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The long ball to nowhere? The new League of Ireland season starts tonight… March 8, 2013

Posted by guestposter in League of Ireland.

From anarchaeologist, the first in a weekly slot – which will have various regular contributors – about the LoI…

Friday evening will see the opening fixtures of the 2013 Airtricity League — or the League of Ireland if you’re one of those who still refers to the Aviva as Landsdowne Road. Twelve teams (six of them from Dublin if you include Bray Wanderers) will begin the campaign for the premier division title with another eight squads contesting the first division. Where the premier division has its adherents (and there are several quite partisan readers regularly on the CLR), it’s from the cold, sparsely populated terraces of the first division that the longer historical view can be appreciated, along with something of an associated underlying poignancy. For here can be witnessed at first hand the ebb and flow of Irish football, with once great teams such as Finn Harps and Longford Town still walking out in front of the fans, more in hope than expectation that the end of the season will see an ascension to the giddy heights of the premiership.

League of Ireland coverage is desultory at the best of times. RTÉ broadcasts a match most Fridays in the season yet the League remains the poor cousin of the national team. Not that this should put you off. One of the closing matches last season with St. Pat’s making the trip up to the Showgrounds in Sligo was possibly one of the best games I’ve ever seen, one all the more enjoyable given the poor performance of Trappatoni’s squad at the Euros, not to mention the balls-up of the German game at Landsdowne Road.

A personal bugbear is the amount of national squad supporters who’d never consider supporting a local team. Why’s that? You get various excuses, mostly to do with the fact that the League is shit or, as one denizen of Phibsborough told me, because of the ‘violence’ manifested in the menagerie of Garda dogs and horses which regularly patrols the streets around Dalymount during a home game (and you get some of that in Tallaght and Inchicore as well). Indeed the weather is often cited and it would be a foolish fan indeed who’d travel to Bray Wanderers’ Carlisle Grounds without the benefit of the type of survival gear generally issued to special forces operating in the cooler reaches of the Antarctic. Indeed the micro-climate in Richmond Park encourages the rain to sweep in horizontally from the north, drenching those seeking the meagre shelter of the covered stand. Yet there’s an obvious argument to be made regarding the quality of the national team and indeed a separate, though related, discussion to be had on the FAI’s reluctance to spend any more than the odd tenner on the youth game.
Having said that, other more political developments in the game have been encouraging, with the League’s anti-racism stance being taken up with gusto, certainly by a majority of self-styled ‘ultras’ supporting the bigger Dublin clubs. Yet Shamrock Rovers’ supporters didn’t cover themselves in non-sectarian glory in their recent Setanta Cup tie with Linfield where Pat’s ultras were a little off the mark taunting the ostensibly neutral Glentoran away fans on the ‘fleg’ situation in Belfast. And then of course there’s the c word. To what extent is the invisibility of the LoI a function of the perception that it’s the domain of the great unwashed? It certainly wasn’t an issue when I were a lad.

Where various LoI Facebook pages frequently descend into the type of asinine doggerel you’d read on politics.ie, the emergence of sites such as extratime.ie and the occasional snippets on Come Here To Me more than make up for the lack of coverage elsewhere, where poshball, bogball and stickfighting remain hegemonic. One entertaining development has been one fan’s live coverage of the Saints’ foreign exploits last season, often via a dodgy wifi connection, featuring a string of expletives very much undeleted. Here on the CLR we hope to provide readers with more of a, ahem… political analysis of the League over the coming months. We’ll obviously be watching how the teams perform on the pitch, but we hope to look further behind the scenes and make some sense of the League as a social construct. For the League has its own psychodrama, its ups and downs (and mostly downs) are certainly as fascinating as those going-ons across the water, if only considered as a local, slightly tarnished mirror. When Manchester United are considering selling Wayne Rooney for £30 million (because he’s ‘fat and ugly’ according to the 10 year old unreconstituted Liverpool supporter I live with), it’s instructive to consider how many LoI stadia could be picked up for a fraction of that sum (most of those in Dublin, according to the young fella, and probably the Showgrounds as well, if only for the views).

Over the season we’ll be looking at the performances of teams such as Dundalk FC who barely held on to their place last season but who are back with a new management regime and buckets of optimism, despite losing a pre-season friendly to the once mighty Finn Harps. And on that note, we’ll be looking at the often ignored first division too.

So the games to watch tonight are Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers in Oriel Park, with the added frisson of the Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny being the recent recipient of a P45 from the Scum Hoops. And of course there’s the Munster derby on Sunday between newcomers Limerick FC and Cork City (in Thomond Park of all places), where the young midfielder Gearoid Morrissey can be expected to send the Rebel Army home with 3 points. In the first division the clash between Waterford United and Finn Harps may provide an early indication as to which team will progress next season, with an optimistic few quid on the men from Donegal.


The new St. Patrick’s Athletic strip will doubtless confuse Drogheda United on the night


1. Red Hand - March 8, 2013

‘there’s the c word’: culchie?


2. sonofstan - March 8, 2013

Owen Heary’s 21st and last LoI season, and a deserved mention on UEFA.com – more attention than he’ll get from local media…. http://www.uefa.com/memberassociations/news/newsid=1927609.html


3. Joe - March 8, 2013

Just back from the barbers. He told me Des Kelly has just bought Bohs for two million. Kelly made his case to take over the club at the agm just last night. What swung it for him was his promise to put down a fantastic new pitch at Dalyer. The members liked the sound of it. Apparently it’ll be like a new carpet.


4. Villan - March 8, 2013

what’s up with the caption accompanying the pic? why will the Pats shirt confuse Drogs on the night?

For Cork City, after consolidation last year I’d expect a top 4 placing this year, Daryl Kavanagh is looking decent and Dam Murray & Colin Healy shined in pre-season.

As an aside, its great to have Cobh Ramblers back in the league, hoping to make it down there tomorrow night. They’ve signed some handy players from CCFC and the MSL, so I’d expect them to do ok in their first season back.


5. CB - March 9, 2013

I was with you up until the bogball and stickfighting snideness.


6. Ally - March 9, 2013

Bogball – what else is it called, inbred ball?


7. CB - March 9, 2013

Sorry the last comment was a bit harsh. Other than that it was a good article and I’ve been saying it for a long time that I’ll have to get up off my arse and go to some LOI games this year, as I used to go pretty regularly when I was in my teens / early twenties. Those that keep the game going in Ireland through supporting their clubs deserve a huge amount of respect.


Dr.Nightdub - March 9, 2013

CB, if you’re looking for a sampler, a match involving any two out of Pats, Rovers and Sligo should be well worth your €15.


CB - March 9, 2013

Thanks Dr. N. Definitely will do this year. Always had mates who were big LOI Ireland fans and it’s just pure laziness on my part. I was listening to the History Ireland Hedge School from the festival in Phibsboro and I thought there were some interesting points on what the LOI could emulate from the GAA. There’s a huge selling point for LOI clubs that they’re firmly based in their communities and lots of people volunteer their time for free. Interesting points as well about clubs and stadia ownership and comparisons with different leagues around Europe.
(The comment I was referring to as harsh was my own not Ally’s. We must have posted at the same time.)


8. Branno's ultra-left t-shirt - March 9, 2013

‘more than make up for the lack of coverage elsewhere, where poshball, bogball and stickfighting remain hegemonic’

What’s actually hegemonic is English and Scottish football, and despite the LOI elite, that is what most Irish football fans follow. ‘Bar stoolers’ I believe you call them. Which doesn’t explain how visiting English teams were getting crowds of 40-50,000 in the late ’40s and Irish people were travelling to games in Liverpool and Manchester back then as well.


Dr.Nightdub - March 9, 2013

The novelty factor would explain those crowds in the 40s. My dad remembers Man. U. coming over to play Belfast Celtic once a year and Celtic Park would be jointed – but the regular Irish League games would also pull big crowds.

What spelt the death-knell for LoI attendances was the advent of televised English football in the 70s, particularly going head-to-head against The Big Match on UTV on Sunday afternoons. People then had the option of watching George the postman play while standing on a terrace in Milltown or watching George Best play from the comfort of their own couch.

Nowadays Sky Sports’ Super Duper Sunday in Widevision HD is merely dancing on the grave dug by The Big Match, while an attendance that seemed to be pushing 2500 for Pats v Drogheda last night was deemed to be “a decent crowd” in the half-time chatter along the Camac. They didn’t all just come to ogle Trappatoni, it turned out to be a good game of football.


9. CL - March 9, 2013

‘A court in Egypt has upheld 21 death sentences handed down to fans over deadly football riots in Port Said, amid continuing unrest.’


10. eamonncork - March 11, 2013

Greatly looking forward to this season. I’ve stopped worrying about why other people aren’t watching the League of Ireland. It provides terrific entertainment and a lot of fun for those of us who are into it, if you prefer watching soccer on television off you go.
Thoughts from the first week. The champions look very strong again and will probably be a bit better than last year. I was surprised by the Hoops team which played against Dundalk, the selection looked a bit weaker than I’d expected. Limerick look to have gathered some good players and could be dark horses. And that was a big win for Pats, precisely the kind of game that tripped them up last year, their match against the Rovers from Tallaght this weekend should be a cracker.


irishelectionliterature - March 11, 2013

Hard to disagree with any of that . Didn’t make it up to Dundalk on Friday (nor will I be up in Belfast tonight) but really looking forward to Fridays game against Pats.
I know its very early days yet but there will be some mutterings if Pats play us off the park like they did in that 5-1 drubbing last season.


eamonncork - March 11, 2013

I don’t see that happening. What was the story with Quigley by the way? Injured I presume but he’s such a man of mystery and intrigue I thought I’d ask.


Dr.Nightdub - March 11, 2013

“Mutterings”? Since when have Rovers fans ever contented themselves with “mutterings”?

Mind you, the 5-1 is simply not gonna happen again – if for no other reason than the fact that Brennan is playing for us this year. My other half has no interest in football but even she realises the significance of Friday: “Do you want a lift to Tallaght? You look so funny when you’re just sunk in nervous terror.”


anarchaeologist - March 11, 2013

Yeah, all eyes will be on Tallaght for Friday evening. Pats took their time getting the goal though despite being up against a Drogheda defence which was nothing short of atrocious. The other Rovers did well in the Brandywell too, unfortunately my fiver accumulator went west with Shels: I’d reckoned on a draw… Trapp’s appearance in Richmond Park was something of a wet sop to the League and of course the FAI gave no indication on their social media that the season was under way. But a good and enjoyable start to the season nonetheless.


eamonncork - March 11, 2013

An odd one about Friday night was the amount of guys I thought would have big big seasons who didn’t start for their clubs and were on the bench, really good young players, Dunleavy at Cork, Mountney at Dundalk, McCormack at Shamrock Rovers and Carroll at Pats. Also to an extent Rafter at Derry, I’d love to have any of them.


11. Gearóid - March 11, 2013

Many LoI fans do have a self-pitying elitism over the GAA, fans of English clubs, etc, which wears a bit thin after a while and ironically probably repels those who could be potentially attracted to the LoI. Not claiming this is true of LoI fans generally or that the GAA and Sky Sports barstoolers are saints but that attitude does come across tbh.


eamonncork - March 11, 2013

With respect Gearoid that argument is a terrible load of bollocks. (BTW, I know you didn’t invent it, I’ve heard it before.)
It’s just the classic Lazy Bastard excuse for not doing something. ‘I’d love to learn the Irish language/join a left wing party/develop an interest in embryonic Munich disco/follow the League of Ireland but the gang involved in it do be looking down on me and thinking they’re better than me.’
I’ve no problem with people who prefer to watch football on telly. And like I suspect IEL I probably watch as much GAA as League of Ireland. If people don’t want to watch the League of Ireland fine. But it gets my goat that they want to wallow in self-pity about it as if they are in some sense victims because it’s suggested they might enjoy watching the odd live game in their local ground. It’s just a whisker away from suggesting that calling someone a Barstooler is a form of racism. I sometimes wonder if there’s no end to the ways in which people in this country can contrive to feel sorry for themselves. There he is, plonked in front of his plasma screen watching Sky on a Sunday, Premier League Man, the victim of League of Ireland elitists. Pass me the violin.
By the way it’s my experience that on a local level GAA people are far less snide about the League of Ireland than lads who proclaim their devotion to an English club on the grounds that they picked them because they won a lot of things when their superfan was 10.


irishelectionliterature - March 11, 2013

The amazed looks I got today when I said I watched Limerick v Cork on the box yesterday rather than the Liverpool or Chelsea games.
As for the GAA, Its funny but when the whole GAA vs Rovers thing was on over Tallaght, the club although close enough to Tallaght, didn’t take the invite from Thomas Davis to become involved. There are quite a few Rovers fans involved at various levels in the club and it would have generated too much bad blood.
Some of them take an interest in Rovers or at least would ask you how the season was going etc etc. Like myself, they had many questions as to how things went so wrong last year.
Oh and Quigley is injured. .


12. eamonncork - March 11, 2013

By the way I think it’s a pity the League didn’t use the shrinking of division one to bite the bullet and go for a one division 16 or 18 team league. The idea that this is an unthinkable proposition tended to get put about by journos who were also gung ho for full-time professional teams paid ludicrous salaries. On reflecttion both of these were Tiger ideas from the Tiger era. The likes of Athlone, Finn Harps and Waterford, clubs with great traditions, have been reduced almost to nothing by getting mired in Division One. Imagine the boost it would give to those teams if they had visits from Shamrock Rovers, Pats, Sligo Rovers, Derry etc. instead of multiple games against the bumped up intermediate teams from Galway.
I do think the League has a duty to promote the game in those towns but, another Tiger idea, there seemed to be a notion a few years ago that the best way for the League to proceed was to have as few teams from outside Dublin as possible. I don’t think Dublin supporters felt this was but it was certainly a media trope. I always felt this stuff about a United Ireland League had as much to do with a desire to keep football on the East Coast as much as possible. It seems funyn now but at the time the teams who wanted to join the league and proclaimed themselves as a big six included Galway United. IIRC Sligo Rovers and Shamrock Rovers were both excluded.
The idea that an 18 team league would lead to some kind of unconscionable drop in standards is debatable. Bray have been saved from relegation on technical grounds and come back the next season with a decent team.


13. Wally Myles - March 11, 2013

Had reason to call to local Police Station here in Spain last week.The Cop who interviewed me at first thought I was English.I assured him that I was Irish.He said he was glad as long as I was not from Manchester’I assured him with a A.B.U. I had to explain what this ment.Using Antequera,Barcelona,Ubeda to explain Anyone But United.When I was leaving the police station after nearly an hour I was serenaded by a chorus of ABU from four of the police.


14. Branno's ultra-left t-shirt - March 12, 2013

I see Rovers fun-loving element were doing their bit for cross-community relations in Belfast last night. Tell me this folks- why are more cops needed for Bohs-Rovers than for All-Ireland finals?


15. Branno's ultra-left t-shirt - March 12, 2013
16. Brian's a bogger - March 12, 2013

Fair play to Rovers for giving it a go. Hopefully more of the same this Monday.


17. Branno's ultra-left t-shirt - March 13, 2013

As we approach the centenary of the slaughter of the Great War it saddens me to see young men once again being sent over the top (sometimes from rat infested trenches) to do battle on behalf of the manufacturers of designer menswear. Remember the example of December 1914! Play the pipes of peace! Turn your bottles of Becks against the real enemy!


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