Bray may lose 14 players before next game as crisis deepens
Bray Wanderers are braced to lose as many as 14 of their first-team squad by the time of their next League of Ireland fixture on Friday week.
The Wicklow club are facing a cash-flow crisis as the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) summoned the club's hierarchy to a meeting last night seeking answers.
It is understood that while there is no immediate threat to Bray surviving their latest financial woes, a depleted wage budget will leave established players with little option except to find alternative employment.
Although the Seagulls sold Dylan Connolly to Dundalk last week for €35,000, they won't receive a cent for Gary McCabe, Keith Buckley, Hugh Douglas or Peter Cherrie.
They are the quartet most in demand and, while captain Conor Kenna has indicated the players would prefer to stay loyal to Bray, the precarious nature of League of Ireland football is set to dawn next week when the remaining funds are used to service the payroll.
Bray chairman Denis O'Connor has blamed poor attendances and advertising revenue for the malaise, casting doubt over the continued investment of major shareholder Gerry Mulvey, but the FAI insist the club cannot deviate from their pre-season promises.
"The FAI have requested that the club clarify its position following comments and a statement made by the club chairman last week," read a statement from the association following a meeting between league chief Fran Gavin and Bray board members.
"A number of key items were discussed during the meeting, including the commitments the club entered into during the Independent Club Licensing process."
Meanwhile, the inclusion yesterday of schoolboy club St Kevin's Boys in the new U-15 national league could lead to a high court injunction being sought by other schoolboy clubs to prevent the season kicking off in August.
FAI high performance director Ruud Dokter has refused to rule out St Kevin's Boys continuing into next year's U-15 national league as the fall-out from their admittance to the new venture deepened last night.
The Dublin schoolboy outfit were the sole successful applicant in the 24-team league announced yesterday that is not currently a League of Ireland club or an underage league.
Although their entrance was granted on the basis of them joining forces before the end of the year with Bohemians, there is no guarantee of that occurring and Dokter declined to say whether they could remain in the 2018 season as a standalone club.
The first season of the new venture will run from August to December, before the 2018 campaign is scheduled alongside the senior season from next March to October.
"We have to review this short season at the end of the year and we'll take it from there," the Dutchman responded when asked about the potential continuance of St Kevin's Boys after this initial truncated season.
Getting the first ball kicked in the debut season may be a task in itself for the FAI, considering the reaction since reports first surfaced about the successful Saints application last week.
Other schoolboy clubs feel aggrieved at what they feel was misleading information during the application process.
Interested parties from the underage fraternity were urged to forge partnerships with League of Ireland clubs to stand any chance of entry and several did so on that understanding.
Now that St Kevin's have managed to gain entry, after apparently attempting but failing to negotiate an alliance, they have engaged a well-respected Dublin-based solicitor to pursue their case with the FAI.
"The preferred option has always been to create partnerships because we strongly believe in partnerships," reasoned Dokter.
"It didn't work out for St Kevin's but they have signed a formal agreement with Bohemians to enter a process towards creating an agreement and that will allow them join the existing pathway in the national leagues."
The Irish Independent has seen a copy of this agreement which includes no guarantee of the negotiations succeeding.
After initial discussions failed to broker an accord, the FAI called both parties to a meeting last Wednesday in Malahide where pleas were made for them to rediscover common ground. Sources on both sides have said the current gulf between them is vast.