We had to do U-turn in fallout, claims SFAI chief
MICK O'BRIEN, chairman of the Schoolboys FAI (SFAI), said his association had no choice but to perform a U-turn and allow teams from the Dublin and District Schoolboys League (DDSL) into the national cups.
A ceasefire between the SFAI and its biggest affiliate, the DDSL, has finally paved a way for the 3,000 players caught up in the crossfire to participate in the most prestigious cup competitions in Ireland between the ages of U-12 and U-16.
Last month, the situation looked bleak for the 180 DDSL teams when none of their fellow leagues in the 32-league SFAI opposed a motion to expel them from the five competitions.
The open-draw juncture of the competitions, where the qualifiers from the eight regions converge for the second phase, were made minus any slots for DDSL teams.
That decision at a council meeting flew in the face of an FAI directive, prompting chief executive John Delaney to summon O'Brien and his vice-chairman Tim Fitzgerald to Abbotstown last Thursday.
Although, as an autonomous body, the SFAI are free to make their own decisions, a very real threat hovered over their future existence should they have continued to defy the wishes of the FAI.
Accordingly, the SFAI's executive brought their recommendation of acceptance of the directive to the council on Saturday at Bewley's Hotel in Newlands Cross, Dublin, where a lively debate ensued.
When the votes were cast, 32 delegates endorsed the motion, while eight opted to abstain.
"The one thing we couldn't guarantee John Delaney was the directive being accepted by the council," said O'Brien. "But, at this stage of the season with the cups well up and running, I think the delegates were left with no option."
Though the net effect of Saturday's summit is the open draw being remade -- this time including DDSL teams -- within the next fortnight, this development by no means marks the end of hostilities between the SFAI and DDSL.
The issue of an accumulating €30,000 fine imposed by the SFAI on the DDSL last year for not complying with complaints under the controversial 'radius rule' has been parked for now.
The board of the DDSL, too, have remained under the governance of the SFAI this season against their wishes, having seen their attempt to sever their ties and affiliate to the Leinster Football Association shelved by the FAI.