Friday, December 21, 2007

All Quiet on the eL Front?

Part of the excitement and anxiety of end of season drama is the interwoven dread of the imminent vacuum heading the football fan's way. Three months of scavenging for news, while the rest of Europe suckles on the Champions League cashcow, can be demoralising. There is much to be done during those three months or so; budgets to be agreed, squads to be deconstructed - then reconstructed, ground improvements to be made, Christmas shopping, signatures to be forged etc.

Yet the increasing demands which professionalism is bringing to the highest level of the game here have combined to make this close season one of the most newsworthy of recent times - most notably in the managerial department. Already, hot Roddy Collins has made his close-seasonal appearance, this time linked to the Kilkenny City job - no doubt he has a mate who's looking to invest in a club. Damian Richardson drew notice to the fragile nature of his tenure at Turner's Cross on the eve of City's FAI Cup Final win; meanwhile John Robertson's dwindling influence at Derry City was cut short by the incoming board at the Brandywell.

Dunfermline Athletic's below Pars league performances resulted in the inevitable for gone-but-not-forgotten Stephen Kenny. With Alan Matthews resigning his position - but retaining his dignity - at relegated Longford Town and Rico coming to an arrangement with those nice people at Arkaga, there were a lot of vacancies on the FAS boards for football managers. For us fans it meant that there was plenty to speculate upon and discuss - and that was before Sean Connor's penchant for daring to bare landed his backside in hot water, or was it deep shit.

Mike Kerley's return to Limerick, albeit the 37 edition, followed on Paul McGee's dismissal from the novice club. But, as if to underline the positives of management, Paul Doolin dragged eL football into repute when he was announced Manager of the Year recently - just the second time that an eL boss has captured the title, following on from the great Jim McLaughlin. Shamrock Rovers' legal triumph has turfed the way for the Hoops' to finally put down roots after over 20 nomadic years.

Most significant though, has been the news of RTE's upcoming hour-long weekly highlights show. I remain unconvinced of the benefit that live games carry in terms of attracting potential new fans to the league. Vast expanses of empty seats do little to suggest that the undecided punter is missing out on something. A well-edited highlights programme featuring action, interview, chat and analysis should prove infinitely more effective. Given the proposed 'primetime' slot, this is gold, frankincense and myrrh for the eL.

Much thought needs to be given to the format here - the FAI are unlikely to hold much sway - let's hope that the bods in RTE can come up with something befitting the direction of the domestic game here, rather than harking back to dated ideas. Who hasn't looked at the closing credits of a live game - or even sleepy old Eircom League Weekly - and been impressed by the effect of modern editing techniques combined with a good soundtrack to produce a very potent and positive snapshot of the quality on show in the modern game?

John Delaney is disliked by many - hated by others- few reach the position that he is in without being in possession of a dark side. His faux pas on the international scene have lent his reputation little breathing space, there can be no doubt that he is improving, incrementally, the off-field situation in the eircom League. There will continue to be detractors, but if it all goes SeanConnors'arse-up in the future, it won't have been for want of TV exposure.

Speaking of SC, maybe he could take up a promotional role with the ruling body? Maybe not.

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