Dundalk are resigned to being without up to three members of their starting XI next week due to senior international call-ups.
And team manager Shane Keegan believes it’s up to League of Ireland clubs to ask the FAI to re-examine a rule which allows for postponements for international call-ups only if the players in question are involved with the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland.
Dundalk play their first home game of the 2021 season against Finn Harps on Friday week but they will be forced to cope without defenders Raivis Jurkovskis (Latvia) and Sonni Nattestad (Faroe Islands) who have been called up for their nations’ World Cup qualifiers. It’s also believed that Dundalk ‘keeper Alessio Abibi could be named in Albania’s senior squad for their matches.
Shamrock Rovers man Roberto Lopes has been involved at senior level with Cape Verde Islands and could play a role in qualifiers this month against Cameroon and Mozambique.
Clubs can request a postponement if two or more of their players are called up by the FAI or IFA, which could happen this week as the Republic’s U-21 team boss Jim Crawford names his squad on Friday for a friendly away to Wales next week: Crawford had seven home-based players in the panel for his last game.
If Abibi is called up by Albania, Dundalk could potentially ask for a postponement as goalkeeper is deemed to be a specialist position but they are likely to play Harps without Jurkovskis and Nattestad. With the Faroe Islands playing three qualifiers in a week that puts pressure on Nattestad, as he could feature for them away to Scotland just 48 hours before Dundalk’s league game away to Shamrock Rovers, while Jurkovskis’ Latvian side are in Turkey on Tuesday of that week.
“The international duty only counts if they’re playing for Ireland or Northern Ireland so because Sonni and Raivis are both called up it doesn’t count,” says Keegan.
“In fairness to the FAI, the explanation I got was that this is a rule set out in the participation agreement which is something agreed by the clubs. This is the rule for this year but I think it’s something that the clubs will need to look at before the start of next year
“Technically, that doesn’t come down on high from the FAI so it seems a very, very strange one because Abibi could be called up too. He has been in the past and he’s going to be in with a chance of being called up so it. It’s going to make life a little bit more difficult on ourselves but we have good strength in depth too so we just have to try and cope with it.
“We have plenty of quality there and it’s up to us to make sure it doesn’t become an issue by others stepping up to the plate.”
Sligo Rovers boss Liam Buckley has also raised the issue as his ’keeper Ed McGinty could be called up for the Republic’s U-21s next week, potentially ruling McGinty out of a league game away to Waterford if he is Sligo’s only call-up.
“It is quite messy, depending on your group of players and your squad. There is a rule that if you get two players called up you can get game postponed but it’s not the answer. We don’t want matches called off,” Buckley says.
“All the underage international managers have ambitions and I do like to support them as best as I can because I do love Ireland to do well in whatever age group. But I am uncomfortable with it because you are missing one of your best players. and Ed is top goalkeeper .”
Dundalk’s Nattestad misses out on a league debut away to Sligo Rovers on Saturday as he’s suspended on the back of a red card in the President’s Cup win over Shamrock Rovers, while Daniel Kelly and Seán Murray are injured.