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Relegation wrangle stops play

Sean Rice
rice_college
RICE COLLEGE RULE Austin Garvin of The Mayo News presented the Mayo First Year Competition Cup to Rice College captain, Alan Carroll after the Westport school’s victory over Ballyhaunis. Pic: Courtesy of Western People

Relegation wrangle stops play

Sean RiceSean Rice
JUST when we had begun to write finis, and to file the results away for posterity, a storm of controversy has stalled the final stage of the Mayo Welcome Inn League, and for those involved it could leave a bitter taste.
The argument is bogged down in County Board procedure about the relegation of teams at the bottom of their divisions on completion of their series of games. It has all the elements of a long drawn-out dispute that could wriggle its way to the Central Council for a final decision.
The problem has already forced the cancellation of the relegation battle between Louisburgh and Castlebar Mitchels, and Shrule/Glencorrib and Kiltane, which had been fixed for McHale Park last Sunday. Whether these games are ever played hinges on the outcome of the wrangle, and the wait for a decision could reach into the new year.
The bones of the controversy were carried in The Mayo News a couple of weeks ago when Connacht Council secretary John Prenty questioned the method of relegation undertaken by the County Board.
The system adopted – and issued by the board in their fixtures booklet – specified play-offs between the two bottom teams in one section and the corresponding teams in the other section of their division  ... the losing teams to be relegated.
John Prenty, according to the report, argued that the County Board could run into difficulty if any club appealed against the relegation process, claiming that a plan to relegate the bottom team – without any play-off – had been adopted by the board at its January meeting.
While the existing relegation rulings were passed at the board’s meeting in February the January minutes were also passed without any amendments, it was claimed. Thus two conflicting relegation procedures were adopted.
There should have been an amendment, he argued, passed by a two-thirds majority, to rescind the original relegation decision. That was not done and if challenged the play-off system might not stand up to scrutiny.
Almost prophetically, that challenge has come, and John Prenty’s own club, Ballyhaunis – who are in danger of being relegated to Division 3 football for the coming year – is at the heart of it. Ballyhaunis, Louisburgh and Shrule/Glencorrib have called for a ruling on the matter, and while county secretary Seán Feeney is confident that the play-off law is on solid ground, the whole question, if clubs persist, may come before a meeting of the Connacht Council. Nobody is now ruling out the possibility of the matter ending up at Central Council level.
If the original decision of relegation confined to the bottom team in each section of the division were to be reinstated, Castlebar Mitchels and Kiltane would find themselves in Division 2 next season. This would represent an embarrassing slide, especially for the county town team, when you take into account that near neighbours Islandeady, a junior championship side, will be playing first division football next season.
Louisburgh and Shrule stand to retain Division 1 status in the event of play-offs being judged illegal. There is a lot at stake for those teams and any possibility of avoiding the trap door to a lower standard of football will be pursued to the very end. The distinct possibility of each losing the play-offs induces their objections.
County secretary Seán Feeney could surely have done without this irritant coming at a time when he would have been preparing for the county’s annual convention.  He must be asking himself why the matter had not been raised before this, why someone had not thought of it before it became known which teams were facing demotion.
The protagonists will seek a speedy resolution to the problem but, depending on the determination of those involved, it
could linger into the new year before it is fully ironed out.

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