Friday 23 March 2018

Common sense not so common in Irish clubs

Eamonn Sweeney

The news that Drogheda United need to come up with €185,000 before January 28 if they are to play League of Ireland football next year is yet another reminder that domestic football clubs remain addicted to landing themselves in financial trouble.

With Bohemians and Galway United also in dire financial straits, the gloss has to a certain extent been taken off an exciting season which concluded with an FAI Cup final attracting the biggest crowd in over 40 years.

Once more, the league will be painted as the sick man of Irish sport. And one of the main problems is that clubs who should have learned from the sorry example set by Shelbourne, Cork City and Derry City have gone gleefully down the path of over-ambitious expenditure with obvious results.

It's funny too to think that just two years ago Drogheda, Galway, Bohs, Cork and Derry were among the teams holding meetings to set up an All-Ireland League. The proposed league was praised by several journalists who should have known better as a potential saviour for Irish soccer, though the All-Ireland component of it consisted of a mere two Irish League teams, Glentoran and Linfield, the Belfast giants being the only clubs north of the border with sizeable support.

Odder still was the fact that this league, all of whose teams would consist of full-time professionals, could find no place for such traditional powers as Sligo Rovers and Dundalk, although it did propose to admit perennial underachievers Limerick 37 from the First Division.

There was a certain amount of irritation in Sligo at Galway's declaration that the Tribesmen were part of something called 'The Big Five' and the Terryland Park boys' evident feeling that they were the biggest team in the West.

Two years on, the All-Ireland League is only a distant dream and most of its proposed members are on their uppers.

Sligo Rovers, on the other hand, have just won the League Cup and FAI Cup double, finished third in the league, had three players shortlisted for the Football Personality of the Year award, and contributed handsomely to that monster crowd at the cup final. Not bad for a club who weren't considered good enough for the All-Ireland League.

The reason clubs have landed themselves in so much trouble in the last few years has been because of an insane notion that by forking out enough money they might eventually break into the knock-out stages of the big European competitions. Shelbourne were the first team to go down this path but nobody seemed to learn the obvious lesson when the Dublin side hit the financial buffers.

Big spending and full-time professionalism was hailed as the way forward. Sometimes I think that Irish soccer needs a lot less 'vision' and 'boldness' and a bit more common sense. My heart goes out to Drogheda fans this week but until Irish football starts to live within its means they won't be the last to suffer.

Sunday Independent

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