Big cash boost to help Galway Utd rise from ashes

Galway United is set to rise from the ashes and return to the League of Ireland next year after it emerged this week that a major financial boost – worth in the region of €100,000 a year for three years – is close to being delivered for soccer in Galway.

While the FAI has denied that any deal has been struck, a spokesperson admitted that discussions in relation to a three-year cash injection for a single Galway side were at “an advanced stage” and it was hopeful that everything would be in place for unified team in the 2014 League of Ireland season.

“It is very positive, but there is still a lot of work to be done. It is not true to say that anything has been agreed, there is a lot of devil in the detail yet, and it is disappointing that this has been reported with the deal yet to be finalised, but we are very happy with how matters are progressing,” the spokesperson said.

It is believed the deal is being brokered with the Comer brothers, who are originally from Glenamaddy and were approached by the CEO of the FAI, John Delaney, about backing a single Galway team to compete in the League of Ireland.

Discussions have been ongoing for a number of months, and it is believed some of the intricacies of the deal were hammered out at a meeting between Delaney and the Comers at last month’s Cheltenham Racing Festival.

While there has been senior soccer in the city in the past two seasons with Mervue United and Salthill Devon playing in the First Division, the failure to have a side representative of the whole of Galway has resulted in small attendances because of the ‘parochial’ nature of the clubs.

That prompted the FAI to order a review of the soccer situation in Galway last year, which culminated in the publication of the O’Connor Report last October.

The report was written after discussions with the main stakeholders in the game in Galway – the Galway FA, the Galway United Supporters’ Trust (GUST), Mervue United and Salthill Devon – and recommended that a single team should represent Galway City and County in the League of Ireland.

“The report notes the long term systematic weakness of having any more than one senior club in a city of Galway’s size on both sporting and commercial grounds and recommends a phased approach towards the resolution of this matter,” the FAI said at the time.
“This includes the eventual setting up a Connacht Senior League, and a Board for the single Galway club composed of a broad spectrum of football and business interests in the Galway area.”

That resulted in the FAI facilitating a series of meetings with the four main stakeholders in Galway, and a meeting held in the city last night was to hear the details of the proposed backing from the Comer brothers.

“If the reports are true, then there is something there for everyone to work with, and it is up to those who are interested to become involved in the new team,” said Joe Keating, Chairman of the Galway FA, on Wednesday.

“From a Galway FA point of view, we feel we have a wonderful facility in Eamonn Deacy Park, and would be anxious to have a Galway team playing there next season. There is nothing in writing yet, and until there is, we don’t want to comment much further. Any decisions we make have to have the backing of our 47 member clubs, but this is good news for a Galway team going forward,” he said.

A spokesperson for Salthill Devon said that, while they had heard some details of the reported deal, nothing was confirmed as of yet, and until it was, there was very little that could be said on the matter.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.