Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Show Me The Rainbow's End

For true football fans, Cork City's Setanta Cup success represents a triumph over evil in this most unforgettable of seasons. Having taken a royal shafting from those nice people at Arkaga, it was a pleasure to watch the remaining management and players have something tangible and silver to show for their pains. The boardroom gets the nice papery bit with the noughts on it.

Meanwhile, rivals Drogheda United are suffering the hangover of their miscalculated risk. This has been a painful blow to take, for here there was real hope that the professional status so generously bankrolled in recent years could finally attain a status bordering on the sustainable. But just as rapidly that our national finances have collapsed, so too is the ongoing status of our professional set-ups.

We seem to have returned to the brink. Standing around are the haves, the hads, the never hads and the never will haves. The former are a threatened species - Pats and to a lesser extent Bohs remain the sole occupants of this treacherous stratosphere. Their existence is predicated upon the whims of others - never a healthy way to live your life. Derry City remain reasonably solid, but precarious nonetheless. That ridiculous sentence illustrates the tightrope upon which our clubs riverdance.

The financial antics of eircom League clubs made Prime Time this year - probably the only the this season that thousands of football fans will have come face to face with their domestic game. What they saw was a cartoon football league living far beyond its means, populated by half-baked footballers who play in less than half-full stadia. Such informal meetings knock us right back to the dullest of days in the eyes of the great uninterested.

Despicable and all as his actions may be perceived, Stuart Byrne's thoughts on the eL are irritatingly spot on. Byrne was quoted thus in the Irish Independent...

"People are laughing at the league. It’s a laughing stock, it genuinely is. I’m worried about the PR and perception that’s out there, the damage that has been done to people’s perception of the league. I think it will take two or three years to get over that, I really do. I genuinely feel it will take a long time for people to think more positively about the league given what has happened in the last six months. People are just sick and tired reading about it. I wonder do they even read about it any more?"

Of course it does the bould Stuey no harm to get his name into the papers with a transfer window looming. With so many of our players out of contract come season's end, many fans may barely recognise their squads next season. It's natural for professional footballers to follow the money in this country - the best will gravitate to the flushest. Many pros may decide that the future here is too precarious and opt for poorer paid but guaranteed employment across the water. An exodus of talent is hardly likely to help with the promotion of the league.

Cork City's aforementioned troubles are a clear pointer of this. The Leesiders were forced into the sale of Dave Mooney in order to produce some much needed cash. Going into the final two series of games, Mooney remains the Premier Division's top scorer; not bad for a player who scored his last league goal here in July.

Shamrock Rovers have shown that there is an incremental route to a competitive squad; granted the Hoops have the advantage of a rich past and a loyal core of fans to maintain their existence. They have also benefited from the refusal of some players to embrace the full-time game - opting instead to remain within the well worn and infinitely safer structures of dual employment.

The prospect of an All-Ireland league seems more remote than ever. Following the aborted Platinum 1 proposal we have been forced to endure the war-cries of Linfield and Glentoran as they threaten to withdraw their services from the Setanta Cup. It may not be an elegant solution, but it's a moneyspinner for successful clubs and provides plenty of TV exposure - I doubt the overlords in Setantaland will need too much encouragement to scrap the competition now that they have two feet placed firmly in the Holy Grail of Premiership football.

Eoin Hand's recent comments on UEFA's future plans for compensation with regard to the development of young players seems to offer our best hope of a rainbow's end. If you don't fancy listening to the whole conversation, dip in around the 29-minute mark.

Labels: ,

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home