BY CHRIS MCNULTY
ULSTER Senior League Chairman Eamon McConigley has launched a stinging sideswipe across the brows of those in the League he blasted for ‘underhand shenanigans and skullduggery’.
In a heated address to the League’s annual dinner and presentation night on Friday night, McConigley said that the 2011 season was the hardest he has had in his 15 years as Chairman of the League.
2011 was a troubled one for the USL with Fanad United only confirmed as champions two weeks ago after a long and protracted battle in the boardroom ended with an appeal by Cockhill Celtic against the validity of Fanad’s title win thrown out by the Football Association of Ireland’s disciplinary body.
Cockhill had claimed in an appeal, that was previously dismissed by both the Ulster Senior League and the Ulster FA, that Fanad had fielded ineligible players in the League play-off at Bonagee in November.
Their protest centred on players they believed had played four games or more for Fanad in the Newstalk A Championship – but their claims were defeated on the grounds that the FAI did not deem Fanad to be a ‘senior’ club.
2011 also saw the League having to act against players who were playing with other clubs outside the FAI’s jurisdiction, with Killea FC and League officials embroiled in a boardroom battle that lasted a considerable time. Killea have since confirmed their withdrawal from the USL.
In an unprecedented and unexpected broadside, McConigley let loose on Friday night in his address to the League’s presentation event.
“This was one of the hardest years we ever had in relation to the committee,” he said.
“Some of the underhand shenanigans and skullduggery that went on was a disgrace.
“Unfortunately it was by some people who would be well respected in our League. It was up to us to try and do something about it.
“We didn’t have control of everything that was going on, but it was a direct attack on the democratic process of the League. Once you attack democracy, you attack the whole fabric of an organisation. When that happens all you are left with is a mess.
“We had to have a lot of extra meetings and to say that these meetings were cordial would be an understatement. Some of the meetings were so vicious and people attacked us as a committee and as individuals.
“We had an awful lot of problems, but as a committee for the League we have to try to be fair to every team in the League, not one or two. It has to be a level playing field.
“I want to let those people know that we know what is going on and we’re trying to do something about it. If the Donegal soccer public knew what was going on I am sure those people wouldn’t get very much support.”
McConigley, the current manager of Letterkenny Rovers, who has won multiple League title with Fanad United and most recently with Letterkenny, remarked that he felt it was ‘very sad for football’ that the dispute surrounding the Cockhill-Fanad play-off had gone as far as to having legal representation used by the two clubs concerned.
McConigley said: “I don’t think that’s the way forward. Where has the spirit of the game gone?”
The Chairman confirmed that he had instructed Mark Duffy, the USL Secretary, to write to the FAI seeking a meeting with their legal representatives to discuss the USL rulebook. In the interim, McConigley suggested that the League should operate under the rulebook of the FAI should the meeting not take place before the start of the USL season.
The Cathedral town club are hoping that that experience, coupled with that gained by the players two years ago...