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Rival clubs join forces in new Belfast Celtic entity

Sport and Leisure Swifts and Donegal Celtic, who clashed in the Premier Intermediate League last season, will come together to form the new Belfast Celtic Football Club for next season Sport and Leisure Swifts and Donegal Celtic, who clashed in the Premier Intermediate League last season, will come together to form the new Belfast Celtic Football Club for next season
Sport and Leisure Swifts and Donegal Celtic, who clashed in the Premier Intermediate League last season, will come together to form the new Belfast Celtic Football Club for next season Sport and Leisure Swifts and Donegal Celtic, who clashed in the Premier Intermediate League last season, will come together to form the new Belfast Celtic Football Club for next season
By Paddy Tierney

THE footballing landscape of West Belfast will change considerably at the end of this month when Sport and Leisure Swifts and Donegal Celtic will cease to exist. In their place, the new Belfast Celtic FC will be formed.

Rather than plying their trade at Glen Road Heights, as originally intended, the new entity will play at Suffolk Road, the capacity of which far exceeds the current home of Sport and Leisure Swifts.

In December, the IFA gave their backing to the name-change which will see Sport and Leisure compete as Belfast Celtic for next season.
It has since emerged that the new club will also incorporate Donegal Celtic, who have been struggling for a number of seasons.
DC dropped out of the Irish League last year following their relegation from the Premier Intermediate League.

Having joined the Ballymena and Provincial League, the Suffolk Road outfit have failed to turn the tide and are currently 12th in the 15-team league.
Sport and Leisure Swifts themselves face relegation from the third tier of the Irish League following back-to-back defeats in the space of three days.
On Saturday afternoon, they lost out to Armagh City in a thrilling bottom-of-the-table clash at Holm Park.

Having led twice, Sport and Leisure were undone by a second half brace from Shea Campbell as the Eagles won 3-2 to give themselves a seven-point cushion at the foot of the league.
Last night (Tuesday), Leisure suffered a 2-0 home defeat to Portstewart, meaning they must take points from their final three league games. Their inferior goal difference to Armagh, which currently stands at eight, also means they are likely to need three wins from three.

They face title contenders Annagh United at home on Saturday before another battle with Portstewart on Tuesday night. Sport and Leisure will then close their season and a chapter in their 41-year history when they play their final game at Glen Road Heights against Lisburn Distillery on Saturday week.
Their fate could be sealed before then, but the club are also pondering the option of seeking admission to the League of Ireland, as revealed in last week’s Andersonstown News.

Yet, finishing bottom in the Premier Intermediate League doesn’t automatically mean relegation and Sport and Leisure could face an anxious wait over the coming weeks to learn the intentions of the champions of other leagues.
Last year, Dollingstown gained promotion from the mid-Ulster league after Ballymena and Provincial Intermediate league winners Glebe Rangers opted not to take place in a promotion play-off. Glebe are, once again, in prime position to win the Ballymena and Provincial League, but it remains to be seen if they wish to take their place in the Premier Intermediate League.

Regardless of which league they play in, the decision for Sport and Leisure and Donegal Celtic to come together to form Belfast Celtic follows months of behind the scenes talks between the executive committees of both clubs.
The Glen Road Heights outfit were pressing ahead with their ambitions to change their name to Belfast Celtic, but the addition of Donegal Celtic to the new entity adds significant clout to the plans.

Critically, it allows Belfast Celtic to play at Suffolk Road, which has the potential to host 5,000 spectators.
It is understood the current ground-share arrangement which exists with St James’ Swifts will remain unchanged by the new developments.
However, the future of the 1,000 capacity Glen Road Heights stadium remains unclear. Belfast Celtic have plans to use the venue as a footballing academy, but such an ambitious project is some way down the line and it is believed the club will listen to proposals from other clubs in West Belfast for its use.
Earlier this year, there was a dispute between Ford FC and Antrim GAA over the use of Woodlands Playing Fields with the NAFL Division 2A outfit relocating to Fullerton Park.

While there are a few details still to be confirmed, what is certain is that two teams from West Belfast will cease to exist at the end of the current season.
Donegal Celtic were founded in 1970 while Sport and Leisure Swifts were founded some eight years later than DC and announced their plans to change their name to Belfast Celtic almost one year ago.

However, the decision wasn’t universally popular with both the Belfast Celtic Society and Belfast Celtic Young Men FC voicing their opposition to the move.
The IFA ruled against the name-change for the 2018-19 season, stating that Sport and Leisure Swifts had already been registered, but vowed to revisit the decision at a later date.
The application was approved at IFA’s December meeting after consultation with the Northern Ireland Football League, the Co Antrim FA and the Belfast Celtic Society.

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