Villa FC, winners of the Waterford FC U-16A Cup at Graun Park on Saturday.
The curtain came down on another remarkable Waterford Schoolboy League season in a way that none of us expected on Saturday afternoon after Park Rangers failed to field a team for the WSFL Waterford FC Under 16A Cup Final against league champions Villa.
After the Faithlegg club reached the finale following a 4-0 semi-final win over Southend United the previous Tuesday night, they were unable to field a team for the showcase decider of the whole season as it’s believed that some players were unavailable due to GAA commitments outside the county.
When it became apparent that there was an issue with this fixture shortly after qualification for the final, Park Rangers did request a fixture change, but after the date and time of this final confirmed by league fixture secretary Davy Cullen on Sunday, May 26, this request was declined.
Their opponents, Villa, who also won the league title without playing a game after receiving the league winning three points through a walkover, were also missing a total of seven players for this game, but as per cup rule, they didn’t seek a postponement of the game to a different date.
NO SHOW DECISION
With many of the players from both clubs set to play their final game as Schoolboy players, it was Villa that arrived to the Graun Park ground under a cloud of uncertainty after it was confirmed that the league had received an email earlier that afternoon that suggested that Park Rangers wouldn’t be turning up for the game.
The Villa team management of Tosh Cleary, Larry O’Donovan and Aidan Swift prepared their team as normal for the game, with match officials, Adrian Kirwan, Stuart Kennedy and Michael Wall also in position to take charge of the final cup final of the 2019 campaign.
There was still no sign of Park Rangers come the scheduled 2.30pm kick-off and under rule, they were given an added 15 minutes, however after the game was started by referee Kirwan, it ended seconds later with one having to feel for the Villa players as this was not a way that they would have wanted to win a cup final.
It must be noted that some of the Villa players were reluctant to accept the cup winners medals from vice-chairperson of the WSFL Mary Ray before she presented the Waterford FC sponsored cup to victorious captain Ross Cashin amid of cloud of disbelief.
In a statement issued to this newspaper by WSFL secretary Pat Kelly shortly afterwards, he said, “The WSFL committee regret the decision of Park Rangers not to field a team for today’s WSFL U16A Cup Final and as a result, Villa have been declared winners. The League will be making no further comment on this issue due to forthcoming disciplinary proceedings against Park Rangers.”
It’s understood that the WSFL committee are expected to withhold the runners-up medals and while it’s expected that a hefty fine will come the way of the Faithlegg club, it remains to be seen whether the Park Rangers club will face more stern action against them with expulsion from the league next season a possibility.
RANGERS HAVE THEIR SAY
When contacted by the Waterford News & Star for a comment, Park Rangers FC issued the following statement, ‘Park Rangers AFC U-16A Team has a panel of 15 players, nearly half of which are from our U-15 Team and like all rural clubs the players participate in a number of team sports. We are delighted that we have players competing at a high level in both soccer and hurling. Seven of our 15 players are involved with the Waterford U-15 and U-16 Hurling Teams. All seven were involved in Tournaments on Saturday June 22 in both Co. Clare and in Co. Tipperary, as per the hurling season.
‘Immediately, when we realised there was a clash of fixtures for Saturday June 22, we requested a change of kick-off time of the Waterford U-16A Cup Final from 2.30pm to 7pm to enable players involved with the county hurling teams to play and enable us to have a team. Park Rangers are proud at the level of commitment our players have, to be prepared to travel, play hurling all day, travel back straight away to then play a soccer match is commendable. Although Villa FC and Tramore AFC were happy to accommodate this the Waterford Schoolboy League refused our request. Park Rangers sent further emails explaining that we could not field a team and the impact this was having on the players but received no response. Park Rangers contacted Villa FC and the Schoolboy League Committee to inform them that we would not be attending the final at 2.30pm but were happy to play later that evening or at a later date. Park Rangers AFC are disappointed and disillusioned that our request was not discussed or responded to by the Schoolboy League Committee. While GAA may not greatly impact urban clubs it is devastating for rural clubs and players, easily avoidable by keeping fixtures within the allocated season or in this instance, out of respect for children representing their County at the highest level, changing a kick-off time by 3.5 hours.’
THE VILLA VIEW
In a statement issued by Villa FC, they said, ‘“It is very unfortunate circumstances to win a Cup Final and our club, Under 16 squad and management are disappointed not to have had the opportunity to win the game on the field of play. It is certainly not the way we would wish to win a Cup competition. Like many other clubs at this time of year our squad was already depleted with injuries and holidays and delay to the game would have further increased the unavailability of players. We have sympathy with the predicament of Park Rangers, but ultimately the decision regarding the scheduling of the Final lies solely with the Waterford Schoolboy Football League. We were prepared to abide by whatever decision the WSFL made in this regard.’
Meanwhile, It has also been confirmed to this newspaper that Villa were forced to delete a post advertising support for their team in Saturday’s final on their club Facebook page on Friday night last after their club was subjected to a torrid of abuse surrounding the game, and this is also been investigated by the WSFL chiefs.
VILLA: Scott Searson, Daire O’Keeffe, Shane Keenan, Rishi Oben, Conor Rea, Ross Cashin, Mali Berhami, Shane O’Brien, Evan Hayes, Bassit Ishola, Owen Oseni, Conor McCabe
Missing: Matas Grinous, Marcus Latzimiu, Sean Doocey, Shane O’Brien, Tom Fennell, Rory Fennell, Tom Fitzgerald
Management: Tosh Cleary, Larry O’Donovan, Aidan Swift.