Naomh Colmcille manager Dougie Corbett believes his side could be staring down the barrel of a relegation battle now that they must play their next five home games on their opponents’ pitches.

The penalty is the outcome of the appeal hearing held last week in which the Newtown-based club argued against a proposed eight-week ban on the entire club, a sanction for holding an ‘unauthourised’ tournament in aid of Paul Dillon, a former player and coach who has motor neurone disease. And while the revised penalty - a 12-week pitch closure - is a slightly less severe outcome for the club in general (the €500 fine still stands), first team manager Corbett says it’s going to be a headache for his players, who gained promotion to division three last season under former manager Ryan McKinley.

He told the Inish Times: “I think it’s a pretty harsh penalty, that out of 18 games in the season, we will only have played four at home.

“The ban covers 12 weeks, which means we have to travel away for our next five home games. We looked for clarification to see if they could be played at a neutral venue, but were told no.

“It’s very unfair on the players, who have done absolutely nothing wrong, but who have now been landed in a very difficult situation.

“It goes without saying that having the home advantage is worth vital points over the course of a season. The players are only five minutes away from the ground, they know what way the wind blows, and they are used to how the ball bounces and the best areas to shoot from.

“Now, that advantage has been taken from us, and there’s no doubt that the threat of relegation is a very real possibility for us, whereas just a few weeks ago we were thinking only of consolidation.”

And the Newton boss added that, besides the effect on their performance in the league, the penalty has wider implications, both for the club and beyond.

“We’ve already been to Ballintra, now we have to go back,” he said. “We’ll have been to Malin, Fanad and Annagry twice, and what all that means is that players will have to dole out money for fuel, or the club will have the added expense of looking at hiring buses.

“And the situation is unfair not just on Naomh Colmcille, but on the whole league, because the teams we have to play twice can be seen by other sides as having a more beneficial home advantage.

“Where some of those teams would be expected to drop points playing in Newtown, they may not necessarily do so now, and that will have an impact on the overall league standings at the end of the season.

“The whole thing has been very distracting for the players and the management team, but we’ve no choice now but to get on with it.

“It’s just disappointing for the players, because none of this is their fault  - all they want to do is play football.”

If you have a story or want to send a photo or video to us please contact the Donegal Now editorial team. Between 9am and 5pm Monday to Sunday please call 074 9112712. Between 5pm and midnight please call or text 086 792 2103. Or you can email [email protected] at any time.