Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Worry ye not, the status quo has been restored. Sulking soccer manager Damien Richardson has been convinced to come out from under his bed, open his bedroom door and come downstairs for his din dins.

It was classic Rico, back on top of his form wantonly exuding embellishments, defensive and offensive all at once as he spoke on Red FM about his hissy fit last weekend." I'm still very disencouraged, if there is such a word," our rock solid anti-hero was heard to say.

Oh, I love it! He is the Dr. Bill of the eircom League, but we need him and his ilk. " I will never apologise for my passion," he said and you are spot on Rico. The league needs you and others like you. All snippy comments aside you are an asset to football in this country. You see the greater picture, you want the greater picture.

However, I must cite one of the Great Embellisher's more positive viewpoints on the improving standards of refereeing on our fair isle; " You don't see overweight referees anymore." The man is a tonic! He finally put his shovel away after declaring the League Cup to be, "a nothing competition."

Just a poke in the dark, but maybe it was Drogheda's simpering exit from the FAI Cup that lured him from his naughty place, back into his superhero costume ready to protect the good football loving citizens who dwell in the peaceful god fearing hamlet of Cork City.

Saturday, May 27, 2006


Damien Richardson, a regularly eloquent man, said he wanted to keep his integrity but sounded more Father Jack than Oscar Wilde, as he shared the secrets of the tenuous relationship between himself and his arse. He went so far as to reveal that he would not be bothering his arse, and furthermore, he suggested that he was also the victim of a pain in his arse. This is not good news for Cork City supporters.

Rico gripped the tin opener firmly in his hand, 'though he may well wish in the not too distant future that he had inserted it into his mouth, and proceeded to open a catering can of worms, neanderthals, jurassics, subterfuge and cronyism. If he decides to write it all down it will leave those Jackie Collins bodice rippers in the shade; he might have the time on his hands now.

During an interview with Red FM, the City boss let loose in a manner not usually associated with him; but I recall now how my cheeks flushed as he gave instructions to Eamon Collins when the Shels' lieutenant was sent to the stands during a Setanta Cup clash earlier this season. He has acknowledged that people may associate his outburst with unripened vine fruit following their dismissal from a 3rd knockout competition in a thus far uninspiring season.

Longford may not have played Dermot Keely's 'beautiful game', but they did what they had to do to win a one off cup tie. They've proven over recent seasons that it is their forte. With Cobh falling on their swords in Dundalk it's been a weekendis horibilis for the Rebel County, but cheer up boys, there's still the League!


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Dear Mister Stan,

Ticket. Change for bus. Folding money for pub. Borrowed jersey; owner working, he'll not miss it. Mental note, watch out for the drips from the kebab. And we're off. End of season friendly, Ireland host the touring Chilean squad. Not just any Irish team though, one with 2 eircom League players in it, and a good chance that they'll both get a run.

I'm feeling a little summery and exotic as it hasn't rained yet today, so I'm having a slice of lemon in a pint of Hoegaarden. Join the throngs as we make our way towards the North Terrace. Nice one, no sun in my eyes, bit of elbowroom.

First half. Plan A appears to be; Give it to Duffer.
Plan B appears to be; Give it to Reidy, and he'll play a crossfield ball to Duffer. Clever.

The half drags by. We applaud Arthur Fitzsimons at half time. Apparently he's a nice man. There were over 41,000 people in the ground; thankfully only one of them was nice. Second half begins, surely they'll be better.

They aren't. Jason Byrne warms up in front of us. No one around me gives him a cheer or any kind of recognition. This p1sses me off. I know if he gets on he'll make a decent effort. I want some decent effort for my shekels. This shower of perma- tanned ladyboys have no interest in playing this game. No not the Chileans; they are taking this game seriously, as illustrated by their excitement when they take a one goal lead.

Groan. Ah, substitutions! Byrner gets on, but Ireland are crap, he'll be lucky to impress in this game. Joe Gamble doesn't get on. I would have liked to see the little soldier getting in amongst these lads, rattle a few cages, let them know they're in a game. Gammy Kavanagh does the simple thing, collect the ball and pass the ball. Immediate difference. McGeady is hyperactive, wants the ball, wants to run at the defence. Harte is.......apparently hopeful of a return to the Premiershit.

It's laughable, he's living out in sunny Spain with his bags packed ready to return to the temperate climate of Northern Europe. His established international counterparts couldn't play to their full capacity last night as they wondered had they packed enough suncream and if the airport would be busy. A financial success for the FAI, in spite of what Stan says I don't see how he could have learned much from the game. Other than not to bother at this time of year next time around.

The subs, who had something to prove, gave it their all. The starting 11 [Given excluded] were choosy in their efforts; save for the last 15 mins or so, it was still painful to watch though. And even more so when we were informed that we were to be subjected to 6 minutes of added time. I never leave a game early; if Georgie O'Callaghan had appeared to me with a lift home I think I'd have left the Garden of Eden.

We should be trying out fringe players in these games, the glamour boys are not interested. They just wanted out of Landsdowne and away to their villas in Portugal or wherever, and we paid in to watch that. A perfect opportunity to throw in a couple of eircom League players from the off. They're flying now, not winding down like the superstars. Give them a chance Stan.

Good news, no drips on jersey.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Whenever a World Cup looms football fans come over all foggy eyed as we waffle about the 'beautiful game', 'total football' [my own personal favourite], and the Braziliants. As I sat in the stand [as a kid that always confused me] at Tolka Park on Friday for the game between Shels and Bohs those thoughts wafted fleetingly through my unconsciousness.

A clash between the North Dublin rivals usually has plenty of spark and bite to it. This game had falsers, and loose ones at that. Pat Fenlon has been afforded the luxury of assembling a fantasy football type squad at Tolka Park. He picked Damien Richardson's pocket in the close season, running all the way back to Dublin with Liam Kearney under his arm while pulling Greg O'Halloran behind him. I have heard no dissenting voices whenever the petite one's squad is referred to as the best in the country.

SCENE 1 - Pre match talk, home dressing room, Tolka Park, 19/5/06.

Nutsy enters, Napoleonic, followed by his faithful lieutenant Eamo. Silence. Nutsy speaks," Don't give Farrelly any time on the ball". The players become infatuated with the floor. Silence. Heads lift rapidly as a voice other than the gaffer's speaks. It's Eamo." Farrelly's out boss". " Stay tight on John Paul Kelly then." He's not playing either boss". " Up Ward's arse, don't let him turn". "His name's not on the teamsheet boss". " In the name of Rico, there must be someone we can get tight on, is Grant playing?" Eamo shakes his head.

Back to Monday morning type reality. The loudest voice in Tolka Park on Friday night regularly bellowed SQUEEZE across the arena and from my vantage point the 20 outfield players resembled an amoebic form as they thronged around the white plastic nucleus of the game. We've all stood on wet, windy days sensibly attired in white Nikes watching 7 year olds chase a terrified ball in a melee of enthusiastic disorganisation. We smile and marvel at the strides they take in a few short months as they realise what positions are.

I've always wanted to try out my poetic license; they say the first time is usually a disappointment. Shels and Bohs weren't that bad, but I couldn't understand why Shels didn't just go out and play the weakened opposition in a football match where the best team wins. Instead the dish of the day was fear of defeat; don't let the opposition play. What was the point in playing Liam Kearney and then making him spend most of the game inside rather than 'walking the chalk' where the opposition least want to see him. Then the poor lamb was replaced.

Then it was Saturday night. "We'll go out next Saturday love, promise. Any picture, you pick". Felix reminds me of a trendy priest; Father Felix, and he sings for charity, classic trendy priest stuff. Pat is more of the enthusiastic Southern preacher in a big white suit. Reverend Pat and Father Felix are conducting tonight's ceremony. It's Derry City v Cork City. Fair f***s to Derry, they took the game to Cork in the manner I had hoped Shels would have taken it to Bohs the previous evening. Silken Pat McCourt slalomed through the Southerners at every opportunity... ah the World Cup is starting soon.

The Great Embellisher claims to KNOW that he has the best team in the league. If he has the best team in the league, and they were only missing Horgan who was ably replaced by Lordan, why did they not play Derry? Instead of feckin' squeezing the game at every opportunity. Georgie is a smashing player to watch, he hadn't room to squeeze a fart out in midfield. For 80 minutes Cork persisted with a system that patently wasn't working. Just play the game, you have the players!

I dearly hope that our new found professionalism and investment isn't going to make everyone afraid to lose, producing stalemate bores, and then all hell breaks loose in the last 10 minutes as both sides try to win playing the game the way we want it played. By the way, next time Rev. Pat is presenting a live game [June 2nd UCD v Derry] look over his right shoulder. There's an image of Georgie, and it resembles a serpent's head. Cue Faithless, "THIS IS MY CHURCH", Rev. Pat and Fr. Felix giving it loads, I can't wait!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


What's going on with the League Cup? We've had St. Pats ousted by Shamrock Rovers and Cork City humbled by Cobh Ramblers, and hardly a brow furrowed. I am not an avid fan of any of the aforementioned footballing establishments, but no fan ever likes to see his side beaten, especially if it's by an outfit from a lower division.

The media regularly refer to it as 'giant killing'. The Inchicore Reds had played 8 league games before they faced Shamrock Rovers at Richmond Park. They have, it's universally acknowledged, begun the season brilliantly in comparison to last season. They are playing an attractive brand of football; they ooze confidence, and this without the likes of Chris Armstrong, Colm Foley, Steven Caffrey and Mark Rutherford variously throughout those games. All 4 were absent when they inflicted Cork City's first defeat in this season's eircom League.

Impressive, I think you'll agree. The only side to wind Pats thus far have been Drogheda, who smuggled 3 points out of Dublin on a desperate night for football with an 87th minute goal. No shame for the home side against the then form team in the land. Anyway, hot on the heels of swatting the League Champions aside they took on First Division Shamrock Rovers. Yes, the Hoops look like they'll bounce straight back to the top league, but they're not sweeping all before them. Currently unbeaten in the first Division, they have drawn 4 of their opening 9 ties. Good luck to them, but a highflying Premier side should account for them.

As history will see it, they didn't.

Then there's Cork and Cobh; sure there's local rivalry, but City are a class above the Ramblers. Rico's biggest moan after the match was Danny Murphy's late dismissal; not that he didn't think his man had worked hard for it; but he would be suspended for the Shels game at Turner's Cross; Billy Woods may have been consolable however!

Slightly lower down the pecking order was the opening game of this year's competition when UCD travelled to play a Dundalk side which had lost it's opening three league fixtures, and fell at the first hurdle. Remember, The Students were narrowly beaten by a Derry City side on the back of a 20 match unbeaten run in last season's decider. Here was a club that had stood within touching distance of the Groly Hail. Yet they fielded with 2 debutants and a largely U-21 side against a dispirited Dundalk outfit who were there for the taking.

Instead UCD presented their opponents with their maiden victory of the 2006 campaign. I know this game doesn't rest easily in the giant killing category, but it is, [ you guessed correctly; 'nonetheless' ] significant.

The winners of the FAI Cup, the top 2 finishers in the eircom League and the winners of the League Cup comprise the 4 clubs from this jurisdiction that will compete in the Setanta Cup. The same Setanta Cup that this season netted Drogheda the princessly sum of eur150,000. That's enough money to provide the necessary material for a three-piece suit for a certain TV sports presenter. On top of this there is the eur15,000 that was collected by Derry City as reward for their victory in last year's final... so a League Cup victory is potentially worth eur165,000.

Is there a club on this island that can afford to turn their noses up at that kind of money? Certainly not UCD, and are St.Pats so confident of finishing in the top 2 that they can dismiss the League Cup as an avenue of accession to the Setanta Cup. I think not. What of Cork then?

Well I think that 'he who likes to embellish' is taking a calculated risk. His is currently a small squad, not up to the demands of a serious challenge on all fronts. And as the man himself said, it interferes with his side's European ambitions. A potent point. We all want to see our Euroopean representatives perform well, thus raising the profile of the domestic league abroad and abhaile. But this tack from the Rebel County side surely serves to offer a greater opportunity of success to the lesser lights of the league... especially the clubs who are simmering nicely; the Inchicore men fit the bill. Maybe the Hoops will take up the reins.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


'right it's 4.30, lift should be here any minute now, I'm already togged out and ready to go. The ALSAA sports hall is ours from 5-6, the Kempo Karate crowd are on after us. I hope we've enough bodies to get a game going by five, don't want to waste too much time. Then finish up around six, quick shower, catch the bus and I'll be in Richmond Park for the 7:45 kick off.

Lift arrives on time, but we've only eight bodies. The hall is huge. Biggest venue I've ever played indoor in. Bit of a problem when there's so few of us though, because a couple of the lads are around 60 years of old (seriously!). The rain is pounding off the roof; hope the Pats / Derry game goes ahead.

A couple of stragglers arrive - 5 a side - not too bad, on such a brutal day. Still belting down outside. The Whites are in control of the game, but we get cocky and concede a couple of shit goals. Recriminations. "I f'in told you to watch 'im." There's only one goal in it now. "Ah for f sake Pat, run."

It's nearly 5:57, we've fallen a goal behind. I'm loitering wide on the left, game's at walking pace now as the early exuberance takes it's toll. Brendan's in possession, nobody's closing him down... nobody's moving. At all. I see where he's looking, and my burst of [pace is not the word, trot, maybe]. Anyway it's a crap ball but a deft flick surprisingly comes off, making it an incisive ball and we're level.

Great, we won't lose anyway. 6o'clock, game over. But the Kempo shams haven't arrived, the hall is still ours....''we'll play 'til a quarter past six lads.'' Quick calculation. Yeah I'll easily make the bus. We lose!

There's a bus stop right outside ALSAA, I'm there before half six, stopped raining now, not bad; good night for a game. Brother rings: "I'm at Connolly Station, meet you at the ground". Check the buses. Shit the 748 that goes to Heuston Station doesn't stop here, and I won't have time to walk up to the airport for it. Fortunately I had anticipated such ill luck, accustomed as I am to being on the receiving end of same. Plan B was the 16A, it would leave me around Christchurch and if I was running late it wouldn't cost me much to get a taxi from there to the ground.

The 16A leaves the airport at twenty five to, nice one; mp3 player and busfare at the ready I begin to think about the game. Pat's have started the season well. You could write off the opening round draw with Waterford on the opening day of the season. There are always a few weird results at either end of the season. I fancied them to beat Cork and they did.

"No go ahead Gith, I'm going over to Inchicore, yeah, see you next week, thanks anyway".

Molloy is playing out of his skin, great to see. I like the look of O'Connor on the left. Haven't seen them play with Rutherford in the team, pity he's not playing tonight.

There goes Dave, just about to give him a wave, he blanks me. Prick. I'm glad I cleaved him earlier now, though I hadn't intended to at the time. Brendan pulls out just after him. Jaysus, no one stayed back for a pint tonight, that's unusual.

And the last time I saw Derry they were beaten by Dublin City at Dalymount, they weren't at the races that night. It was as if they couldn't lift themselves against [supposedly] poorer opposition after the highs of the Setanta Cup games, they were still in the running at that stage. O'Flynn was wide on the left for most of the game, and he might as well have been selling the chips in Burdock's, because he wasn't doing anything else. what a bummer, I'd been looking forward to seeing him in full flight. Quarter to seven, any minute now.

Lovely, here comes the yellow beauty now. 16C, that doesn't stop here, didn't know there was a 16C. It passes. Must check that one out, for the next time. Where's the f'in 16A? Urbus. Aircoach. Park and Ride. Check time, getting a bit stressed now. No pint before the game; I'll have an extra one after it so. Watch, deflated as 8 buses travel in the opposite direction. There are 4 other people at the bus stop now, but as we are all men we do not speak to each other. Timecheck; 7 o'clock.

I don't believe it, where's the bastard bus? I'm not going to make it. I haven't enough money for a taxi. Even if I had I'm not sure I'd be prepared to part with at least €25 to arrive at the game late. Ring bro'; he's already at the ground, and he had to travel from Balbriggan. I'm really pissed. No match and no lift home now either. And it's starting to rain again. I fuckin' hate buses!

Dublin Bus, supporters of eircom League football. My arse. Well it won't happen again, as soon as I get in I'm going online to doublecheck these routes. Next time I'll leave the 'ball at 6, walk up to the airport and get that 748. I wish those shites 'd be earlier so's we can get started bang on 5 o'clock, then I'd get the full hour in. Rain doesn't get heavy. I'm starved.

Arrive home, enjoyed the walk, seeing as I had my mp3 player with me. Check the buses before I forget. Let's see. Check By Route:16C - Please see Route 16 or route 16A for this service. AAAAAAAAGGGGGHHHH.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Nooooooooooo, not another p**c* droning on about an all Ireland League. Yes, Kent Brockman here is about to add his two cents worth to the debate. Firstly, I don't want one! "But the Setanta Cup is great you said", blah etc.

Correct; is not the novelty of North v South competitive ties the drawing factor of said competition? Doesn't it make us all Oliver Twistian? And as soon as the novelty wears off we lose interest and it's just another league, which will not receive the kind of exposure that the Setanta Cup does. It's like an Irish Champions League, and the rest of the world may not get it, but they don't get Gaah either.

How would we organise it? Yeah, you can start with the top 6 from both associations but you can't keep it like that, and still call it an accurate reflection of the state of football on the island. So, don't.

Well I think even the most blinkered of IPL supporters will privately acknowledge that outside of the current Linfield squad, the northern contingent haven't exactly covered themselves in glory in the SC. Fair enough, it's not a level playing field, all the more reason for not putting them into a combined league.

Then there's the European spots, we currently have eight in total, open to correction on that one, we'd lose half of them. Who'd run the league? What if FIFA dictated that because we had a combined league we had to combine the associations as well? Can't see the boys agreeing to that.

The arguments as posted above are by no means an exhaustive list, such a list is aptly named.

So what can be done to improve football on our little land mass and thus make it more attractive to plebeians and patricians alike? Was that another question?
Here's an answer.... you will need the following ingredient:

'A pinch of forward thinking' [ outside the box is preferable ].

This recipe has been lifted directly from the FAI Cookbook, a remarkably diverse collection of ideas, some of which are over complicated, some are just bizarre concoctions; they seem to be particularly good in the soup department.

But I'm like a pregnant woman with a taste for the weird and wonderful and I can't resist the Summer Soccer Sundae. The Merrion Square chefs dithered over this for too long. They had long since allowed teams to play when it suited them, usually F'ing Freezing Friday's, but this is what we'd been waiting for, though quite a few of us didn't know this at the time.

According to the horse's mouth at the FAI average attendances have improved. That can't be a bad thing. It must be acknowledged that the economic boom down south has meant that there's more lucre sloshing around and inevitably some of this has drifted into the clubs, allowing professionalism to infiltrate the game. Nice one. An eircom League club can now decide which day / time presents the best potential crowd for their fixtures and fix their games accordingly. Commonsense. Combine this with the remote possibility of mercury heading north and you could be on to something.

Then there's the European factor. eircom League clubs are at full throttle when the European games come around, [Glentoran v Shelbourne 2005] increasing their likehood of advancement in these competitions. It may sound utopian, but they are all forward passes, helping to inch the domestic game onward and upward.

So, IPL fans get your clubs moving on this stuff, starting with Sunday football. Push your game on. There's no difference between the quality of player being produced in either domain, but vast differences in the conditions they arte presented with. There's not much inspiration to be had playing on wet, flatulent nights, in front of shivering groups of diehards.

Improve the attendances at the games, the interest of sponsors will follow, conditions will improve for fan and footballer then, maybe, TV may offer some decent exposure for the league. The half baked efforts of Final Score who regularly leave the grounds early, thus depriving us of the opportunity to see the final score are demoralising. The eircom league have 37 live, or as live, games broadcast this season across all competitions[ Setanta Cup incl.]. What a treat, and a chance to convert more followers from the Premiershit.

And forget about making the IPL smaller, and having the remaining sides play each other 4 times; it just get's boring - do the male staff members in lap dancing emporia look happy in their work? Linfield played Glentoran 7 times this season; Drogheda played 6 matches to win the Setanta Cup!

I for one would not be interested in Drogheda playing the same opposition 6 times to win the Setanta Cup. Leagues are about playing every other team home and away once. I'm potentially walking blindly into a steaming curl of dog dirt here, but what are all those little cups about- the Mid Ulster Cup etc. The league sides are playing against minnows, thrashing them soundly, wasting resources. Why?

So follow my easy steps to improve the league, improve the clubs, increase professionalism and kick bottom in the Setanta Cup every year. You're welcome!

Saturday, May 06, 2006


I must confess that I did watch the Leeds v Preston game on Friday night, I can only liken it to seeing a bird you used to go out with and were really into. She walks into the bar and you want to have a look at who she's with, how she looks etc. If she looks great you'll chance your arm, if she's blimped you're glad she dumped you. I didn't chance my arm.

So today this 40 year old got to see his first ever full Irish league game, I say league but it was actually the Cup Final. And, as if orchestrated purely for me, the protagonists were the top two sides from the Premier League. From here on in any stupid mistakes are down to my naivety regarding the league, I am a newcomer who's only previous experience has been to see Linfield in the Setanta Cup matches and usually painful Glentoran highlights involving lots of shabby defending.

It wasn't a game for the purists was it, lots of honest endeavour and two sides cancelling each other out.But Cup Finals can be like that. The Glens always seemed to be at a stretch to keep up with the Blues. The wind appeared to make it difficult to play good football and there wasn't a lot of creativity on show. Things certainly improved in the second half, though this is not intended to be a review of the match and who needs another one.

I was delighted to see everything go off so well, it looked like a showpiece and the day was probably only two pound coins away from perfection. What about Jackie and Andi? It was all the aged commentator could do to stop himself from whipping his kit off and making a run for her; I'm sure she would've pulled him for being offside. Then there was Jackie and Marty. They were like two old codgers reminiscing about their salad days, then every so often one of them would notice that there was an Irish Cup Final between the Big Two happening right under their noses.

But the best was yet to come. Have you seen the Simpsons episode where Homer gets to be the mascot for his favourite team? David Jeffrey has. His was the move of the day, more creative than anything that had gone before. It oozed skill, balance imagination; the execution was perfect, the game plan unpredictable as he looked one way but moved the other. There were echoes of the genius of Johan Cruyff - total football, total domination; Congratulations Linfield.

Anyway, I watched the closing credits really carefully, but I didn't catch the name of the choreographer, can anyone help?


The reason I have put skin to plastic today is to praise the much-maligned officers in Merrion Square. Of course they alone are not responsible for all that's good in eircom League football today, but they are definitely morphing into a respectable organisation. I know John Delaney and his posse are an imperfect lot and they've shot themselves in the urethral sphincter area on occasion, but stop to think for a minute. Any eircom League fan who had stumbled under the influence of Budstelberging [or whatever beverage is being backed by FIFA /UEFA] into last week's EGM of the IFA at the Stormont Hotel, could be forgiven if they had chosen to finally effect their confirmation pledge. It was reminiscent of many such gatherings under the esteemed offices of the FAI in times past. Then there's been the saga of the relegation play off; Liam Beckett wonders why they didn't have a Plan B. They did, just postpone the game 'til the rain stops and the pitch dries out [repeat ad nauseum]. But I don't wish rain too heavily on the IFA's parade, they are an organisation who are led by men with a vision and a will to drag them into the 20th century, and soon after, the 21st. Unfortunately they are being restrained by the sort of pedanticism and petty squabbling that always occurs when people are being asked to relinquish power. Now is the time to allow the professionals to take over and be trusted to do the work they have been entrusted with. Take a bow David Wells and Jim Boyce.

What I in my long-winded way am trying to say is that the shambolic events in Belfast can serve as a reminder of how far our lot have come on. And it's not often we get to laugh at the professionals in the FA, but they have managed to turn their dredge for an international manager into a cringeworthy farce; this dismal yawn in turn contrives to portray our officers as models of efficiency and best practise At least agree that relatively speaking, the FAI are finally getting their act together.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Kick-Off time for Walk The Chalk

I sometimes wonder whether I'm a genuine sports fan, or a variety of the stereotypical screen-kissing Manchester United follower, who supports the Bhoys in Scotland and then purchases the latest Dubs jersey for stylish summer wear; rabidly deriding the GAA for the ever-present scarcity of tickets for a True Dubs fan who turns out every summer. But I console myself with the knowledge that I am an ardent Leeds United fan who doesn't check the Scottish results and almost always gets a ticket for the Gah.

I can sense the derision out there and I accept it. Hands up! I'm a fair weather GAA fan, I love to watch the game; I've a huge admiration for the fitness and dedication of the inter county players of both codes, and I feel that my support [such as it is] confirms this. Anyway, the cards are on the table and I'm hoping there's safety in numbers. I don't understand these GAA nuts that would bleed Powerade for club and county: - they rightly promote the sport, but then moan about newcomers coming to watch it! Enough about GAA...this is a football blog.

With the disappearance of my beloved Leeds United from my flat screen pixel plus TV [at time of writing they're still a Championship side, and Sunderland won that last season!], I began to take a closer interest in Irish soccer, the 21st Century edition, i.e. the Setanta Sports Cup. What a fantastic tournament full of genuine footballers and bereft of the bling now so much a part of the English game. I'm sure an Irish version of Footballer's Wives would not portray a bunch of vacuous snakes and poseurs, unless the FAI had a cameo.

Some background...
Many moons ago I had the misfortune to come into possession of a sponsor's season ticket for Shelbourne. I won't say when because I don't wish to offend the sensibilities of the players from the era in question. Reason being I had allusions of playing at that standard myself in my late teenage years, but managed to do an FAI official on it, thus, leaving me with an unswerving respect for the ability required to make the grade here.

If the sponsor in question cared enough to get involved with the club, why didn't he use the ticket? Foolishly I hadn't asked myself that question and I dragged my gullible younger brother and innocent son down to Tolka Park, scene of a forgettable two goal haul in the first of my two appearances on the hallowed sand.

The facilities, the playing surface, the ground, the borrowed Lada all contributed to some unforgettable experiences for all three of us. But we turned up game upon game in the hope that it would get better, with the dream of feeling the same connection with a local club as I did with my boyhood heroes at Leeds. Eventually it became too much for my No 1 son who began to head for the 'toilet facilities' at every opportunity to relieve the boredom; thus I spent most of the night watching for the bobble on his hat as he weaved his way skilfully through the crowd. As for my younger brother...I'll wait while you go for a tissue.

Fast forward and I recently had reason to attend the Drogheda United Bray Wanderers tie in the burgeoning northeastern town. What an atmosphere, what a playing surface, what fitness, what high skill levels, Granny. All the better to make you forget about that overrated object of ostentatiousness that is the Premiership.

I had finally connected, the Drogs, their nemesis Georgie, the bullishness of Doolo, the bullshitness of Rico, the professional calm of Nutsy, the Ferrariesque acceleration of Shane Barrett, Ollie Cahill, Mark Farren, the sublime touch of Steven Bradley, Neal Fenn, Pat McCourt. This is a proper league with proper footballers, and for good measure every year our lads take on the top four from the Irish Premier League which I've also found intriguing.

Cue the fearsome hulk that is David Jeffrey as he homes in on a quivering fourth official, marvel at the fairytale that is Dungannon Swifts, marvel at the fact that their manager also runs the clubs U-13 side, envy the skills of Rodney McAree, David Scullion, Paul McAreavey, dream of a strike force like Thompson and Ferguson.

All the corniest love songs, you know the ones you play when you're trying to be romantic, are about some plonker who's been looking for love everywhere, and then realises he's been living next door to Alice.

And so I have been inspired to wax lyrical about the beautiful game in Ireland, I'm sure my ramblings will have one fan at least in Setanta Cup analyst Bryan Hamilton who always loves someone who'll 'Walk The Chalk'.