FOOTBALL COLUMN: Liam Beckett talks...

Paddy Kelly was in charge of Donegal Celtic when they graced the Premiership
Paddy Kelly was in charge of Donegal Celtic when they graced the Premiership

It’s no secret that the vast majority of attention in local football recently has understandably been focused on the intriguing battles at both the top and at the bottom of the Danske Bank Premiership.

However, while most eyes have been glued to the goings on in the Premiership, it certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed that some of our former more recognised clubs are soon about to disappear out of the back door of their respective leagues, down yet again to an even lower level.

It wasn’t very long ago that Championship One sides Donegal Celtic and Lisburn Distillery were clashing swords with the big boys in the Premiership, and Dundela were always the outstanding team in the lower divisions and who set the standards that the rest had to try to follow.

Lisburn Distillery, particularly under the management of Paul Kirk, were always a team who appeared comfortable with life in the Premiership. Crowds weren’t great in terms of numbers but the team had quality players like Fra Murphy and they were decent, certainly good enough for the Premiership.

In what was a bizarre decision to me at the time, Kirk got sacked and from there on everything seemed to go downhill.

Now the club are not only in freefall but they have been on the receiving end of some heavy defeats in the process, not a good sign at any time but a sure indication that they are currently well out of their depth even in Championship One.

I have no doubt whatsoever that the current batch of players, manager and committee are doing their best, but their best is clearly not good enough and the current league table is testimony to that – incidentally the league table never lies.

Donegal Celtic, who without doubt for me were the real success story of the local football scene for several seasons, are also in dire straits.

They rose like a Harrier Jet from junior football up through the various ranks year after year until they had reached the pinnacle of the Premiership.

Under the drive and leadership of the then manager Paddy Kelly and chairman Raymond Bonnar the club marched relentlessly forward in an extremely impressive fashion.

But the expected explosion of Hoops fans in West Belfast never really materialised. Many in local football felt that when Celtic arrived in the Premiership it would seriously threaten the attendance figures at Cliftonville and the like – both clubs having the vast majority of their fans hailing from the nationalist community, but alas it wasn’t to be.

Despite having several decent players and one of the best footballers in the league at that time, Paul (Maxie) McVeigh, the fans never really turned out in sufficient numbers, certainly not enough to sustain a lengthy existence as a Premiership club.

Then for whatever reason Paddy Kelly and Raymond Bonnar parted company with the club and despite a long list of successive managers since that era, the club has been unable to emulate the Kelly/Bonnar partnership ever since.

As a result the club, who worked so hard initially to deliver senior football to West Belfast, would now appear to be stuck in reverse gear and well on their way back down the levels into the third tier of local football.

Also, just like Lisburn Distillery, not only have the Celts suffered far too many defeats this season, some of those defeats have been pretty emphatic. Hidings, for want of a better word.

Again a sure sign that either the players, manager, committee or indeed the whole lot of them are simply not good enough.

Every time I hear or think of Dundela I immediately think of their former manager Mervyn Bell.

My goodness, under Mervyn’s watch the Duns were undoubtedly the club every other team outside of the Premiership aspired to emulate, they always set the standards.

But alas, once again what always looked a formidable partnership between Mervyn Bell and his beloved East Belfast club became fractured and for whatever reason Mervyn was allowed to drift away from Wilgar Park.

It was around this time that for me the demise of this wonderful little club really gathered momentum, with the result that they are now to be found languishing down around the bottom regions of the third tier (Championship 2).

The chance of the once mighty Dundela dropping out of the final tier of senior football is now a real possibility. Unthinkable to many, yes, but by no means impossible.

No club has a divine right to remain in the league of their choice, that right always has to be earned and determined by performances on the field of play, and hard as it may seem for many attached to these clubs I’m afraid that’s exactly how it should be.

Success and longevity must be achieved the hard way, not through hot air being expended by players, staff or officials alike.

Hard work, ability and attitude are always needed as an absolute necessity to progress in football, or even in life for that matter, but sadly there hasn’t been enough of these qualities on display by any of these three aforementioned clubs, and that has spelt disaster for them.

Now it seems yet another well known club Bangor would also appear to be in danger of heading towards obscurity with the threat of relegation now a real possibility because of an apparent lack of proper licencing criteria.

Add to this the prospect of them facing a winding up order in court merely compounds the misery for the County Down Club – watch this space.

Finally, how could I end without paying mention to the saga which surrounds Portadown at present.

The Ports appear to be in absolute turmoil and I really feel for interim manager Pat McGibbon.

He has inherited a real headache both on the field and off it,

Honestly, big Pat must feel like he’s reversed over every black cat in County Armagh.

But despite all the claims and counter claims, one thing sticks out in my mind above all else and that is that our rule book needs a complete overhaul.

We have far too many Draconian rules which are so prone and vulnerable to misinterpretation.

Far too many grey areas in our rule book which more often than not leads to no end of confrontation and animosity between the football authorities and the accused club and fans.

My suggestion would be a complete makeover/ renovation/ simplification of the current rule book.

Why can we not have laws and rules that are more black and white and not open to misunderstanding or multiple interpretations?

Quite simply our football rule book must read more like ‘ Fifty Shades Of Grey’ than a football rule book which prides itself on clarity.

I’ll let the powers that be decide whether we should continue with an outdated rule book full of confused meanings or one of simple rules which leave zero room for confusion.