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League in new crisis as Fingal go to wall


End of a dream: Sporting Fingal manager Liam Buckley.

End of a dream: Sporting Fingal manager Liam Buckley.

End of a dream: Sporting Fingal manager Liam Buckley.

Sporting Fingal last night withdrew their application for an Airtricity League license and have ceased trading.

The 2009 FAI Cup winners released their 13 players on Tuesday and, having effectively been on life-support for 24 hours, turned off the switch yesterday.

The FAI will now begin the process of replacing the club in the Premier Division, which kicks off in three weeks time. The decision will be made by the League's licensing committee, whose deliberations are due to conclude on Sunday.

The club spent the winter searching for a replacement for primary backer Gerry Gannon to no avail.

The property developer, one of the first 10 whose loans were transferred into Nama, pulled out at the end of last season, having previously invested more than €2m into the club since it was founded in 2007.

Efforts to find someone to take over the backing from Gannon came to nothing as the purse strings of businesses in the north county Dublin area were too tight to throw at an institution that failed to attract a sufficient fan base to its matches.

The early indications on finding new financial support had been good and manager Liam Buckley was confident enough to offer deals to new players like Ken Oman -- who yesterday signed for Shamrock Rovers -- but the prospective sponsor got cold feet and the club ran out of time.

As recently as last week's Setanta Sports Cup launch Buckley, who led the club to promotion from Division One and the FAI Cup in 2009 and into Europe last season, was looking forward to the new campaign with optimism.

But yesterday he was left disappointed by the news of the club's demise. "Finding a replacement for our supportive backer was always going to be a major challenge, but we were pleased with the progress made," he said.

"Sadly, the suddenness and timing of last week's sponsorship setback sent us back to the drawing board, a predicament we were simply unable to overcome so close to the season kick-off.

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"The core aim from the outset of Sporting Fingal's creation in 2007 was to develop a club with a particular emphasis on using sport as a vehicle for community gain within the Fingal area.

"Our success on the pitch, especially winning the 2009 FAI Ford Cup and participating in last year's UEFA Europa League, was testament to the dedication and resilience of the players."

"It is a very sad day, but we simply ran out of time," said Sporting secretary John O'Brien. "We are especially disappointed for everyone who has backed the project and those who have put so much into the club.

"We set out to be a different kind of football club in our approach to the development of the Sporting Fingal, and I believe that we achieved that."

St Patrick's Athletic and UCD are certain to profit from the club's demise, as the Saints will take Fingal's Europa League place, while the Students will play in the Setanta.

What is less clear is who will replace the Ravens in the Premier Division next season as the FAI licensing committee assess applications in the coming days.

In theory, relegated Drogheda United are next in line, but they have spent the closed season appealing to locals for funds and will field an amateur team this season.

The Drogs' home ground United Park would also fail to meet Premier Division standards, making it highly unlikely the Louth side will be granted a licence.

Having finished second in Division 1 last season, Waterford United would seem to have a case for promotion if Drogheda miss out, but Monaghan United could also argue that their play-off victory over Waterford puts them in pole position.

The failure of Fingal is another hammer blow to the reputation of the Airtricity League, which has endured another winter of discontent as Galway United, Drogheda and Bohemians have all gone through financial difficulties.

But it is Sporting Fingal who failed to make it through to the other side and have gone to the wall as a result.

The club burned bright for their four years in existence, but ultimately went the way of the Celtic Tiger.

They came into the league with a fresh voice and an ambitious plan that included building a 4,200 capacity stadium near Lusk in north county Dublin.

Sporting made a temporary home at the Morton Stadium in Santry since coming into existence in 2007 and were due to move to Dalymount Park in an attempt to attract more fans this season.

They will never know if that would have given them the boost needed and now go the way of Dublin City, Drumcondra and St James's Gate as the latest Dublin club to disappear from view.

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