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.

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