Cork City forfeit U14 League of Ireland tie after venue row 

City announce they will not fulfil quarter-final date with Finn Harps this weekend due to Donegal side demanding home advantage
Cork City forfeit U14 League of Ireland tie after venue row 

GAME OFF: Cork City say a seven-hour trip to Donegal does not make sense in a developmental competition. Pic: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

Cork City have confirmed they will not be fulfilling their League of Ireland U-14 quarter final with Finn Harps this weekend after a dispute over the venue for the fixture. 

In a statement released Thursday evening, City outlined their disagreement with the game being fixed for Donegal, necessitating an arduous 14-hour round-trip. While Harps have home advantage for the tie, previous meetings involving the two sides have taken place at neutral venues. Roscommon had been used on one occasion.

"Cork City FC wishes to confirm that we have informed the FAI that our U14 academy boys’ team will not be fulfilling their league quarter -final game vs Finn Harps FC, originally scheduled for this Saturday in Donegal," the club statement read.

"Following a discussion between the Board of Management and our Head of Academy, Liam Kearney, the Board and club management have unanimously backed Liam’s decision to forfeit the match under the principle that it is completely unacceptable that a developmental age group of U14’s be asked to travel for over 7-hours on a bus to play this fixture, when more pragmatic options for the fulfilment of the fixture are evidently available. The club has reached this decision following lengthy discussions internally and with the other parties involved. In these discussions, we have placed a particular emphasis on the views of our coaches and the parents of the players, with player welfare a significant factor, particularly with an age group so young.

"We as a club have endeavoured to find a resolution with the opposition club by suggesting that we play this fixture at a neutral venue, as we have done previously this season and as has been the case for several fixtures this season so far involving significant travel, however, the designated home team wished to maintain their home ‘advantage’ for what is meant to be a developmental league fixture. We have asked our governing body, the FAI, to intervene in this matter and apply a common-sense approach, but league rules preclude them from doing so."

The club insisted that potential costs of making an overnight trip for the fixture were not a determining factor, with player welfare their priority. 

"For the avoidance of doubt, the club had the funds to facilitate an overnight trip, including hotel, meals, overnight bus, etc… at great expense, however, the premise of forcing a group of U14 players to travel 7+ hours on a bus remains the core issue, particularly as due to school that the players would not arrive in Donegal until close or after midnight," the statement continued.

"Unfortunately, as a club we have had to take this course of action and as a result there will be 20 disappointed players this weekend, who will miss a great development opportunity due to what we believe is a fundamental lack of understanding of what player development should really be and stand for. It is our belief that the priority in academy football is player development, not winning football matches. Unfortunately, in this case, it is evident that winning, or gaining an advantage in an effort to win, has been prioritised. We are deeply disappointed not to be playing the fixture but believe we have made the correct decision in the best interest of our players.

"We wish to further state that we are now keen to engage with the relevant parties to discuss amendments to the regulations for next season to ensure there is no repeat of such a scenario in the future."

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