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Football chiefs must ensure Cabinteely do not follow Mervue

The newest League of Ireland club must not end up suffering the same fate as Mervue United, with support and advice from the FAI essential to their success.

Plans ahead: manager Eddie Gormley is keeping a level head.
Plans ahead: manager Eddie Gormley is keeping a level head.
Image: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

FINALLY, SSE AIRTRICITY League First Division clubs can begin planning their seasons with the release of the fixtures this afternoon.

The announcement follows the confirmation that Dublin-based Cabinteely FC will take the eighth spot in the division, replacing the now dissolved Shamrock Rovers B.

Cabinteely will be the sixth side from Dublin to play in the League of Ireland this season, playing their home games at the 1,000 capacity Stradbrook Road — home of Blackrock College rugby team.

Having seen many League of Ireland teams go under in the past few years, club manager Eddie Gormley told the Irish Mirror that he does not envision Cabinteely becoming another Sporting Fingal.

“We’ve no debts but we won’t be spending money we don’t have either,” Gormley said. “We have what we have in the bank and it’s something we intend to grow over a number of years. We have businessmen looking after the business, football people looking after the football.”

However, financial worries are not the only concerns that Gormley and the new team should have. Mervue United were a successfully run team, with good facilities, and a pedigree of producing talent (Pat Hoban, Rory Gaffney, Ryan Manning), but they were forced by the wayside on a whim by the FAI.

The Football Association of Ireland’s independent report on Galway senior football claimed that “there should be one National League club in the Galway area. The report notes the long term systematic weakness of having any more than one senior club in a city of Galway’s size on both sporting and commercial grounds.” This was the death knell for Mervue and Salthill Devon, who saw their League of Ireland teams folded at the expense of Galway United.

The Tribesmen have done things properly since their return to the league, but the FAI’s findings are at odds with their practice. Galway should only have one club, but Dublin has six, with Bray Wanderers just a short distance away, while Shamrock Rovers were allowed play two teams in two divisions.

Survival

This sentiment is shared by former Mervue United midfielder Tom King, who gave up soccer following the club’s demise in favour of Gaelic Football. “Mervue made progression year on year, yet they were removed from the league,” King told Goal. “The rules seem to be bent when it suits the FAI. It’s a costly thing entering the LOI. Between buses, hotels, food, security for games, it’s difficult to survive.

“In the end after all these sacrifices, the FAI may turn round to them in a year or so when they restructure again they could be removed. I hope Cabinteely do well, they will learn a lot as a club and the players will benefit a lot I’m sure. Hopefully they won’t end up in the same situation.”

Former Cork City chairman and Limerick chief executive John O’Sullivan knows better than most the difficulties of running a League of Ireland club, and how local support is essential for short-term and long-term success. “Cabinteely will require a significant investment to run the new side, increasing with the national U17 and U19 sides they must field,” O’Sullivan told Goal.

“Their short term success will depend on getting the existing players and families around the club, a couple of thousand people, engaged and supportive. They’re moving into a saturated market and with no real monetary reward in the First Division, they need to focus on those they’re already developing rather than chasing higher profile players.”

O’Sullivan believes that the FAI and other clubs must help Cabinteely develop in their early stages, offering advice to help them survive in the difficult League of Ireland landscape.

“It’s going to be tough, so the best thing they can do from the outset is to speak openly with other clubs, with people experienced in the league, and gather as much information and advice as possible,” O’Sullivan advises.

“We need to attract strong clubs, as Cabinteely are, into the league. But no new club, no matter who they are, can solve the problems. Everyone has to accept their part in ensuring we take a proper, open, and collective look at the plans and strategy for the league.

“We need to ensure we have a platform where any club can grow, rather than the case with e.g. Mervue, where they leave disillusioned, no stronger, despite the investment made.”

Together with assistance from other League of Ireland teams, the FAI need to ensure that Cabinteely are given every opportunity to survive in the League of Ireland. Otherwise they could find themselves listed alongside defunct clubs like Dublin City, Kildare County, Kilkenny City, Monaghan United, Sporting Fingal, and Mervue United.

Ronan Hunt-Murphy, Goal.com

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