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Irish League rival bosses demand quick resolution to relegation nightmare

Anderson and Deery call for immediate action as quartet are left facing unclear future

By Graham Luney and Stuart McKinley

An Irish League season that ended with a dramatic final few minutes in the battle to stay in the Premiership, followed by an Irish Cup final that was played in front of the largest crowd for the showpiece in a decade, is now at risk of descending into farce.

The talking point that is set to dominate the close-season conversations won't be goals, but instead a gaffe that looks like putting Carrick Rangers down.

Carrick, who pulled off a wonderful last-gasp escape to secure their top-flight status for another season, now face having that reduced to a meaningless and worthless effort.

While they saved themselves on the pitch, the east-Antrim club could be put down by the Irish FA's Disciplinary Committee tomorrow night.

And if the three points from their penultimate Danske Bank Premiership game of the season against Dungannon Swift, during which manager Gary Haveron was in the dugout when he should have been serving a touchline ban, are taken away from them, it is almost certain that Carrick will appeal.

Where that will leave things is anyone's guess.

Tonight's promotion/relegation play-off tie between Ballinamallard United and Institute has already been postponed while the issue is investigated and a lengthy delay could see the season descend into total chaos - or even fail to be completed.

Mallards boss Whitey Anderson is due to leave the country on holiday tomorrow and the whole Stute first-team squad is heading on an end-of-season trip to Spain next week, leaving clubs in limbo and the entire situation up in the air.

Anderson, whose team now don't know if they will face Institute in the second leg of their play-off or not, with the Mallards leading 2-1 after the first meeting, said: "This whole thing is a complete and utter farce. That's my view and the best way to explain it. The powers that be must take immediate action, without delay.

"They should all be getting together and sorting out this matter urgently. It needs to be resolved as quickly as possible for the betterment of everyone involved.

"I can't comment on the rights or wrongs of anything but we are coming to the end of a long season, players are training and we all need to know what we are doing so we can plan for our immediate and long-term futures.

"Clubs will also be looking to sign players and renew contracts and they need clarity on this issue.

"The whole thing is simply mind-blowing. It's a terrible situation for so many clubs, chairmen, players and supporters to be left in limbo.

"It's an absolute nightmare for everyone."

Institute are similarly left hanging on to see what decision is made by the IFA Committee. It is, however, almost certain that they will still face a play-off for the right to play in the Premiership next season. Who that is against remains the unanswered question.

Stute manager Kevin Deery said: "We were ready to play against Ballinamallard, but now the issue is no clearer. In fact, it's a farce.

"It needs to be looked at quickly. I have spoken to the club to see where we are with things, but they don't know anything.

"We need to know what's happening because I have players heading away on an end-of-season trip on Thursday week and after that we won't be able to play.

"I don't know how that leaves things because if Carrick are put down I would expect them to appeal.

"I would have liked to have played the game (against Ballinamallard) and then let things be sorted out after that.

"I suppose the other way of looking at it is that had we won the tie and had the euphoria of being promoted and then had it taken away from us and be told we had to play two more games against someone else, it would have been a big disappointment for us. We have been left in limbo."

The issue surrounding Haveron, who was sent from the dugout during his team's 4-3 win over Crusaders on Tuesday March 22, was raised by Warrenpoint Town.

The Carrick boss did serve an automatic one-game touchline ban, but it now seems that while he sat in the stand for two subsequent games, they were the wrong ones and he didn't serve the suspension at the correct time.

Warrenpoint had been relegated on the final day of the season, just a couple of minutes after they were in a position of safety.

Miguel Chines' late winner for Carrick, combined with Dungannon Swifts equalising at Warrenpoint following a highly controversial penalty decision, had seen his team instantly jump from 12th place to 10th.

Warrenpoint Town chairman John Bird said: "The club was made aware last week that there may be an issue regarding Carrick Rangers.

"We believe that it's our duty to look at any means we have of staying up in the Premiership.

"We have to look at any hope that there might be.

"There is a bit of optimism around the club now, but the decision is out of our hands and all we can do is wait and see.

"The feeling last Saturday night was terrible. We were gutted and felt robbed. There was elation when we were third from bottom and then two minutes later we were bottom and down - and everyone saw the decision that led to that happening."

Carrick Rangers secretary David Hilditch revealed that his club has not had any contact from the Northern Ireland Football League or IFA regarding the issue.

Belfast Telegraph


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