Munster Senior League will only attempt to conclude the 2019-'20 season when safe to do so if clubs are behind them

Munster Senior League will only attempt to conclude the 2019-'20 season when safe to do so if clubs are behind them
Avondale's keeper Sean Barron punches clear in the final moments of the FAI Intermediate Cup final win over Crumlin last year. Picture: Brian Lougheed

ON this weekend last season, Avondale United were celebrating their FAI Intermediate Cup success after their win over Crumlin United at the Aviva Stadium.

UCC were two games away from landing the Beamish Stout Senior Premier Division, all of the other league races were decided, while the promotion and relegation places for all of the MSL divisions were done and dusted, bar one play-off game to determine the runners-up spot in the junior second division.

We live in strange and difficult times now, with the Covid-19 coronovirus causing major upheaval throughout society.

Needless the say the local soccer scene has been severely affected by the pandemic, with no football having been played in the Munster Senior League since March 8.

As it stands, most MSL teams have six or seven league games to play, but whether the season will be completed or not remains to be seen.

On Wednesday and Thursday of this week, MSL chairman John Finnegan was part of an FAI steering committee representing the amateur leagues from around the country, which held an online meeting to try and find a way forward for local soccer.

The main points that emerged from the meeting were that any hope of completing the 2019/2020 season would be contingent on the answers to two key questions.

“We need a definitive answer from the government on social distancing and how it applies to contact sport.” Finnegan said.

“We can’t go back until its safe and we need clarification from the government and its health experts on social distancing.”

Within the government’s road-plan, Finnegan doesn’t expect access to any soccer grounds until July 20 at the earliest and in the wake of the FAI meetings on Wednesday and Thursday, contact was made with Munster Senior League clubs to get their views on a possible return to football.

“We’ve sent emails to all the clubs seeking their opinions on whether to complete the current league programme, or start afresh next season.

“All leagues will then forward the clubs’ responses to the FAI who will co-ordinate and assess those responses and make a decision, however, we still have no date for a definite return to football and we won’t have until we get the clarification we need from the government on social distancing.”

“We won’t be going back, whether its July or October, until it’s safe to do so,” he added.

Should the MSL get the answers they want in time for a return to football in July, and if the clubs show a desire to do so, there is a small window to complete the 2020 league campaigns, though it may require pushing back the commencement of the 2020/21 season.

Other issues have to be dealt with at league and club level — registration of players, a possible extended closure of the transfer window, while player and club insurance could also be an issue.

The majority of clubs across the MSL divisions have six or seven league games remaining, so, with midweek fixtures, the season could be completed by the end of August.

However, there is also the matter, of the FAI Intermediate Cup and Munster Senior Cup, a decision on which will be made at national and provincial level, and it will affect a number of Cork teams.

Ringmahon Rangers are due to play an FAI Intermediate Cup semi-final with Killester, while fellow title rivals Rockmount are in the final of the Munster Senior Cup where they will face the winners of Midleton and Cork City.

Also, all bar one of the MSL’s cup competitions have yet to be completed while Ringmahon and College Corinthians are also through to the preliminary round of FAI Senior Cup which is usually played at this time of the year.

The FAI steering committee is set to meet again this Monday.

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