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Dundalk plan to replace their plastic pitch by the start of next season

The Louth club have taken full ownership of the Oriel Park lease after resolving long-standing legal issues surrounding the ground.

Dundalk's home ground Oriel Park.
Dundalk's home ground Oriel Park.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

DUNDALK HAVE TODAY taken a major step on the road to upgrading their home ground and its pitch.

In a statement released this afternoon, the Louth club announced that it has taken full ownership of the lease for Oriel Park and the Youth Development Centre building.

Since Paul Browne and Andy Connolly took control in August 2012, the Lilywhites — Airtricity League Premier Division champions for the past three years — have been involved in a drawn-out legal battle with former owner Gerry Matthews.

Without the lease, the current administration were unable to apply for grants for much-needed redevelopment of the stadium and the replacement of the current artificial pitch with a top class grass surface.

However, with Dundalk earning €7 million from their European exploits this year, its purchase has been agreed and they have also paid a settlement to Louth County Council over money owed by Matthews for outstanding planning levy charges.

This will pave the way for the club to make improvements at Oriel and install a new pitch, which they plan to have laid by the beginning of next season.

While the statement thanks the FAI and former Uefa vice-president Des Casey (who handles the lease on behalf of his family), it is highly-critical of Matthews — claiming he leaked the story last week before going on to slam his behaviour over the years.

A general view of Oriel Park Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Read the statement in full below:

Dundalk Football Club are delighted to confirm that we have concluded the process to resolve all of the long-standing legal problems surrounding the lease of Oriel Park. As a result of this process, Dundalk Football Club have taken full ownership of the lease of Oriel Park and the YDC building.

Since the takeover of the club from Gerry Matthews in August 2012, Dundalk FC have achieved unprecedented levels of success on the pitch. This has been achieved despite the backdrop of a very serious legal dispute that was inherited by the current administration at Dundalk FC.

The new administration fully expected the transfer of the lease of Oriel Park into our name following the takeover. This was not forthcoming from the previous owner. Without ownership of the lease, Dundalk FC were unable to make any improvements to Oriel Park. This includes any upgrade of the pitch. Therefore, a resolution of this issue was vital to both the short and long term future of the club.

Having reached a settlement to purchase the lease and YDC, the club agreed to a statement with Mr Matthews to be released on Monday 21st November. Inevitably, Mr Matthews leaked that agreement last week and, disgracefully in our view, this was shared on social media by a local media representative.

In this planned statement, we stated that the agreement with Mr Matthews was based on “genuine goodwill”. While we wished to put a positive note on this agreement, given Mr Matthews behaviour over the years repeatedly making inaccurate statements in the press, interfering with the licensing process, wrongly claiming that money was owed to him and, even last week, attempting to portray this agreement as the settlement of a debt to him – we are compelled to state that, unfortunately, there was absolutely no goodwill between Dundalk Football Club and Mr Matthews at the conclusion of this process.

The club have also made a full settlement with Louth County Council for the money that Mr Matthews owed to them for outstanding planning levy charges.

The club are very grateful for the support of Des Casey and his family during this process. This has been a very traumatic and stressful time for the Casey family over the past ten years and we appreciate their support during this dispute. Dundalk FC have recognised Des’ and his families contribution to the club over the past 80 years by naming him as our new Honorary President.

We would also like to thank John Delaney and the FAI for their support. The FAI worked closely with Louth County Council and found a solution to the problems relating to the planning levies that Mr Matthews owed. Following legal advice, we decided to resolve this situation ourselves without any outside assistance. However, it must be pointed out that the FAI did take an active interest in this situation and provided a lot of support and advice in order to find a resolution.

Dundalk FC have already been visited by pitch specialists in order to move forward with a new playing surface that we hope will be in place for the start of the 2017 season. We are also undertaking a feasibility study on how we can make best use of the YDC building for the good of our club and community. Everybody at the club is looking forward to the future as we attempt to build on the incredible progress we have made over the past four years.

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Ben Blake

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