CORK City’s return to SSE Airtricity League of Ireland action on July 31 is in doubt after the Rebel Army and eight other Premier Division sides sent a letter to the FAI expressing misgivings with the way the resumption of football was being handled.
The nine clubs – with Shamrock Rovers the only exception – believe that the league should not be retaining the original promotion-relegation format and maintain that the July 31 return date was announced before being relayed to them.
The overwhelming view of the Premier Clubs Allliance (PCA) was for there to be a one-up, one-down system this season due to the season being halved to 18 games.
The PCA are represented by Dundalk, St Patrick’s Athletic and Shamrock Rovers on the National League Executive Committee along with first-division sides Drogheda United and Galway United as well as Dave Moran and Paul O’Brien of the FAI.
The first-division sides were in favour of retaining the status quo and Rovers opted to back that, going against the PCA wishes and lead to the decision being taken.
In their letter, the nine clubs asked that a board meeting scheduled for today be postponed until a response was provided. The FAI had said on Tuesday that any club refusing to take part would have their points wiped out, effectively resulting in relegation.
As things stand, the fixture-list has City resuming in the league at home to Bohemians at Turner’s Cross on Friday, July 31 with a trip to Waterford a week later. Prior to that, there is a Munster Senior Cup semi-final against Midleton at Bishopstown on Saturday, July 25 at 5pm.
Eight days ago, City returned to training and manager Neale Fenn was delighted to be back on the field.
“I’ve never been more happy to be standing out in the rain, to be honest!” he laughed.
“It was great to be out there, obviously it’s been a long break, it’s good to see the boys again, they’re all fit and they’ve been sticking to their programmes.
“It was a light day, just getting used to kicking footballs again. It’s been hard for them mentally, they’ve been working hard but you can’t replicate kicking actions and striking footballs.
“Also, they haven’t had access to gyms so it will take a bit of time. This week is just nice and easy, easing our way back into it.” Social-distancing protocols were followed, though the session was low-intensity.
“We’re just glad to be back,” Fenn said.
“Obviously, with the social distancing and the sanitisation that goes on, we had to keep the lads separate but the sessions we had planned were just to get a bit of technical work going."
“From next week, we’ll look at stepping it up a little bit more.
“Everyone had a big smile on their face, we had to tell them that the work starts here, it’s not a mess around.
“If the league is the way we think it’s going to go, there are some important games coming up.”