Sligo/ Leitrim team withdraws from eircom Under 21 League
by Paul Deering The Sligo/Leitrim League will not be fielding a team in this season's Eircom Under 21 League with lack of interest amongst players, cost and poor support being cited as a key factor in the decision.
At last night's AGM of Sligo-Leitrim and District Soccer League, secretary Noel Kennedy confirmed the decision to pull out of the league.
Last season the league's under 21 side enjoyed a tremendous run in the Enda McGuill Under 21 League Cup reaching the final against Cork City and the side also held their own in the Connaught/Ulster section of the Under 21 league.
However, the league were unable to field a side for one of their final matches against Derry City. Only one player turned up for the fixture and the Eircom League were reportedly far from happy at the situation.
Mr. Kennedy said his biggest fear was if the under 21 side was re-entered this season that half way through the fixtures they would be faced with a similar situation.
This could lead to possibility of severe sanctions being imposed on the league, he said.
Mr. Kennedy stressed that he had endeavoured over the past number of weeks to bring an under 21 set up together for this season but he was unable to appoint a manager despite approaches to a number of people.
He pointed out that the side was run by Enda Scanlon, Dessie Cawley and Gavin Dykes last season. Mr. Scanlon was unavailable this season, Mr. Cawley had gone to Sligo Rovers and Mr. Dykes had taken over as manager of Castlebar Celtic with some of last year's panel having followed him there.
The secretary also spoke of the huge commitment involved in running an under 21 side. Training was held up to three times a week with the possibility to two matches per week.
There was the likelihood of mid-week matches in Galway, Derry and Monaghan and there were instances last season of buses leaving at the last minute as they waited on players to finish work.
Mr. Kennedy said he also had negotiations with potential sponsors with one in particular apparently showing keen interest but he had failed to get back to the league.
It cost ?10,000 to run the under 21 side last season and this included sponsorship of around ?4,700. Mr. Kennedy said there were no outstanding bills with regard to the side.
He revealed that gates from the under 21 matches were abysmal. For an Enda McGuill Cup quarter final match against Shamrock Rovers the amount taken in was just ?140. Another gate was ?70.
Contrast this, he said, to the ?3,000 that the Innishowen League got from one of their gates at an under 21 match.
He said it was regrettable that the league had to pull out as a number of players had progressed significantly through their involvement with a senior side.
These included Gino O'Boyle who ended up being offered terms at Cork City and Damien Shannon who was on a reserve list for the up coming junior international regions cup side.
Mr. Kennedy said he believed that is was very unlikely that the league would ever enter an under 21 side again. He also stated that a question mark hung over the league's participation in this season's Oscar Traynor Cup competition.
He again cited commitment from players as a key factor to be considered in coming to a decision with regard to this.
Last night's AGM also saw a proposal to establish a new forum aimed at improving the condition of the many grounds in the Sligo/Leitrim League.
Clubs have been furnished with a copy of a report which was prepared by Paul Deering of the ISRS Sligo branch which outlines safety concerns with regard to a number of grounds in the league. The lack of dressing room facilities was also highlighted in the report.
Full AGM report next week.