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Ballinamallard v Institute playoff postponed over Irish League relegation wrangle - Five clubs embroiled in off-field tussles

By Graham Luney

The Northern Ireland Football League has postponed Tuesday's crucial Ballinamallard v Institute relegation play-off after questions were raised over player eligibility and touchline bans.

Relegated Warrenpoint contacted the NIFL this morning requesting clarification on whether Carrick boss Gary Haveron should have been in his club's dugout for the win over Dungannon Swifts on April 23.

The NIFL issued a statement on Monday afternoon.

"The NIFL Premiership Fixtures Sub Committee met today to consider information received regarding eligibility matters and agreed, as a precaution, to postpone tomorrow's Ballinamallard United v Institute play-off second leg until guidance requested from the IFA has been received," it said.

Haveron was dismissed in Rangers' victory over Crusaders and sat out the three subsequent matches - Glentoran, Ballymena United and Portadown.

It transpires the ban did not apply to the Ballymena game but to the club's clash at Dungannon, which they won 3-1.

Irish FA rules state that the sanction for a player or manager failing to serve a suspension is a minimum £350 fine for the club concerned and the forfeiting of the match 3-0.

If applied, Carrick, rather than Warrenpoint, would be relegated and the latter would go into a play-off with Stute, who have already played a first leg against Ballinamallard.

To compound the complicated scenario, Warrenpoint are, in addition, considering legal action over the punishment the IFA meted out to the Ports for making undisclosed payments to striker Gary Twigg.

They will query whether Portadown should have been deducted points. And the Irish FA will also this week look at the outstanding case of Ports winger Peter McMahon's status, which was referred to the player registrations sub-committee. That could lead to further action against the Shamrock Park side.

It should be made clear that any fault found will rest with the clubs concerned and not the IFA and NIFL governing bodies.

Warrenpoint, who were furious after being relegated on the final day of the season when a contentious injury-time penalty led to Dungannon snatching a 1-1 draw, yesterday issued a statement which read: "Warrenpoint Town FC have engaged with a legal team over an eligibility matter. At this stage, we have written to NIFL asking them to investigate... with regards to media speculation today surrounding Carrick Rangers FC we will be seeking information and an update from NIFL on Monday morning."

If Carrick's win over Dungannon was overturned, they would drop to the automatic relegation spot and leave Warrenpoint Town in the promotion-relegation play-off berth.

The first leg of the play-off between Ballinamallard United and Institute took place on Friday night with the Fermanagh club earning a 2-1 win over Institute at Drumahoe.

The second leg was scheduled for Ferney Park tomorrow but that fixture has now been postponed.

Warrenpoint Town, meanwhile, have added Matthew Tipton and Stephen McDonnell to Barry Gray's backroom staff for next season.

Belfast Telegraph

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