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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