THE Cork Schoolboys League hit out in the strongest manner possible at Cork City and Cobh Ramblers for signing U14 players in recent weeks when the official League of Ireland competitions don't start until July this year.
This means several local teams have lost their best players and some are folding and withdrawing from the league. The recruited players can only play in friendly games for Cobh and City for the time being while missing out on the chance to finish the season with their clubs and play for the CSL representative squad in the prestigious Kennedy Cup.
Cork and Cobh will field squads at U14, U15, U17 and U19 in 2022. An U13 tier was introduced in 2019 and heavily criticised for taking players from their local teams when the majority of them were still in primary school but wasn't staged last year.
Cathal Heffernan this week signed a loan deal with AC Milan having started out his career with Ringmahon Rangers as a boy before moving to the Cork City Academy.
On Tuesday afternoon CSL secretary Eddie Doyle send this letter to all clubs in the league and the local and national media.
"Gentlemen, I have been instructed by the management committee of the Cork Schoolboys League to write to you as follows:
"Since the advent of the U14 National League, both Cork City and Cobh Ramblers have decimated schoolboys clubs in the U14 grade by signing players in the middle of the schoolboys season for your National League teams, destroying the teams and the competition they played in, and denying players the opportunity to play in the most famous of all schoolboys competitions in Ireland, the Kennedy Cup.
"On November 29, 2021, the board of the FAI announced that the U14 National League for 2022 was being delayed until July 2022.
"This decision came about because of a proposal by the SFAI to the FAI that was a very simple and eminently sensible compromise to allow the U14 players in Cork, and in all leagues all around the country, to participate with their clubs in the Local Leagues, Local Cups, National Cups and the famous Kennedy Cup for the full schoolboys season.
"You would then be able to sign players for your U14 National League when the schoolboys season finished, thereby allowing the players to finish their full U14 season with their schoolboy clubs without disruption.
"You are of course aware that in an email from the league of Ireland on January 25 last, you were advised that players who wished to stay with their grassroots clubs will be able to sign with national league clubs from June 1, 2022 for your competition that starts in July 2022 thereby nullifying any requirement to sign players before then.
"The obvious commonsensical action, for two clubs who claim to be the representatives of Cork football nationally, was of course not to sign any schoolboys players until June and allow those players to complete their seasons with their schoolboys clubs.
"The texts sent out to these players by your academy people left a lot to be desired and does not reflect well on your clubs or the people who sent them out.
"Your academy people have acted despicably towards schoolboys clubs in Cork, taking players away for meaningless friendlies for five or six months before the actual national league competition starts, when those players could be competing at the highest levels of schoolboys football with their clubs and leagues in very meaningful competitions for the rest of the schoolboys season.
"Your actions to date have been the cause of Castleview having to remove their team from the U14 Premier League, a league they were challenging strongly for having also won the Roy Keane U13 Premier League last season. More U14 teams may follow.
"To date, your clubs have acted despicably and shown utter contempt and disrespect to local schoolboys clubs and the league. You are heading for nothing short of a PR disaster for your clubs locally by biting off the hand that feeds you your players, the schoolboys clubs in Cork.
"This year is Cobh Ramblers 100th anniversary, it would hardly be the best year to lose the respect of schoolboys football in Cork. Cork City should also remember that before there were any underage national leagues that the Cork Schoolboys League facilitated them by theoretically giving them an interest in two of our CSL Inter-League teams to satisfy the conditions of their licence.
"Your actions in this U14 scenario to date has the respect for both your clubs at an all-time low in schoolboys football in Cork. Of course, there is a simple solution to this situation.
"Therefore we are now calling on both of you, the Chairmen of Cork City and Cobh Ramblers, to do the right and sensible thing for schoolboys football in Cork, and for both your clubs, and immediately return all the players to their schoolboys clubs and reverse what undoubtedly is the worst decision that both clubs have ever made with respect to schoolboys clubs and schoolboys football in Cork.
"For and on behalf of the management committee of the Cork Schoolboys League,"
The letter was signed by Eddie Doyle, Hon Secretary, Cork Schoolboys League.