Cork soccer: League of Ireland must tackle First Division fixture mess

Cork soccer: League of Ireland must tackle First Division fixture mess
Action from the recent Cobh Ramblers and Cork City friendly. Picture: Doug Minihane

THE second tier of Irish soccer does't get huge national coverage, but lately it has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

The League Of Ireland First Division season is due to start in two weeks. Yet all the second tier clubs, including Cobh Ramblers, are unsure as to who they will be playing on the opening night.

First Division clubs have voiced their opposition and some have even threatened boycotting their fixtures with a Shamrock Rovers second team, as opposition exists within the First Division to the Dublin club’s presence in the league.

On top of that, there is the entire mess up in Limerick.

Although not supportive of the inclusion of a Shamrock Rovers B team, Cobh Ramblers chairman Michael O’Donovan told The Echo he feels going down the road of boycotting games would not resolve the issues at hand.

“It does demean the First Division a bit. All of that said, they applied and they were successful, so we get on with it. I think the talk and speculation around teams refusing to play them, personally I think it is counter productive.

“I think the First Division has enough problems and I think a Shamrock Rovers B is one of them.”

As things stand, Rovers II will be permitted to field three first-team players and a goalkeeper from their Premier Division squad.

All in all, this is a shambolic situation and totally unprofessional for what is supposed to be the second highest level of football in Ireland. A revised draft fixture list based on an 11-team First Division was released, including Shamrock Rovers B and Limerick FC, with the latter under Pat O’Sullivan being given permission to apply for a licence.

The fixture list, while clearly stated as being a draft, based on all clubs getting a licence and therefore 'subject to change', outlines the timetable for a season in which a new Shield competition would precede a 20-game league campaign getting its delayed kick-off on March 27.

The original First Division fixture list, which was released in January, allows for 10 teams competing in a 27-game season.

“It is far from ideal, but we just have to get on with it,” describes O’Donovan.

“The close season always a busy time for us, in that you are chasing sponsorship, planning your budgeting for the season ahead and all the work that goes on around the Licencing application, which is a huge body of work.

“I am really proud of the efforts our group put in. We can only control what we can control. Whatever falls out of the next few days, we just have to get on with it.”

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