Friday, July 25, 2008

Max Moseley's Boots

They're up in arms down in Killarney - the presence in the bowels of that tourist friendly town of a sex shop have added a whole new dimension to the Ring of Kerry. Coupled to that we have Catherine Thomas gushing in some tourism advertisement about her gallop on a beach somewhere in the Kingdom and it's safe to say that Max Moseley has probably booked his flight.

The F1 boss is sure to bring a stout pair of boots to enhance his preferred look - and they may come in handy for something else. The enduring pastime of League of Ireland slapping shows no sign of dieback in its popularity. News of developments, match reports, press releases and their ilk are usually to be found by searchers. There are occasional exceptions - and it would be blinkered to expect that what is almost a minority sport on this island would rub shoulders with horse racing and worldwide sports news.

Depressingly, those exceptions often come in the form of bad news stories. It seems as if the media at large are anticipating the death of our league and each is hovering expectantly, willing the exhalation of that final breath. The death notices are on file.

No sooner had I arrived at my place of slavery today than a newspaper was thrust into my chest by a man with jackboots, a Nazi uniform and a triumphant tone - 'there, eircom are pulling out.' As is standard, the headline was enough to prompt this behaviour; facts and details provide great problems for the slappers.

Doubtless, such scenes have been repeated across the country - wherever fans of football gather, they will enjoy a long piss on the grave of the eircom League. That certainly does sound bitter, but it never ceases to perplex me that people who profess to follow football can so readily dismiss the talents of the best footballers on our island. Is it because the teams are populated by 'failed footballers' - if not making Premiership grade in England constitutes a failed footballer, then the world is overstocked with failed footballers.

I am a football fan; I can appreciate and covet the exceptional gifts of the world's greatest - none of whom ply their trade in Ireland. I can covet and appreciate the talent of Keith Fahey, Owen Morrisson, Shane Robinson, Stephen Rice, Dave Mooney, Mark Quigley. I could go on. I can appreciate the talents of an Amateur League player, of an AUL player. We don't dismiss these because they haven't made it in England.

The league needs this that and the other - better everything essentially - maybe then we'll go to watch it, say the naysayers. We manage to attract investors. Investors are supporting clubs, paying greater wages to attract and retain players. Are they of a higher standard than in previous times? Maybe not. But they are fitter, better prepared, better conditioned. There is no player who will not benefit from fulltime application to his craft.

Investors have allowed certain clubs to indulge themselves with professional set-ups; we are grateful for their involvement. But then unsustainability is wheeled out. Everyone agrees that the game in it's current state is unsustainable; it is investment in a new future. Money ploughed in with the hope of improving the status of the game.

It is an uphill struggle, as their seems to be an inbuilt hatred for our game amongst our own people. When it comes to knocking, we top the medals table on our wee island. The chasm between the highest echelons of English football and the Premier Division here could accommodate Hairy Marney's rotund rectal area several times over. There's no argument. Is it an uncomfortable relic of our colonial subservience, causing us to feel deeply embarrassed at our seeming ineptitude in this area? Because we cannot compete, we dismiss. Ah, sure the eircom League is only a joke, no one in Ireland takes it seriously. We follow Celtic - they're Irish. Arsenal - they had Irish players once. Man U - Liam Whelan played for them. Sunderland are owned by the Irish.

By adopting this stance we are actually the proud followers of the holders of the Champions League and the plucky underdogs in Glasgow who we dream will come good one day. The eircom League is the handicapped child of yesteryear, cast into an institution and forgotten about. Until there's a titillating death notice to be scribed.

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