Belfast Telegraph

Newry claim Irish FA got it wrong in Cup row

By Graham Luney

The Irish Cup eligibility row is set to rumble on after Newry City chairman Paul McKenna confirmed last night that the club has lodged an appeal against the Irish FA's decision to dismiss their protest over Ballymena's United’s registration of midfielder Alan Davidson.

Davidson netted the winner in the 2-1 quarter-final win over his former club, but Newry argue he should not have played as he was signed after the cup deadline.

The IFA said legal opinion indicated Davidson had been eligible to play, but City have now consulted a legal firm based in England and have tabled their own response to the verdict.

Newry argued that Irish Cup rules stated players had to be signed by January 31 to be eligible.

However, a statement from the association said the Challenge Cup committee believed the cup rules had to be read in parallel with the IFA Premiership Rules and Fifa regulations covering the status and transfer of players.

Time will be of the essence now for the IFA as Ballymena United are scheduled to take on holders Linfield in the semi-finals on March 31.

A large part of City’s appeal centres on the argument that the competition’s rules are very clear and that all clubs should abide by those rules.

City chairman Paul McKenna was disappointment with the IFA’s statement, saying he was “baffled” it made references to the player’s registration when “the issue is one of eligibility.”

After studying the IFA’s 13-page Challenge Cup rulebook, City have now formed a response, putting their case.

“We have lodged our protest and we await the IFA’s response,” said McKenna. “We have consulted a top sports barrister in the UK and we are confident that we have a strong case.

“The IFA statement makes reference to the player’s registration, but the issue is whether he was eligible to play in the Irish Cup and he wasn’t. The rules are very clear and they have been broken. They could not be any clearer.

“Are the IFA now saying clubs can sign players who are free agents and play them in the semi-finals? There have been occasions in the past when Newry City have not been able to play players in games, whether it’s the league or Irish Cup and it’s the same for all clubs.”

If Newry City’s appeal is unsuccessful, the Championship club could take their case to The Court of Arbitration for Sport, but it would be a time consuming and costly exercise.

It would certainly cast serious doubt on this season’s Irish Cup competition being completed.

Belfast Telegraph


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