Sunday, March 04, 2007

BREAK OR MAKE

Is it the beginning of the end, or the end of the ignorance? Finally someone, anywhere, has decided to help the keepers of the flame. Like eager children heading excitedly for their beds on Christmas Eve, eL lovers anticipate the bounty to be placed beneath the tree by the FAI.

Many would have scorned the notion of the FAI as the saviours of the domestic game; but thus far they have displayed substance. JD's heavy-handed approach with naysayers is discomforting, but understandable. Our product is about to become the subject of an unprecedented marketing campaign. This is the winner takes all penalty kick. We MUST unite behind this effort or risk slipping back into the manure which clings still, to our boots. All is not sweet, but if we keep our dirty undies out of the public eye it will help to improve the image which is about to be expensively cultivated.

Should this push prove unsuccessful it will provide generations to come with iron-clad reasons to dismiss the local league from their gallery of pleasures. It's accepted that we are a nation of event junkies, susceptible to HD Heaven and all that seeps from it. If it looks glamorous it is glamorous. Let's exploit this bandwagon mentality to attract new people to our product. Let's make kids torment their parents to take them to Dalymount Park, Turner's Cross, Terryland Park and Finn Park.

We want to see sprogs in Saints scarves and Drogs replica kits, buying overpriced fizzy drinks at freshly painted football grounds with toilet roll in the loos. Premium suites with finger food and not a greyhound in sight. Who cares if half of the people know nothing about football; let's just get them in to the matches first; and then we make sure to get them back.

League of Ireland football can be friendly...to anything. Family friendly, car thief friendly, child friendly, alright bud friendly - the possibilities are bottomless.

It's not going to happen overnight -Ballymun wasn't regenerated in a day- but it just might be about to happen. When was there a time like this in League of Ireland history? A huge prize fund, clubs promotion officers, more live games than you can shake a cocktail stick at. The teething problems of proper regulation will soon be forgotten; clubs are getting their faeces together.

On and off the pitch players are experiencing facilities and expertise not before seen at this level. And these are exciting players; recent exports such as Stephen Ward are a perfect illustration of their quality. Even a blind drunk man in a shiny Man United jersey can see that Ward's success isn't down to the abilities of Mick McCarthy and Wolves. Clubs beyond this island have begun to recognise the ability of our footballers; our European exploits have raised eyebrows.

So, fingers crossed and eyes dotted, here's to the retirement of the asterisk and the success of the 2007 eircom League of Ireland.

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