Belfast Telegraph

Shambles with Portadown has ruined start to Irish League season

By Steven Beacom

It was on June 22 that the last Irish League season ended. That was the night the Republic of Ireland qualified for the Euro 2016 knockout stages thanks to a famous 1-0 win over Italy. The evening before Northern Ireland had made it into the last 16 in France.

Yes, Irish League football was still being played then. And no, this wasn't some experiment relating to summer football.

Ballinamallard United were taking on Institute in a play-off at Ferney Park to determine which one would be in the Danske Bank Premiership for the following campaign.

It was a cracking match, ending in a 3-3 draw with Ballinamallard winning 5-4 on aggregate to secure their top flight status and finish.

The Fermanagh men had won the first leg 2-1 on May 6. Then came a seven week wait to play the return due to a wrangle over a suspension served by then Carrick Rangers boss Gary Haveron.

It was an embarrassing end to the longest Irish League season ever which had already been blighted by investigations into Portadown, who were fined £10,000 - reduced to £5,000 on appeal - and had a transfer embargo imposed on them having been found to have made undisclosed payments to striker Gary Twigg.

Throw in a 12 point deduction for the start of this season as well.

Football chiefs here and many long suffering fans, constantly embarrassed by the antics of some clubs especially in terms of failing to register players correctly, were glad to see the back of last term.

There was great excitement approaching the new campaign with big name signings joining Irish League teams in surprise deals.

Northern Ireland heroes Roy Carroll and Sammy Clingan joined Linfield, their former international team-mate Paddy McCourt generated much discussion and anticipation when he moved to Glenavon and then Glentoran trumped the lot in terms of attention by snapping up ex-Rangers hero Nacho Novo.

That fab four in the Irish League. Brilliant. A bit like The Beatles coming down to play a set at your local.

Supporters couldn't wait for Saturday to see these stars and their own teams and then what broke on Tuesday that Portadown had been suspended from all football activity because they failed to pay their £5000 fine on time and that their opening match at Coleraine this weekend would be off with the Bannsiders given the three points.

You could not make this stuff up.

There was talk last night that the IFA would use discretion to ensure the game went ahead, but they upheld the original decision meaning there will be no game at the Showgrounds on Saturday and that Coleraine move top of the table without a ball being kicked.

What a shambles.

Talk about ruining the start of the most eagerly awaited Irish League season for years. Football supporters here deserve so much better. Welcome to our world, Nacho.

Belfast Telegraph


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