Drogs rise above confusion

WHILE Drogheda United are celebrating an unlikely return to the top-flight just weeks after they flirted with extinction, huge uncertainty still surrounds the final make up of the Premier and First divisions of the Airtricity League with less than three weeks to go until the 2011 campaign kicks off.

Galway United have confirmed that they will appeal the decision of the Club Licensing Committee to deny them a Premier Division slot while, in the First Division, Limerick have until Thursday to satisfy the committee that it has the security in place to meet financial commitments outlined in the club’s budget.

A spokesman for Limerick said they were studying the correspondence from the licensing authorities yesterday and expressed confidence that the club would be able to clarify matters – believed to relate in the main to sponsorship – ahead of the deadline and thus get clearance to play in the First Division this season.

It is also understood that court-appointed mediation between the club and the FAI in the on-going legal dispute over last season’s blocked friendly against Barcelona is expected to get under way in the next seven to 10 days.

Should Galway United fail in their appeal – which reportedly hinges on their being able to submit a Tax Clearance Certificate – they will be demoted to the A Championship and replaced in the Premier Division by Monaghan United, who lost last season’s promotion/relegation play-off to Bray Wanderers.

However, with Drogheda already set to replace the now defunct Sporting Fingal in the top-flight, Monaghan’s elevation at Galway’s expense would leave the First Division down two clubs, requiring a rescheduling of the second tier’s fixture list. Limerick’s current conditional license adds further uncertainty to the situation, as does the possibility that a club in the A Championship might appeal its licence designation with a view to being promoted to the First Division.

While a clearer picture of the make up of the Airtricity League won’t now emerge until next week, confirmation that Drogheda have risen from near-death has been greeted with delight by the Boyneside club.

Club director Jim Agnew said: “Taking our place in this season’s Premier Division gives us a terrific opportunity to move on from the turbulent times of the past, assuming our share scheme maintains momentum up to the start of the season.

“We’ve worked hard over the last few months on plans to make the club self-sustaining and to place ownership in the hands of the supporters and our community.

“We may not be winning the league or anything like that for a while but by the beginning of the season we believe we can have a club that is structured, vibrant and, most importantly, financially stable.”

Ironically, a year on from when Cork City failed in an 11th hour bid to gain a Premier Division licence, the club fulfilled the requirements to be awarded one this season. However, in common with Shelbourne, Athlone Town and Longford Town – who also received Premier Division licences for the coming season — they will, of course, be playing in the First Division this year.

The full list of 2011 licences, as decided by the Independent Licensing Committee, stands as follows:

Premier Licence – Bohemians, Bray Wanderers, Cork City , Derry City , Drogheda United, Dundalk, Monaghan United, Shamrock Rovers, Shelbourne, Sligo Rovers, St Patrick’s Athletic, UCD, Athlone Town , Longford Town .

First Division Licence – Mervue United, Wexford Youths, Salthill Devon, Waterford United, Finn Harps, Limerick (Conditional)

A Championship Licence – Cobh Ramblers, Galway United, Fanad United, FC Carlow, Tralee Dynamos.

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