Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dark Thoughts

A player registration controversy is bubbling over, St. Pats don't win the FAI Cup this season and an Irish team fails to qualify from its group. Name the year? The more things change and all that.

Hot on the ankles of the Saints' exit from the FAI Cup came confirmation that Keith Fahey was on his way. Having donned the claret & blue of Aston Villa and Drogheda United, the Pats midfielder has opted to model the West Ham colours in 2009. His departure will diminish the quality of our league but we can only wish him well. Fats' Pats side face a difficult task in attempting to replace the finest central midfielder in the country.

His passing, dribbling and deadball expertise has been a treat to witness this season especially - unfortunately that artistry has failed to yield a trophy for the Inchicore side who have again failed to deliver any silverware to Garret Kelliher's sideboard.

Bohemians march on, looking nigh invincible against domestic opposition. Their restoration to title challenging status is a welcome boon for the league - sustainability is questionable. It is a dirty word in eL circles and to see newspaper adverts courting investors for Drogheda United serves only to underline this.

Possibly the activity provided to the legal profession by our clubs will result in some lucrative sponsorship deals from said bodies. One quantum of solace - did you see what I did there? - lay in the progress of our U23 side.

Pat Fenlon's pet project were impressive in their dismissal of Slovakia about 50 weeks ago; not so against our Northern counterparts, but we collected the points. a draw against Belgium was enough to see us into a final against the winners of the England/Italy game in the competition's other group. The International Challenge Trophy was never going to attract wads of TV cash or hoards of supporters, but it provided a higher stage for homebased players.

Had we progressed to that final, it would have presented supporters with something to point proudly at - a successful Irish international side, comprised entirely of young homebased footballers. We were so close, another hard luck story in a season full of them.

Instead we are forced to further endure the growing pains of a dancing league in disjointed orbit - one step forward, two steps sideways, one step back, one step back.

The atmosphere at Richmond Park last night was a heartmelting sight. Passionate, noisy fans enjoying a top class game of football, played out between two well-prepared sides on a good surface. We have made great strides at the highest level and to regress will be extremely painful for fans and clubs alike.

Never before has the home game enjoyed the TV coverage that it does now. Hardly a week passes during the season when there isn't at least one live game on; and we have a dedicated one-hour highlights programme. It has been a struggle to achieve such status and recent rumours suggest it would not be a struggle for us to lose it.

Is it to be to infinity and beyond for Irish football? No, that will never happen while we simper at the soles of the Premiership behemoth. Is it to be extinction and beyond? Never. There will always be a top level game in this country - the standards it aspires to and achieves may be in question. Those standards may well take it off the radar and off the TV. The best of our current crop of players would return to England or Scotland to earn a crust a la John O'Flynn - we will watch a game that hovers just beyond the level of the top provincial Senior League sides.

Support your local examiner!

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