Ramblers topple into league’s third tier

COBH RAMBLERS’ fall from grace was confirmed yesterday when the club were denied a First Division licence, meaning that they will now have to play in the League of Ireland’s third-tier Newstalk A Championship.

In 2007, Cobh were celebrating as champions of the First Division but, after just one season in the Premier Division, they went straight back down last year, their plight exacerbated by the crippling debts which form the backdrop to their failure to hold on to their second-tier status following yesterday’s announcement by the Independent Club Licensing Committee.

Kildare County, pipped by Mervue United in a play-off for promotion last season, are the club to profit at Cobh’s expense, and will now take their place in the First Division for the 2009 campaign.

A spokesperson for Cobh said the club were “massively disappointed” but, although there was no official confirmation last night of their next move, they are not expected to appeal the decision.

The great escapees in the round of new club licences are Drogheda United. On the brink of going out of business in the close season, the club only emerged from examinership last month but have now retained their place in the Premier Division.

Among other clubs who have suffered financial woes in recent times, Cork City, Athlone Town and Kildare County — as well as Cobh — have been awarded their licences on the basis of giving financial commitments which, say the FAI, must be honoured within agreed dates before the start of the season, on March 6.

Cork City, said they were pleased to have been awarded a licence and added that they were looking forward to the new season “with confidence”.

First Division champions Dundalk, meanwhile, have been granted their Premier Division licence subject to their artificial pitch passing a FIFA examination.

In April, the Club Licensing Committee will consider applications from the four clubs — Bohemians, St Patrick’s Athletic, Derry City and Sligo Rovers — that have qualified for UEFA competitions.

The committee also agreed a catalogue of sanctions for 2009 that will apply to any clubs in breach of licensing criteria, including pre-determined sanctions for examinership. It’s understood that, depending on the extent of liabilities, the penalty for going into examinership could be as high as 40 points.

Meanwhile, the release of the 2009 fixture list reveals that champions and cup winners Bohemians will kick-off the 2009 season with a trip to Oriel Park on March 6 to face newly-promoted Dundalk, managed by former Bohs boss Sean Connor.

The opening night also sees new St. Patrick’s Athletic manager Jeff Kenna take on his old club, Galway United, at Richmond Park, while Shamrock Rovers begin life under new boss Michael O’Neill with a visit to the Carlisle Grounds to face Bray Wanderers. Derry City host Drogheda United and Sligo Rovers take on Cork City (on Saturday evening) to complete the opening series of Premier Division matches.

The 2009 League of Ireland season will conclude on November 16 with a play-off match to decide the promotion/relegation places. The First Division winners will win automatic promotion to the Premier Division for the 2010 season and will be replaced in the First Division by the team that finishes 10th in the Premier Division. The play-off series will involve four clubs, with the eighth and ninth-placed Premier Division teams facing each other, with the losing side facing the winner of a play-off between the second and third-placed First Division teams.

The 2009 FAI Ford Cup final is scheduled for Sunday, November 22.

Said Fran Gavin, Director of the League of Ireland: “Getting the fixture list out means that the build-up to the 2009 season really starts now. There is plenty to look forward to in 2009 — we have some new players, some new managers, a new club and even a new stadium with the opening of the Tallaght Stadium. It’s going to be a very competitive season and I am confident that we can continue to attract more and more football fans to the live matchday experience. Nothing beats live football and I would encourage all fans to experience the excitement of League of Ireland football.”

The fixture list is subject to appeals to the Independent Club Licensing Committee.

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