the FAI at the end of October.
“It was a successful season for is in so far as we survived, our aspiration is to give young lads in the area the chance to play at the highest level so we have applied to play in the league in 2010. We will be restructuring our budget, and work on that is underway, but we have applied for a licence and are aiming to play in the First Division again next season,” he said.
The fact the club lost money on its debut season in the League of Ireland is no surprise, despite the fact the club operates on an amateur basis, as costs such as transport, catering, costs associated with match nights (including the rental of Terryland Park), as well as the membership fee of the League itself – believed to be around €7,000 – all add up as a drain on finances.
McDonnell also confirmed that permission would once again be sought from the G&DL for the use of Terryland Park next season as its own ground of Fahy’s Field does not meet the FAI’s licensing requirements.
A planning application to erect a fence around the pitch in Mervue has been lodged with Galway City Council, as well as the construction of a covered stand, and the granting of planning permission for both would suffice to meet that aspect of licensing requirements.
The FAI is currently undertaking a review of the entire League of Ireland structure, which is expected to be completed at the end of the 2010 season, and it is believed Mervue United will delay any work on erecting a surrounding fence or a stand at Fahy’s Field pending the outcome of that review.
It is thought that one avenue the FAI is considering is the expansion of the Premier Division to a 16-team league and the scrapping of the First Division, to be replaced by regional development leagues from which there will be promotion to, and relegation from, the Premier Division.
It is believed Mervue United will see little point in proceeding with such development work at Fahy’s Field if it is not involved in the Premier Division and if membership of the regional league does not require such facilities to be in place.