Tuesday 31 January 2023 Dublin: 7°C
Donall Farmer/INPHO Cabinteely face into their maiden campaign in the SSE Airtricity League.
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'The truth is Cabinteely is exactly the type of club that the League of Ireland needs to attract'
In the first of his weekly columns, John O’Sullivan looks at what the League of Ireland’s newest members can bring to the table.

Having worked in the game with Cork City, as club chairman and a founding member of FORAS, and as CEO of Limerick FC and Athlone Town, John O’Sullivan will write exclusively for The42 on the off-the-field issues affecting the SSE Airtricity League this season. 

CABINTEELY FC COULD surprise us all.

The negativity surrounding their entry into the SSE Airtricity League is threefold — their competitiveness, their stadium and the fact that they are from Dublin.

Chairman Pearse Toal started discussions with the FAI 18 months ago but their place only became available after Shamrock Rovers withdrew their ‘B’ team and both St Patrick’s Athletic and Cork City decided not to pursue similar reserve sides. Cabinteely wanted the place some time ago and built towards it, which is to their credit.

Cabinteely’s ability to be competitive is applicable to any new entrant. Salthill Devon were, truthfully, never competitive during their short First Division life but Wexford Youths have shown that with time and planning it’s achievable. In Eddie Gormley the club possess a manager who has seen all aspects of the league and is experienced enough to help them maintain standards.

The league may not ‘need’ another Dublin club but if Cabinteely were located in Tralee, Carlow or Mayo, for example, the red carpet would have been rolled out. The truth is Cabinteely is exactly the type of club that the league needs to attract.

They are an established, growing, well-run and excellently-administered club with a 900-strong membership base. In fielding 54 teams, they immediately become the league’s largest academy.

Their membership already exceeds the average attendance of most First Division rivals. If they engage those members and their families correctly they will have an excellent foundation. While a geographical spread of teams would be ideal, there aren’t many clubs interested in the league in it’s current state.

Regardless, Dublin has a sufficient population to support the teams it hosts. Public apathy and interest is the issue, not the number of teams.

Cabinteely will play out of Stradbrook, home of Blackrock RFC, which will cause a lot of concern in terms of the pitch. When I dealt with Thomond Park turning a Munster Rugby pitch into a football pitch, they had a dedicated team and finance available, the turnaround in Stradbrook, where the season overlap, will be more difficult.

Stradbrook meets First Division criteria in terms of attendance as it only needs to provide an uncovered capacity for 200. That the league allows a stadium with no covered seats to be deemed adequate is not a Cabinteely issue.

They will need to work hard to surprise us, though. Mervue United and Salthill Devon both had to deal with internal complaints when schoolboy funds were being directed to support uncompetitive senior sides.

Cabinteely season ticket prices have been set at a level which should not be onerous to those families already paying registration and fees to the club, which is a positive. The sponsorship rates they have targeted on their website are ambitious, but naive within a division with so little coverage and return on investment for sponsors.

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By focusing on an amateur, homegrown squad, they will keep costs down, but may still need a low six-figure sum to survive the year. It won’t be easy, but they’re better structured than many of the clubs we’ve seen come and go in the last twenty years.

It’s important that Cabinteely succeed. We need a league which allows clubs to flourish, a league which gives clubs and players new opportunities. We must move away from being a league that loses clubs, offering them nothing but cost and trouble.

I’ll be rooting for them. I hope they surprise us all.

Follow John on Twitter @johngosullivan

– First published 08.00

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