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Fingal break new ground as Kilkenny bow out

KILKENNY CITY gave up their fight against the inevitable yesterday with owner Jim Rhatigan taking the heartbreaking decision to resign the club from the League of Ireland.

And they are set to be replaced in the First Division by Sporting Fingal who are on the brink of tying up the kind of sponsorship deal that Kilkenny were simply incapable of securing.

"We have battled hard over the years to win the hearts and minds of the local people but sadly, due to lack of finance, poor results and paltry attendances, we have to admit that there is not an appetite for senior soccer at this moment in our city and county," said Rhatigan.

"We thank those who have supported us since 1985 and if circumstances change we will consider re-applying for membership of the league in the future."

The Cats are mulling over the option of entering a side in the U-20 league while their Buckley Park home will be retained for use with an Irish U-17 game against Finland scheduled to take place there next month.

Meanwhile, a meeting between officials of Sporting Fingal and the FAI will take place in the next week where the new club will learn what improvements they will need to make to qualify for a First Division licence, having previously secured membership of the 'A' League.

Fingal are a joint venture between the area's county council and a consortium led by former Shamrock Rovers boss Liam Buckley who is busily recruiting quality players for the season ahead.

The League of Ireland team will work in tandem with a soccer development plan for the youth of the region.

They will play their home games at the Morton Stadium in Santry although their long- term vision is to build a stadium at their new complex in Fingal by 2013.

To finance the initiative, they are on the verge of tying up a significant deal worth well into six figures with fruit company Keelings coming on board in a five-year arrangement as the principal sponsor.

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Buckley is hoping to work off a squad of 20-22 players for the coming season, although they will not be in a position to confirm their squad until later next week.

However, players who will be wearing their colours this coming season include experienced goalkeeper Steve Williams, who is best known for his exploits with Shelbourne but spent last season with Bray. Paul Caffrey, Chris Deans and Derek Tyrrell have also been captured from the Seasiders while Conan Byrne signs from UCD.

Eircom League chief Fran Gavin believes that other clubs may soon reach the situation that Kilkenny reached and face big decisions about whether they can survive in the current climate.

"I have no doubt that other clubs will arrive at the same crossroads as Kilkenny and face the same questions and I hope they answer them as honestly as Kilkenny have," said Mr Gavin.

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