Football: The Bell Tolls for Dundela; Junior Football in Focus

The People (London, England), January 26, 2003 | Go to article overview

Football: The Bell Tolls for Dundela; Junior Football in Focus


Byline: Alex MCGREEVY

FOR the first time in 30 years Mervyn Bell is finding himself faced with a question he has difficulty answering.

Behind the softly spoken voice, Bell's no-nonsense reputation in management has ensured success for Dundela throughout his time in charge.

But for once his leadership skills have arrived at a crossroads, with little light leading on to the next path.

Dundela, a club steeped in junior football glories, is now contemplating its position amid the most notable upheaval in local football since the inception of the Irish League and Irish FA.

New league formats will allow eight teams from the current Irish League Second Division to progress into a new-look First Division next season.

With its tradition, Dundela would be automatic candidates for the step up in grade.

But making the move isn't so simple.

Should Dundela move up, the East Belfast club will find itself on a ladder filled with many others, all looking up to one thing, the government's so-called pot of gold that awaits the game in Northern Ireland.

If it stays among the junior outfits, Dundela will continue to succeed and survive on its income from a social club which overlooks Wilgar Park.

"It will not be my decision to move up to the new First Division, that will be a decision made by Dundela," said Bell.

"It is my personal opinion that if we did, Dundela would have to go looking for grant aid to bring the club's venue up to standard with the requirements of the Irish League.

"There's talk that millions of pounds will be put into the game, but Dundela would be fighting among other junior clubs and then all the top clubs for money.

"When clubs like Carrick Rangers and Larne are considered, we can see that moving up hasn't been the best option in the past.

"I would believe that clubs like Carrick probably regret making the jump and could soon find themselves back where they started, among junior teams again.

"It would not be easy for us to gain the finances needed to compete at the top. …

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