Yesterday’s release of a fixture list for an eight-team division means that, while both clubs could yet get licences, it would require one of the eight named clubs to fail in their licensing application for a vacancy to arise.
Tralee Dynamos were meeting last night to discuss the ramifications of the decision, with team manager Noel White expressing “surprise” at the timing of the announcement.
“We’re still in a process,” he said. “We’ve entered a process faithfully and we have to engage in it.”
Ernest O’Keefe, interim secretary and club licensing officer for Cobh Ramblers, said the club were “bitterly disappointed” by the news and was critical the way the FAI handled the process.
“I’m disappointed that the FAI decided to produce the fixture list before the licensing was issued and not fully consider, I don’t think, the applications made by both Cobh Ramblers and Tralee Dynamos,” he said.
“We didn’t expect the fixture list [yesterday]. It seemed to us a little bit odd that the FAI would decide to produce a fixture list at this point. We’ve had no contact whatsoever [about the publication of the list] from the FAI either in the form of a telephone call, a text message or an e-mail. Nothing. Which I’m very aggrieved about it really.
“I would have thought that the professional body that they are that they would have had the decency to make contact with us and let us know what was happening.”
Even if Cobh were to secure a First Division license, O’Keefe is already resigned to Ramblers missing out on a place in the second-tier.
“Looking at the teams in the First Division, I can’t see any of those teams not getting a licence,” he said.
“All we can do really now is start again towards an application for 2013. Unfortunately, there won’t be senior football at the club, it looks like, for the next 12 months anyway. The U19 league finishes in early April so from then on it doesn’t look as if there’s going to be any football which is a terrible shame.”
Regarding the issue of outstanding wages owed to Cobh players which could have proved an impediment to their getting a license, O’Keefe said talks were ongoing with the FAI and the PFAI to resolve the issue.
“We were reasonably confident that we’d get a First Division licence and then, hopefully, be accepted into the league as well.”
League of Ireland director Fran Gavin stressed yesterday that the fixture list and composition of the First Division were contingent of the licensing process.
“At all times the clubs were informed that you don’t automatically get a licence and you are in,” he said. “The licensing process decision day is February 12. If it’s a case that a club from the Premier or First Division doesn’t get a licence, and Tralee and Cobh do, they would be considered.
“They haven’t received a licence yet, nor has any other club. If a vacancy arises they will be considered. If one vacancy arises and they both get licences, a decision will have to be made which one of those clubs is most suitable.”
On the decision to make it an eight- rather than 10-team division, Gavin said: “There is no point taking in teams or expanding it for the sake of it. We want to maintain the standard that’s in it. Where we are at the moment is eight clubs and that’s it.”
With Galway United now defunct, and following the failure of merger talks among the city’s other clubs, Mervue United and Salthill Devon will continue during the 2012 season, with the latter, now playing as SD Galway, having nominated Terryland Park as their home ground.
For the full fixture list see www.fai.ie