Thursday 17 January 2019

Saints hoping for bounce from Euros

Buckley "Ultimately, if it was supported more, I definitely feel it would be more professional.". Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

Paul Buttner

An upsurge in support for the League of Ireland in the wake of Euro 2016 would be something Liam Buckley would naturally love to see.

France was charmed by tens of thousands of Ireland fans as they roared on Martin O'Neill's side before Sunday's emotional exit to the hosts in Lyon.

But as he prepares his side for their venture into Europe tonight, the St Patrick's Athletic boss believes support from every strand of the game here is needed to improve the struggling domestic product.

"When you look at the passion in the country, in every pub, in every house, including my own, for football, it's fantastic," said Buckley. "I'd love to see that somehow transported into our local league here.

"When you look at the fanbase, all the good news stories, I would love that to filter back.

"There were eight representatives in the Ireland squad who played in our league. I would love as many of the fans as possible to come to our games.

"But right from the grassroots up, it needs to be understood there is a professional league here.

"We do have a lot of part-time players. But we could make our league a lot more professional.

"We need finance and organisation and sponsorship and marketing; there are a whole raft of things to do.

"But I would love more to come. It's a very competitive league.

"Four teams qualify for Europe every year. We've had mixed results over the years, bearing in mind where we're at.

"Ultimately, if it was supported more, I definitely feel it would be more professional."

Though Conor O'Malley and Jack Bayly remain out, Christy Fagan is fit to lead St Pat's attack against out-of-season Luxembourgers Jeunesse Esch who were beaten 5-1 on aggregate by Dundalk two years ago.

A third defeat on the spin at Dundalk on Friday saw the Saints slip to sixth in the Premier Division table.

"The performance last Friday was much better than previous games," said upbeat captain Ger O'Brien. "It took two late goals for them to break us down, but there wasn't much in the game at all.

"There were aspects of the performance that were pleasing. We can take some confidence from that.

"This is certainly a tie that we believe we can win. We know that if we turn up and perform we'll give ourselves a good chance."

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