UCC title furore rumbles on

University College Cork (UCC) may have been awarded last year’s Munster Senior League (MSL) title at arbitration but the controversy is set to rumble on, with the aggrieved parties meeting next week to consider their next steps.

On Wednesday, Avondale United saw their third successive MSL title won in May revoked after second-placed UCC were awarded two extra points arising from an unregistered Leeds player facing the Students in a drawn match back in November.

UCC’s failed protest to the MSL and subsequent appeals to the Munster FA and FAI seeking full points were both knocked back, leaving them pursuing the only remaining avenue open — arbitration

Because the parties agreed for the arbitration to be binding, legal recourse to this mammoth decision is extremely limited for Avondale and the MSL.

This case, however, is far from straightforward and the fallout carries the potential to divide the amateur game within Cork and the wider region.

Already, the recriminations have started with Avondale captain Michael Mulconry not dismissing the “nuclear option” of pulling out of MSL just five weeks into the new season.

Avondale, an entirely innocent party in the episode, end up the biggest losers. The manager of last season’s team, John Ryan, has branded the decision “disgusting”

For their part, UCC’s Alumni Chairman Kieran Nestor, insists the governors of the league are responsible for the mess unfolding.

What angers United most is the timing of the protest. Had UCC lodged the official complaint shortly after facing Leeds, then Avondale claim they would have fielded a stronger side in the end-of-season meeting with the Students, which they lost 1-4. That result reduced the title-winning margin to a point, a buffer overtaken by the two points eventually awarded to their rivals.

While UCC’s failure to submit their original protest within a designated time-frame after the game against Leeds was the basis upon which their two ensuing appeals were dismissed, arbitrator Max Duthie differed in his analysis.

That the MSL, in April, penalised Leeds for fielding the same unregistered player in a fixture against Everton in January with forfeiture of the fixture was not considered a means of making other clubs aware of the player’s illegal status.

Duthie concluded in his determination that UCC only gained knowledge of the potential issue on May 21, prompting them to seek clarity from the MSL and email all 34 teams in the league conveying their concerns.

From that measure, the arbitrator opined, Avondale were aware of potential action prior to the fixture against UCC on May 28. The protest was duly lodged the following day, setting into motion five months of bitter wrangling.

Last night, Avondale United’s management committee released a short statement, indicating the case is far from closed.

It read: “In respect of the recent arbitration process relating to last year’s league title, the club will not be making any further comment at this time. There is meeting of the MSL next Tuesday. The club wishes to reserve any comment until that meeting has taken place and the club has had time to give full consideration to the matter. A full statement on the matter shall follow in due course.”

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