Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Tightrope Walkers

With the midseason break approaching and league action sidelined in favour of knockout competition, we could be forgiven for putting down our pens and stretching wearily. Only one all-Premier tie to capture the imagination, not many shocks around - in all, a quiet 3rd round. It was, however, pre-empted by a new genre of announcement - The Admission. Firstly, league kingpins Drogheda United entered the confessional, Chairman Vincent Hoey did the talking on behalf of the club's board. Essentially, Hoey was warning of the impending meltdown should the god-fearing folk Meath County Council fail to pass the Louth club's application for the rezoning of lands to facilitate United's proposed stadium development on lands in Meath. It's history now, given that the league champs scored a 25-0 win at the relevant meeting, and in these focussed times of Leaving Cert study I am reliably informed that such a majority constitutes more than the requisite 75%. The prayers for which the popular chairman had called were abundantly answered and Drogheda would not be slipping into an abyss of despair and debt. Although there are invariably those who feel that such a decline is no more than the Louth club deserve, given their splash-the-cash frivolity over the last few seasons, it would have painted a bleak picture of our leagues current status. Especially when taken in tandem with the subsequent events at Galway United. Wes Charles 13 apps. Steven O'Flynn 4 & 2 as sub. Daryl Robson 1. Ciaran Foley 3. John Lester 5 & 1 as sub. Alvin Rouse 0. Greg O'Halloran's wage had already been shipped out to Shels until July - he too is surplus to budget at Terryland Park. This was an obvious example of the strict new conditions which eL clubs are bound by - the salary cap et al - taking a large nip a professional squad during the fledgling days of increased professionalism in the eL. In some ways such events can be construed as car crash management. The optimists amongst us can be heartened by the attitude of the Galway board - they are keen to keep on top of things at all costs. Their course of action will hardly endear them to potential signings; their standing amongst pro footballers diminished. Rumblings of discontent have emanated from United Park for similar reasons. The Board were reputed to be stalling on contract talks with up to nine players pending the outcome of the vote by MCC. Such instability in any place of employment causes restlessness to permeate through all strata. These boards are populated by pioneers and risk-takers. We need steady heads and strong hands during these early days of our enhanced professionalism. True, we are still situated at a busy intersection - an area fraught with danger but filled with potential - like taking your shiny new motor onto the roundabout at the Arc de Triomphe. Many euros have been invested for scant return; in the hope of building something better; in the hope of being on any European gravy train that may be coming or leaving from these shores. All this in the face of indomitable opposition from the world's most powerful football product on our neighbouring island. That's not to dismiss the efforts being made by other stalwarts at various other club's across the league. For us hurler's (apologies) on the ditch these are exciting times. We stand on the lip the of greatness or the brink of total collapse. This push may well be the last that the domestic game will see; failure is unthinkable.

As such, every success is to be cherished, every sideways step to be accepted for what it is - prudent, hopefully. The two steps forward, one step sideways strategy will hopefully build firmer foundations than those upon which previous titanic collapses have occurred.

Doubtless, failure will not deter those who have held the mouths of League of Ireland football above the water for countless years - they will continue in their roles as always. Meanwhile we can follow the dream. That elusive spot in the group stages of the Champions League - will it be Galway United, Drogs, Pats, Bohs, Derry, Cork??

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