Ulster Senior League calls on John Delaney and the FAI to put a structure in place for Donegal

Alan Foley

Reporter:

Alan Foley

Ulster Senior League calls on John Delaney and the FAI to put a structure in place for Donegal
The Ulster Senior League has called on John Delaney and the Football of Association of Ireland to sort out the complex state of football in Donegal.

The Ulster Senior League has called on John Delaney and the Football of Association of Ireland to sort out the complex state of football in Donegal.

Niall Callaghan, the league secretary, confirmed that the USL spoke to FAI CEO Delaney late last year voicing their concerns over the make-up of football in the county and have since formally applied via the Ulster FA for a review.

Donegal currently have five footballing auspices - the intermediate Ulster Senior League, junior Donegal League and Inishowen League, the Youth League and the Schoolboys’ League - as well as senior club Finn Harps.

“We have to look at all the leagues and committees,” Callaghan said. “There are too many committees and that’s the view of the Ulster Senior League. We have made our feelings felt to John Delaney last November and have also reported this to the Ulster FA.”

Finn Harps reserves withdrew from the Ulster Senior League this week - meaning the interim season contains only five teams.

“We are going to see it out for the sake of the other teams,” Callaghan said. “From a league point of view we are very disappointed at what has happened.

“We had optimism and Harps sold a very good story to us at the start of the season but that has not materialised.”

Harps, who lost their second league fixture 9-0 against Bonagee United last Wednesday night, confirmed their withdrawal on Monday night.

Harps also lost 3-0 to Derry City Reserves in the league and 4-1 against Cootehill Harps in the Knockalla Caravans Cup.

Their departure leaves Bonagee, Letterkenny Rovers, Derry City reserves, Cockhill Celtic and Swilly Rovers taking part in the current campaign, which will run until May before next season’s August start on the return to the traditional winter season.

Drumkeen United have given verbal assurances that they will return to the Ulster Senior League in August and Fanad United are endeavouring to do the same.

Harps’ results and fixtures will essentially be dissolved and every weekend one of the five clubs will receive a bye in the league programme.

But a lack of availability of free weekends between now and May means the league will still operate on a home and away basis. The competition will consist of just eight matches for each of the participants.

Swilly Rovers were due to take on Harps in the preliminary round of the League Cup have been given a bye to the semi-finals.

“The other clubs are pretty annoyed,” Callaghan added. “Harps are getting a lot of negative press on social media and the likes and it’s not good from a league point of view.”

Callaghan stated in his secretary’s report at last month’s Ulster Senior League AGM the executive were actively pursuing former members.

“We have invited former USL members from both the Donegal and Inishowen League to join our league,” Callaghan said in January. “This has been received with mixed reaction by the junior leagues but we are looking at other avenues.”

The Inishowen League have taken exception to clubs under its umbrella and formerly of the Ulster Senior League being approached.

“This process is still in its infancy,” Callaghan added. “We will not be deterred.”

The Harps statement regarding their departure read: “It is with great regret that Finn Harps FC can confirm the club has withdrawn its reserve team from the Ulster Senior League with immediate effect.

“The Board informed the USL executive on Monday Night that following discussions with coaching staff, volunteers and players/parents, the club had no choice but to withdraw its participation from Intermediate football.

“After considered internal debate Finn Harps FC had made the decision to enter the interim season with the best intentions of supporting the league, and giving young players experience at a higher level.

“However following recent results and player departures the club regretfully cannot fulfil its obligations to the competitiveness and integrity of the league.

“This was not was not a decision the board made lightly, but it was felt player welfare also had to be taken into account when dealing with players of a very young age.

“The club would like to thank the USL executive who have been supportive and professional at all times, and offer its apologies to the remaining intermediate clubs for inconvenience caused.

“Further to recent appointments at youth level and progress with academy, the club will continue to work hard with all stakeholders to provide the best possible pathway for underage players”.