Fingal ready to give up the ghost
Sporting Fingal are at death's door after terminating the contracts of their 13 players and withdrawing from the Setanta Cup just five days before the FAI sit down to hand out licenses for the 2011 League of Ireland campaign.
Manager Liam Buckley is frantically searching for investment, but league chief Fran Gavin last night acknowledged that time is against a club who have enjoyed a whirlwind existence.
Fingal entered the league at the beginning of 2008 and, within three seasons, clinched promotion, won the FAI Cup and qualified for Europe in their debut Premier League campaign, despite failing to attract a fanbase in a crowded Dublin market.
The funding of businessman Gerry Gannon propelled the club to that level, but after losing his investment due to NAMA restrictions, they sought investment over the winter to compensate.
Buckley believed he had secured a new backer and went about the business of recruiting new signings, but the individual in question suffered an unexpected difficulty and was unable to follow through on that commitment.
Attempts to find an alternative proved unsuccessful, and the players who gathered for training at ALSAA yesterday were handed letters which confirmed that the club was terminating their employment.
The PFAI will examine the possibility of statutory redundancy payments but, in the short term, the priority for those players is to secure new employment.
Midfielder Shaun Williams has particular reason to be aggrieved. The club rejected an approach from Celtic last month and, under British transfer regulations, it appears that he is now unable to move across the water until the summer as he didn't become a free agent before the transfer window closed on January 31.
Instead, he is likely to make his way to Shamrock Rovers, who are also tracking Ronan Finn, another talented performer who has attracted English interest.
Gary O'Neill would also appeal to Michael O'Neill, who is close to tying up the signature of ex-Bohs defender Ken Oman. Sligo Rovers, St Patrick's Athletic and Derry City have identified other targets among the newly unemployed.
Fingal, who had long-term plans to move to Lusk, Co Dublin, and were due to act as tenants to Bohemians at Dalymount Park this year, will be replaced in the Setanta Cup by UCD,
If they drop out, then the top-flight vacancy will go to the next highest ranked team in the 2010 table. Technically, that is Drogheda United but the cash-strapped club are in no position to gain a top-flight licence.
After that, it gets messy. Waterford finished second in the First Division, but then lost the semi-final of a promotion/relegation play-off to third-placed Monaghan, who subsequently came up short in the decider with Bray. The FAI must decide if Monaghan's knockout win over Waterford supersedes league placing in the final judgment.
PFAI General Secretary Stephen McGuinness expressed sadness at the news, pointing out that the union had no wage difficulties with the north Dublin club during their period in the league.
St Patrick's Athletic are likely beneficiaries from developments as they are in line to replace Fingal in the Europa League.