Thursday, June 28, 2007


It has to be a sign of the increasing pressures on managers. Full time set-ups; increasing competition; expectations of fans and boards; childcare; house prices; the cost of tooth whitening.

The glamour of professional football comes with attendant baggage. There are more interviews, more interest. The protagonists are learning to deal with increased media demands and struggling to control their emotions when the mesmerising microphones are placed beneath their dry lips.

Damien Richardson RRS is often prosaic in his post and pre match deliberations. But he will never lose those three letters after his name; a hard-earned token of his abilities at the lower end of the scale. Most of us let Damien’s warblings rattle around in our unconscious until his lips stop moving – then we tune in again. This has now been proven to be a foolish course, as el Rico has returned to his finest form in some style.

Not embarrassed about comparing himself to the thinking manager’s crumpet - Arsene Wenger – the gifted one proceeded to inform us that he includes himself in the pantheon of managerial greats. But I may be too quick to judge.

Damo claims that the best manager’s are not following the ball; they are experiencing the game in widescreen. Is your ’keeper where you want him to be when your team is attacking? Are the defenders in good shape? Where is your holding midfielder? If one of your full backs is attacking, is the midfielder dropping back to cover?

But then I realised that Damien is absopremely right. This enlightenment has also made me realise that my brief managerial career was littered liberally with previously unrecognised signs of my greatness.

I must preface this revelation with relevant detail. My managerial epoch predated SUV’s and large bags of leather balls. Kit bags were procured from the post office; water came in a scruffy plastic container; sponges were a luxury. kida arrived with their kit in a plastic shopping bag - because they were free then. Matching knicks and socks? Snigger.

Now it’s all Tristan and Nigel and expensive boots and Gatorade and glamorous mothers and post match meals in McDonalds – they’re turning it into sawker!

Many are the memories of missing a goal, and why? Because I was looking to see where my defenders were? Er, not exactly. I was looking to see was the post office bag still there; was our ball still there; was anyone trying to break into the car; was anyone trying to break into the pavilion; was the gang of scruffy kids behind the goal unnerving my netminder; where were the bored substitutes gone? A quick glance at the sky to ensure it wasn't about to p*** down on the clothes - and they say men can't multi-task.

All the while fending off the opinions of the one parent who couldn't come up with an excuse for not giving us a lift to our away fixture that week. That’s pressure!

It is indeed much more intense at the top. Rovers, Cork, Bohs, the Drogs and Pats are all eyeing the prize from varying distances. Each of their managers is employed to further the ambitions of his club. If he sees things in a skewed way, that is to be expected. They are not paid to be philosophical in defeat. These overlords of Irish football are one-eyed monsters who will blindly and callously promote the interests of their club.

But those of us who look on from the neutral's vantage point can extract endless enjoyment from the spectator sport that is manager-baiting. Don't you just love to watch them scream for every throw in, dispute every decision given against their side and then hurl abuse at the fourth official because there's nothing to kick in the immediate vicinity.

Roll on the run-in.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

the way ahEAd

It may trip from the tongue as easily as ancient Greek, but the eircom League community owe even a whispered ‘thank you’ to the marketing gurus employed by the FAI; exponentially to the FAI itself. There, I’ve written it.

I picked up many a paper this past week and enjoyed the pleasurable experience of spotting a piece highlighting the domestic league’s newly announced association with EA Sports in FIFA ’08. These inserts were accompanied by various seductive shots of some of the Premier Division’s leading players.

Why if I was of a mind to I’d be leading the protests against the images of these young men being exploited; ridden rock solid even in the pursuit of vulgar profit. But this is vulgarity in its finery, like an Archbishop in his civvies – so I’ll let it rest.

The photos were the most immediately striking part of this assault on the pockets of parents and childlike adults across the nation. For the first time that I can recall, our very own players looked the part off the field. This is not to imply that they never look the part on the field; although this is sometimes the case with even the best of footballers.

In their EA shirts and new fangled hairstyles the players present presented as cutting and sharp an image as that to which we aspire for our league; still it represented the sort of glamourisation of football that we regularly heap scorn upon.

It is inevitable that much of how the LOI is perceived owes greatly to the behemoth that is the FA Premiership. That stuffed piggy bank of football can make our operation look like the jar you throw your coppers into on a Saturday morning. If we are to appeal to the generations, young and not so young, we have to show that we can compete; even if it is through superficial means.

I believe that there is a consensus of opinion amongst diehards that our product can compete on the field. Not in the sense that Derry City will be ending Chelsea’s interest in the Champion’s League this season; but in the sense that a night out at an eLOI game can match the tension, atmosphere and excitement of plasma screen football.

Associations form a large percentage of perception; this new association can lift Irish football into a new orbit in the eyes of the Playstation generation; once we continue to build up the profile of the game and force the awareness that the players can be seen in action just down the road.

There is a question which continues to pester. Should the league continue to build on the early successes of this season; should the crowds continue to grow; should the players achieve public worship and improved monies, will the diehards feel that it’s just not the same?

I for one don't want it to remain'the same'. Progression not regression. The FAI have done the league some service, as promised; hopefully with the European games around the corner, we can enjoy a glamour tie and build some more on the increasingly positive perception of the league.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007


Sometimes having time to think is not good; an idle mind is the devil's playground and all that. So here we are, eircom League Weekly is the last fix of football until June 15th and I need something to write about. I can't wait indefinitely for Alan Matthews to resign so here goes.

It was whilst watching the aforementioned eL Weekly on TV3 that I began to wonder about the life that I lead. Shoehorned into a late night-early morning slot alongside whatever other minority interest programs are on; 'One Armed Lesbians Cook 'Til They Drop'; 'Frogs And Their Pivotal Role In Our Society'; 'On The Buses'. Actively supporting our domestic game is a towpath beset with ridicule and abuse. The only time we get it easy is when RTE or Setanta show a live game. Apart from that we are minced by society. If it's not Sacar Beo it's eircom League weekly presented by the hyperactive Trevor Welch; a man whose appearance belies his love of football, just as Mary Harney's does her passion for health.

According to this there were, unofficially, 1548 fans on average attending each of six fixtures in the Premier Division last season. That equates to 9288 per week. The First Division fares worse with 5700 per week. So at great expense have had these numbers crunched parsed and flogged to ascertain the total average attendance on a weekend. It's 14,988. In a country with a population of over 4 million this represents a percentage of cult proportions. Should we throw in thirty or so players and staff at each club we can increase the cult membership by about 300.

The Compact Oxford English Dictionary of Current English defines cult as ‘a group of people with different religious beliefs (typically regarded as heretical) from those of a larger group to which they belong.' For larger group read 'barstoolers and Premiership fans.'

Consider the attitude of the public at large to cults. Cranks, weirdos, fruitcakes - the kind of people to keep your children away from. There are about twice as many Moonies (followers of the Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon) in the US than there are eL fans in Ireland.

As I watched Trevor Welch introduce the highlights of Pats v Galway I was struck, not literally, by a pylon. The voiceover announced a corner to Pats; all that was visible on my screen was a silver pylon and a building site. Suddenly a ball was propelled from the pylon; the camera angle changed to reveal a footballer who had been obscured by the giver of light. The role of pylons in our game grows ever more sinister.

In fact corners themselves seem to be a source of secret signs. Almost every time a corner kick is awarded a chosen one trots out to the arc in order to deliver the ball into his fellow team members. All are dressed in similar clothing. Immediately preceding the corner kick a sign is given; usually an arm, sometimes two, is raised into the air. Then the ball is despatched into the box. The arm signal seems to be intended to inform those in the know that it is going to be a crap corner. But I could be wrong on that one.

Then we were transported to Sligo. The cult members in the Northwest are an even stranger lot. One of them appeared to have a head mounted camera. I am unsure whether this is a permanent appendage; if it is he shouldn't be too hard to spot. Unfortunately we got to see a lot of his head and not a lot of the game.

The Oso and the Keely were not present; their words of repetitive mind bombing were lost to us; soundbites of infinite wisdom and profound depth delivered without ponderous consideration week upon week. It would wear, and it does, mere mortals out - but the gifted ones are more resilient. They will return after the break wiser and stronger. It is a symbol of their greatness that their replacement was a Star.

On a more positive note, it is reassuring to see the highlights program spread its wings a little. The introduction of Terrace Talk means the other pair are presented with fewer opportunities for repetition. Remember, we must not speak of heresy lest we are cast back into the dark age of pathetic late night coverage on a Sunday and nothing more.

Put on your pillowcase and whisper after me - TV3TV3TV3TV3.

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