Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Broken News

No supporter of our bruised and battered domestic league can be immune to the relentless pessimism offered throughout our general media in relation to the national joke that is the eircom League. From south to north and west to wherever, participants are making the news for no reasons other than financial ones. Money needed here, in debt there, in administration down there, mock the black news stories.

So bad are things perceived to be that the eL even made RTE's Primetime programme. Unfortunately, all of this negative lava is fodder warms the hearts and minds of our devoted knockers - if it sounds like shit and looks like shit.....

A few weeks back I bemoaned the wan efforts - no, the lack of effort - from the league's administrators. At a time when the eL was being ambushed, their was a painful lack of leadership. The alumni of the FAI have finally had a peek out from behind the curtains, however meek and discreet it may have been. The message has been simple and consistent - ' We aren't responsible for players' wages, the clubs are.'

There were references to the recent strides taken by the league since it has come under the umbrella of the FAI. Followed by understated references to the future of the league and the plans that the governing body has in store for same. While his oratorical ability is more Christy Brown than Barack Obama, Fran Gavin has maintained a steady hand in his dealings with the media. He too has been understated in his delivery and the withdrawal of Platinum 1's plans has lent weight to his mantra.

While not exactly leaving with their tails between their legs, the whole taking my ball and going home departure of Platinum 1 now leaves supporters with no option other than to hold their nerve and have an a la carte faith in the FAI's plans.

If searching for divine inspiration, we need look no further than the field of play. Drogheda are finding some form and it gladdens the heart of this neutral observer to see sides play to their full potential. Bohs are bamboozling all with their relentless point-winning performances and Pats have done us proud in Berlin.

Some have cited the Saints performance as a best ever effort from an Irish club side in Europe. It is of course a facile pursuit. Mine own compass plots a line from Derry City v Benfica to the present day - I cannot compare that to the achievements of Athlone Town and Shamrock Rovers in the grainy pre-colour and HD days of television.

What was noticeable at the Olympic Stadium, was the degree to which Pats were confident enough in their own ability to play the same kind of fluid football which has bewitched us in domestic fare this season. Of course they weren't able to produce this on demand. They had to battle for the right to play their football and did. Many other performances from Irish sides have seen all hands to the pump franticism, with long balls despatched in the opposite direction with hope and little else pinned to them. Pats' self-belief and assuredness were the adjectives that separated this performance from the mundane.

Then, to sit back and enjoy the quality of the football on show when the self-same Saints hosted Derry City in the Setanta Cup on Tuesday night, only added to the feelgood factor. Admittedly - check that with Johnny Mc if in doubt - the high-flying Inchicoremen were having an off-night. Still, the sight of two professional teams attempting - and succeeding in those attempts - to play football as it should be played reinforces one's decision to reject the bloated world of English football for all the best that the Irish equivalent has to offer. I just hope Kevin Mc Hugh's goal celebration is not a sign of things to come.

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