Galway United retain top flight status

Kieran Beckles
By Kieran Beckles

Irish football

It proved an eventful 2009 league campaign for Galway United: managerial controversy, a star player leaving for fresh and much more lucrative pastures culminating in the Tribesmen slipping into ninth on the final day of the season, as they slumped to a 2-2 draw with Cork City.

It meant that Ian Foster’s men would face a relegation play-off clash with Drogheda. However last Saturday it was announced that Galway would avoid the trauma of a two legged affair and were to be reinstated into the League of Ireland, Premier Division.

It effectively meant that Galway United, who had been promoted to Ireland’s top flight in 2006 on a technicality, were thus saved from relegation — and once again, on a technicality.

The Tribesmen should direct their gratitude towards Derry City on this occasion.

The Brandywell Bhoys admitted to holding unofficial and secondary contracts with their players. Subsequently, the Football Association of Ireland threw the Northern Irish club out of the league.

Under licensing regulation, league of Ireland clubs must not spend more than 65% of their income on wages. Derry had bypassed this rule by allegedly agreeing off-the-cuff deals with playing staff which saw the players earn extra funds.

However in a twist, all but one of the players involved denied any knowledge of these supplementary contracts. Since the raging debate began, four board members of the Candystripes have resigned.

Meanwhile in the West of Ireland, the news has been met with delight, as it means Galway United will remain in the top tier as opposed to competing with fellow local sides, Mervue United and Salthilll Devon, in the second division.

The irony of the matter is that the Tribesmen were originally promoted to the Premier Division thanks to criteria laid down by the FAI, which the Terryland Park club met.

Upon the establishment off the Eircom Premier Division, 21 clubs who were members of the old first division or second division were scrutinised and ranked according to their performances on the pitch and their infrastructure.

Waterford United and Dundalk failed to meet the required standards which resulted in Waterford joining Dundalk in the second tier of Irish football. Meanwhile Galway were shuffled up the rankings and slotted into the top league, thanks to their realistic and attainable plans for the club.

Ironically Nick Leeson is currently CEO at the club. He will be better remembered for bringing about the collapse of Bearings Bank, costing the company a staggering $1.4 billion.

Galway had suffered a miserable start to life in the Premier Division under Tony Cousins. Former Republic of Ireland and Blackburn Rovers full back, Jeff Kenna, took over the helm at Terryland Park.

The team’s fortunes improved steadily under Kenna.

Controversially Kenna left United last January with the 2009 league campaign imminent, joining St. Patricks Athletic. The board were riled by his decision after previously agreeing that he would remain as manager.

Ian Foster took over from Kenna and led United to eighth in the league which left them facing a play-off to decide their top flight status.

However the admissions by Derry have now ensured United retained their Premier league status and therefore will be among the top 10 clubs fighting it out at the pinnacle of Irish football in 2010.

Promotions and relegations all achieved on technicalities, Galway United fans will be praying that in the not too distant future their side will come across a piece of legislation in a dusty FAI manual that sees them win a first league title.

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