FAI launch investigation into Bray wall collapse
How could this happen again? That's the question which will be asked of Bray Wanderers after the same perimeter wall at the Carlisle Grounds collapsed for the second time in the space of 16 months.
Visiting Monaghan United supporters were fortunate to escape injury in the late drama which enveloped the promotion/relegation play-off between their side and Bray at the Wicklow venue on Monday night.
The FAI have confirmed they will launch an investigation after a section of the wall succumbed under pressure as Monaghan fans celebrated Chris Shields' own goal that put their side 1-0 ahead late in extra-time in the Premier Division play-off.
The match was delayed for five minutes before the hosts equalised and eventually secured their Premier Division status thanks to Shields' winner in a sudden-death penalty shoot-out.
An engineer visited the ground yesterday to inspect the scene and will submit a report to the association based on his findings. The FAI will also review the match delegate's report before making recommendations to the club.
The incident represents an alarming health and safety issue at the stadium, as a part of the same wall collapsed in July, 2009 when Shamrock Rovers fans celebrated a Gary Twigg goal.
The wall was reconstructed at the time and the club yesterday pledged to implement any recommendations made as a result of the investigation.
"It was reconstructed and strengthened," a club spokesman said. "As soon as the engineer looks at that, whatever action needs to be taken we'll take it. Absolutely, 100pc -- any remedial work we can take, we will."
Shields has described the final minutes of the play-off as the "most emotional roller-coaster ride of my whole life" and admits the wall collapse played a large part in his side's dramatic recovery.
The midfielder's 119th-minute clanger looked to have promoted Monaghan, but he then set up Jake Kelly's equaliser, before converting the winning spot-kick in the tense shoot-out finale.
"It was a blessing in disguise really," he said. "We had four or five minutes to get our heads around it, what we had to go, throw everything at it and get an equaliser.
"I was nearly in tears. I thought it was nothing left on the clock. Thankfully nobody was hurt when the wall came down, but it gave us a bit of time and Jake got me out of a hole.
"Then, I just knew it was going to come down to me, I just had that feeling. Luckily I put it in the net and we're still in the Premier Division. There is no better feeling in the world."
Speaking as the theme song of 'The Great Escape' bellowed from the PA system, Bray manager Pat Devlin said: "I am delighted for our players and supporters, but I have a huge amount of sympathy for Monaghan.
"We deserve this for what we went through as a club this year. We had 24 hours to get a team together at the start of the season and, though it went down to the wire at the end of a long season, I think we deserved it.
"I have to congratulate Monaghan as they had a great season and Mick Cooke can be proud of his players.
"It was just a pity that there had to be a loser on the night, but I am glad that it wasn't us," added Devlin
Meanwhile, League of Ireland director Fran Gavin has confirmed that the Premier Division will be expanded in 2012 and hinted there would be no relegation from the top flight next year.
Recommendations from clubs have been put before the FAI Board, with a preference for a 16-team Premier Division and a slight majority favouring a return to winter football.
Gavin is against the latter, but understands the need for a larger top division, with no decision yet on the size.
A 12, 14 or 16-team league are the options and the confirmation is imminent, with the authorities conscious that clubs need to know what they are playing for in 2011 before finalising budgets.
He acknowledged that it wouldn't be 'common sense' to promote five or seven teams from the First Division and demote one from the existing 10-team Premier. The fate of the sides left behind, with respect to a possible merger into the 'A' Championship, needs to be worked out.
Gavin is confident that Bohemians and Sporting Fingal will be ready to compete at the start of next term, despite concerns over their financial well-being. This week, Gypsies players have been meeting with the club, who are keen to reach a settlement with contracted stars and revert to a youthful part-time team.
"They've made a decision they want to go a different direction and want to build the club up and I agree with what they're doing," said Gavin. "I think they will come through it."
The difficulties experienced by Sporting Fingal's main benefactor, Gerry Gannon, has placed question marks over their survival as a full-time outfit.
"We've been discussing with the club and watching the situation very closely," said Gavin. "They have strong foundations and I'd have no concerns about the club folding -- it's at what level they want to be at.
"I think everybody is just waiting for the budget in December, we're no different to any other industry."