Shamrock Rovers welcome decision on League of Ireland format and return

Shamrock Rovers welcome decision on League of Ireland format and return
Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley at a training session. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Shamrock Rovers have expressed their satisfaction with the decision reached on Tuesday morning which will see the Airtricity League start back again at the end of July.

It fell to the National League Executive Committee (NLEC) to adjudicate on the format of the Premier and First Divisions after weeks of talks on everything from the number of games to the FAI Cup failed to result in enough common ground between all 19 clubs.

Relegation and promotion between the tiers was a major bone of contention.

The NLEC ultimately decided that there would be one automatic promotion/relegation place with the ninth-place finisher in the Premier facing a play-off against the winner of a play-off series between those sides that finish between second and fifth in the First.

It is believed that the nine Premier clubs other than Shamrock Rovers favoured a straightforward one up, one down option. The season, normally run across four rounds that add up to 36 games, has been truncated to two rounds of 18 matches in total.

“The option chosen by the NLEC is one that Shamrock Rovers have supported and stood by,” said a club statement on Tuesday afternoon. “The club are satisfied with today’s outcome and will begin making preparations for hosting games at Tallaght Stadium.”

Other statements will be forthcoming in due course, including one from Cork City who have issued a 'no comment' for now. They lie second from bottom of the Premier Division as things stand. All points accrued before the shutdown will contribute to the end-of-season tallies.

Pleasing everyone was never going to be a possibility, not with four separate options on the table in terms of formats and ideas, and Dundalk goalkeeper Gary Rogers was clearly unhappy with the campaign's new, shortened duration.

“So the season will be shorter than the decision making process,” he tweeted. Clubmate Daniel Cleary tweeted disparagingly of the fact that it has taken four months to come to this conclusion and ended his message with a laughing emoji.

As for Shamrock Rovers, manager Stephen Bradley is simply happy that the date of July 31 has been pencilled in and that his players, who like those at Dundalk, Derry City and Bohemians have been back training since June 8, have a solid target to aim for.

“Everyone is fit,” he said. “We have one or two little knocks, impact injuries, but nothing serious. Everybody is training hard and looking forward to getting back. Now that we have a date it is great for the players because they are now training with an end in sight.

“We have been training like we would normally and the players have worked extremely hard. We obviously had to change how we approach training in things like making sure that sanitising and temperatures are right but other than that everything has been normal for us.”

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