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Longford boss Doyle labels state of First Division fixtures 'a fiasco'

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Ronan Finn of Shamrock Rovers and Kian Clarke of Shamrock Rovers II at the 2020 Airtricity League launch

Ronan Finn of Shamrock Rovers and Kian Clarke of Shamrock Rovers II at the 2020 Airtricity League launch

SPORTSFILE

Ronan Finn of Shamrock Rovers and Kian Clarke of Shamrock Rovers II at the 2020 Airtricity League launch

Longford Town manager Daire Doyle says it's "a fiasco" that his club are unsure who they will play on the opening day of the season in 16 days' time.

And he says it's still a possibility that his club will not fulfil their proposed fixture at home to Shamrock Rovers II as part of the opposition from within the First Division to the Dublin club's presence in the league.

"It's something we as a club have to be prepared to do," says Doyle.

Rovers have maintained their stance that their second string are now members of the league and will play in Longford on February 22.

However, the entire season is facing potential chaos, depending on the outcome of the FAI's club licencing system today, with the possibility that some clubs, aside from troubled Limerick FC, could be denied a licence to play in 2020, with six clubs reported to be in peril.

A revised fixture list was issued last month for the new First Division season, containing 11 clubs.

While all 10 Premier Division clubs were represented at a media day near FAI HQ in Abbotstown yesterday, there was no official presence from Limerick FC or Athlone Town. Shamrock Rovers II had a manager and a player present.

For the first time in recent years, players from the Division One clubs did not pose for the official group photo. A player from each of the 10 top-flight clubs did pose for a group shot.

In another change in protocol, the most senior official in the league, Fran Gavin, was not present while Niall Quinn spoke on behalf of the FAI.

FAI Competitions Director Gavin was quoted in a media release subsequently issued by the FAI, his first public comment since July. Gavin has not faced the national media since last May.

"Both leagues will be really competitive this year and we look forward to the beginning of the season," Gavin said in the FAI release.

But the start of the First Division campaign remains shrouded in doubt, with Limerick FC still included in the revised fixture list (even though they currently don't have a team) along with Shamrock Rovers II, whose presence irks the rest of that division.

And the uncertainty is a cause of anger for Longford boss Doyle, whose club are due to play at home to Rovers II on the first weekend of the season.

"It's a farce and a shambles, club licencing is finished on Thursday and we'll only know then who exactly is in the league," said Doyle.

"Two fixtures have come out, the second list is an embarrassment, they showed a total lack of respect for the league, they lacked any information or clarity on how it would work.

"It's stunning that I am talking two weeks out from the start of the league and we don't know who we're playing.

"It's a bit of a fiasco, it would be nice to know who you were playing in a fortnight. The Premier clubs knew that before Christmas, but we don't know what's going on and it's not a good place to be," added Doyle.

"The club's point of view is that they are totally against Shamrock Rovers being in the division. My personal view is that the First Division is not the place for reserve teams.

"We're not like Spain and Germany, where they have four or five professional leagues, we have one more-or-less professional league and a part-time First Division.

"It's nothing to do with Shamrock Rovers, reserve teams in general don't belong in the First Division.

"The other clubs have taken a stance together and are prepared to take further action."

Rovers are adamant they will enter their 'B' team. "We applied for this long before the other stuff (Limerick FC) came up," says team manager Aidan Price.

"PeopleĀ are putting the two situations, with Limerick, together whereas we were for this long before that. We were looking to do something like this a year or two years ago. We are just in a better position now, all we want to do is give our players a better opportunity."