Sporting Fingal – A Sudden Flash

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The Gods of Football seemed to favor Sporting Fingal when the club was officially introduced to the world on the 11th of February 2008 at the Corduff Sports Centre in Dublin. The loss of Kilkenny City a few weeks earlier freed up a place in Ireland’s First Divison. Instead of starting at the highest amateur level, the new club from the northern periphery of the Irish capital could now start in the second highest division.

The establishment of the club, one year earlier in 2007, was part of the local government’s ambitious “Fingal Football Development Plan”. Using sport as a binder, the Fingal County Council hoped to foster a sense of community among the rapidly growing population in the suburb. The project, which focused on local clubs and schools, included not only the creation of a professional football club, but with several youth teams, a futsal branch, a Special Olympics team and a wheelchair soccer team, it also gave non-professional soccer players the opportunity to actively enjoy football. The plans for a football academy and a new stadium to be built underlined the ambitions of the initiators.

The main responsibilities of the first team became the responsibility of ex-international Liam Buckley (ex-SV Waregem), assisted by head coach John Devine (ex-Arsenal). Because “the Ravens” did not have their own stadium, they started their debut season in the spring of 2008 in Morton Stadium, a stadium with an athletics track, in the suburb of Santry. Morton Stadium turned out to be a great choice. Especially in the first half of the season “the Fingal” were untouchable in home matches. “The Ravens” would eventually end their first season in the club’s existence on a deserving 4th place behind experienced clubs such as Dundalk, Shelbourne and Waterford united.

The second season was a hit for the North Dublin club. With a 3rd place Sporting Fingal finished one place closer to the top than the previous season. However, after the end of the regular competition, the season for “the Ravens” was far from over. The Dubliners won their play-offs against Bray Wanderers and gained promotion to the Premier Division, the highest football division in the Republic of Ireland, and this only in their second year of their existence. An unexpected success for the players of “the Fingal” but the real apotheosis of the 2009 football year would follow a few weeks later. Because Liam Buckley’s men had beaten, again, Bray Wanderers  in the FAI Cup semifinals, they would contest the final of the Irish Cup against sub topper Sligo Rovers at the Tallaght Stadium in Dublin on Sunday 22nd November 2009. After more than 8,000 spectators had witnessed Colm James make up an 0-1 deficit in the 85th minute from the penalty spot, Gary O’Neill provided the icing on the cake with a strike in the final minute of the match. Sporting Fingal had not only been promoted to the highest level after only two years, it also won their first trophy with the Irish Cup and would make its debut into Europe!

Nobody expected, at the start in March 2010, that the first season at the highest level would also be the last in the club’s existence. Sporting Fingal had bought experienced topscorer Glen Crowe from Irish champions Bohemians and had come out of the transfer period strengthened in every line. Without posing a real threat to the top teams Bohemian FC and Shamrock Rovers, the neophyte nevertheless found themselves near the top of the rankings for the entire season. And despite a double 3-2 defeat against the Portuguese CS Maritimo, the “ravens” had more than stood their ground on a European level. Just like their first season in the First Division, the North Dubliners also ended their first season in the Premier Division on the 4th spot, again resulting in European football.

That second European campaign would never happen. After real estate agent Gerry Gannon vacated the presidency, the rumours of a financial crisis within the club became more and more persistent. When the consortium of owners and investors that led the club failed to find a main sponsor for the team, players’ salaries could no longer be paid. Sporting Fingal’s forfait at the beginning of February 2011 for the Setanta Cup, a mini competition between the top of Irish and Northern Ireland football, did not bode well. When they terminated the contracts of the entire first team just days later, the death sentence of the Dubliners was finalised. Just a few weeks before the start of the 2011 Airtricity League, Sporting Fingal collapsed, after a brief but intense existence.

Sources:

“Sporting Fingal officially launched” op www.rte.ie
“Sporting Fingal reveal financial crisis” op www.rte.ie
“Sporting Fingal cease operations” op www.rte.ie
“Sporting Fingal to be offered First Division place” op www.fai.ie
“Sporting move to Dalymount Park” op www.extratime.ie
“Sporting Fingal cancel all player contracts” op www.irishtimes.com
www.sportingfingal.ie
www.wikipedia.org