Belfast Telegraph

Irish League eligibility storm shows how clubs need to change ways

By Graham Luney

This week's Irish League behaviour brings me back to one of my favourite Woody Allen quotes… 'I have no idea what I am doing, but incompetence has never prevented me from plunging in with enthusiasm.'

There are actually two words in a dictionary which are accompanied by the meaning 'See Irish League'. They are incompetence and eligibility.

Here we go again. Another eligibility storm and, regrettably, our game has suffered from so many of these sorry episodes over the years that this is not really news any more.

We all make mistakes, but we must learn from them.

It's called taking responsibility for your actions and there has been precious little of that in the Irish League.

The latest case, concerning Warrenpoint Town striker Darren Forsyth, is an explosive one as it has possible implications in the Irish Cup, at the bottom of the Danske Bank Premiership, the race for European places and the title.

Town are haunted by the fear of relegation and this is potentially their worst nightmare. Brought upon themselves many will argue, but surely we can all agree that footballing matters should be decided on the pitch and nowhere else.

It would appear that Warrenpoint are Forsyth's third club this season, therefore Fifa rules have been broken as a player can only appear for two teams in one season.

Forsyth appeared for Leinster League side Greystones in August before moving to Glenavon and then onto Milltown. The striker played in Town's league draws with Cliftonville and Glenavon and scored during the 7-0 thrashing of Ballinamallard United. He was also involved as a substitute in Warrenpoint's 3-1 win away to Coleraine in the fifth round of the Irish Cup.

Your gut reaction is that the Bannsiders should be reinstated into the Irish Cup - to face Linfield in the next round - while the Reds, Glenavon and Mallards are now awarded 3-0 victories.

However, it's the Irish FA who are making a call on this one and with their track record in this area, you might have a little more faith in me humbling Novak Djokovic at Windsor Tennis Club.

How can we forget the moment the IFA forgot their own rules when they told Glenavon that Gary Hamilton was free to play against Glentoran!

With this attention to detail good luck to any of them hoping to land that air traffic control position.

Just yesterday, Portadown's official Twitter account said that 'contrary to the latest IFA suspension list released this morning, club records show that Garry Breen and Robert Garrett have received 10 cautions this season and therefore should be suspended for two games, not suspended for one game for five cautions as the suspension list states.

'Therefore Garry Breen and Robert Garrett will be suspended for two games from 9 Feb for 10 cautions missing games v Loughgall and Cliftonville.'

The IFA also got it wrong when they stated Ballymena United skipper Allan Jenkins would be suspended for the League Cup decider and all this proves is that clubs need to be run in a professional manner.

While our association has had to absorb considerable criticism, much of it deserved, clubs need to get their own houses in order and make sure their players are properly registered.

There has been a lot of IFA bashing this season, but clubs should understand the rules and not leave themselves vulnerable to punishment.

Warrenpoint could lose their Irish Cup place, but the deduction of five league points would be a really savage blow, leaving them rooted to the bottom of the table, a point adrift of Institute.

Despite their impressive Premiership revival, they will get little sympathy if rules have been broken.

The moral of these stories is that club officials and managers need to know what they are doing when they sign players and play them.

They need to take responsibility for their own affairs. Sometimes, it takes a horrible own goal to change mindsets and behaviour.

Just look at how the IFA have changed!

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