League of Ireland First Division to progress with nine teams after Bray-Cabinteely merger

Meanwhile, Shamrock Rovers have criticised "a completely random, ill-thought-out decision" by the FAI board to delay the start of the U14 National League season from February until July
League of Ireland First Division to progress with nine teams after Bray-Cabinteely merger

The Carlisle Grounds in Bray. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

The FAI is preparing to run next year’s First Division with just nine teams following Cabinteely’s takeover of Bray Wanderers.

Details of the alliance, as first revealed in the Irish Examiner on November 7, were outlined on Friday morning by chairman Tony Richardson and director of football Pat Devlin at the Carlisle Grounds.

They confirmed that the first team's name under the amalgam will remain at Bray Wanderers until further notice, with the underage teams across all of the national league teams from U14 upwards called Cabinteely.

However, with two First Division clubs becoming one, the fallout has begun.

The FAI confirmed the matter was discussed at Monday’s board meeting and talks with all stakeholders are planned.

It is understood the campaign is to proceed with an odd-numbered composition, rather than invite expressions of interest for a new entrant.

Under that format, one team would be idle every week, as is the case in the Women's National League.

Limerick’s Treaty United were accepted into the second tier for the 2021 campaign, reaching last month’s play-offs, while Shamrock Rovers’ reserves and Dublin County were rejected.

Another decision at the six-hour summit, that primarily concentrated on Stephen Kenny’s future, revolved around the SFAI Kennedy Cup tournament.

To try to broker a compromise against competing factions, the 12-person board chose to delay the start of the U14 National League season from February until July to accommodate the week-long schoolboys’ league tournament taking place at Limerick University.

This has caused outrage among League of Ireland clubs who were of the impression that the U14 campaign would align with the U15, U17, and U19 equivalents.

Shamrock Rovers were the first to publicly request a reversal of their directive.

“We are astounded by the decision by the board to divert from the agreed national underage competitions calendar and introduce what can only be described as a ‘mini league’ in the U14 League,” their board said in a statement today.

“We call upon Roy Barrett, as independent chair of the FAI, to explain fully the reason why this age group should play a different calendar to all other national league competitions and why are they being denied the opportunity to maximise their talent playing a full season of football?

“The scheduling of U14/15/17/19 competitions was agreed on by the NLEC as far back as August 2021.

“All clubs have subsequently assembled their squads in readiness for the start date of March 2022 as per other seasons.

“Player registrations were signed from December 1 - in the same week as this decision was made within an FAI Boardroom meeting and handed down without any consultation.

“This decision affects the players - children aged 13/14 are being obstructed in developing their talent by a completely random, ill-thought-out decision made by the FAI Board.

“We understand that that this decision was taken against the advice of senior FAI officials as well as clubs, through the NLEC, adopted the schedule for 2022 underage last August by deciding to replicate the 2021 season with a full suite of U14, U15, U17 and U19 national competitions.” 

Meanwhile, Vinny Perth could be set for a swift return to management at Longford Town.

Perth won the FAI Cup with Town as a player and is available after Dundalk opted against extending his contract as manager.

Perth could face late competition from Gary Cronin, whose three-year stint at Bray Wanderers ended yesterday following the takeover by Cabinteely, and Conor Kenna.

Longford finished bottom of the Premier Division during a campaign they let manager Daire Doyle go with two matches remaining.

He is now set to join the managerial carousel by assisting Kevin Doherty at Drogheda United.

Doherty steps into the hotseat at Drogs on a three-year deal, promoted to fill the vacancy created by Tim Clancy’s departure to St Patrick’s Athletic.

Although Saints would only confirm Clancy has joined the ‘management team’, he is generally considered to be the new main man who will pick the team.

Stephen O’Donnell, fresh from leading the Saints to FAI Cup glory on Sunday, stunned club benefactor Garrett Kelleher two days later by informing him of his intention to quit for Dundalk.

O’Donnell has a strong affinity to the Lilywhites, having captained the side during their decorated era, and is bringing assistant Patrick Cregg with him to Oriel Park.

Dundalk cannot confirm O’Donnell’s arrival on a long-term deal until a dispute with St Pat’s over compensation is resolved. Ambiguity prevails on whether O’Donnell had formally committed his future to Kelleher before he dropped the bombshell this week.

Clancy is looking to enlist former Saints player Derek Pender as his sidekick but faces a task to lure him from his role as one of Keith Long’s coaches at Bohemians.

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