Dollingstown president Hubert Watson last night said he was “absolutely disgusted”, after finally conceding defeat in a long-running transfer saga that ended in Belfast’s High Court yesterday.
The Mid Ulster Intermediate A club have been involved in a legal battle with the IFA over the mid-season transfer of former Loughgall player Ashley Gregg, after their title rivals Tandragee Rovers raised a protest over his ineligibility to play in the league back in March.
Tandragee claimed that because Gregg had signed in January, after a December 31 Mid Ulster deadline, he shouldn’t have been allowed to play. But Dollingstown contested they adhered to FIFA’s transfer deadline of January 31, and that professionals aren’t excluded from the league.
After numerous meetings between the two clubs, the Mid Ulster League and the IFA, the matter eventually moved to the High Court where Dollingstown challenged the findings of an independent arbitration panel that Gregg was not eligible to play for the Planters Park side last season.
Yesterday, Lord Justice Coughlin dismissed Dollingstown’s application to have the arbitration panel’s ruling overturned.
The verdict leaves Dollingstown having to foot the bill for the IFA’s legal costs, but just as significantly means they will miss out on a place in next season’s Championship One.
Dollingstown finished top of last season’s Intermediate A, but will now have all points deducted from the games in which Gregg played.
It comes as a heavy blow for a club who have spent over £100,000 in ground developments over the past year.
Mr Watson told the Telegraph: “I feel absolutely disgusted with the administration of football in Northern Ireland.
“Dollingstown were transparent in everything we have done, and yet we are the ones being punished.
“The judge has decided, so it’s the end of the road for us in this. We’ll be in the Mid Ulster League this season.”
Meanwhile, Tandragee Rovers are now set to be crowned Intermediate A champions — although have not made any application to join the Championship.
Their manager Stephen McBride said: “We have had nothing confirmed by the IFA or the Mid Ulster, but when they do, I will not be gloating. It shouldn’t have got this far.”