Ireland manager Stephen Kenny feels the FAI should be concerned about the lopsided nature of the League of Ireland Premier Division for next season where seven of the ten teams are from the Dublin/Leinster area.
Relegation for Longford Town and Waterford, along with promotion for Shelbourne and UCD, means that 50pc of the teams in the top flight next season are from Dublin. The trio of Derry City, Finn Harps and Sligo Rovers provide some balance but with no team from Munster or the midlands in the Premier Division, Kenny says it’s a worry.
“Us as Dubs, we can’t be insular, it is a problem for the league,” Kenny said, speaking at the PFAI annual awards. “You have five clubs from Dublin, Drogheda and Dundalk, so seven clubs in Leinster and three in the north west: no clubs in the midlands and none on the lower west coast and none in Munster, it’s a geographical issue.
“Cork City are potentially the biggest club in the country, we know that but they’re not in the Premier Division and that’s a problem, you have population centres like Galway, a terrific club, not in the Premier Division. Limerick is a big city, Waterford are just relegated and they are another big city, the big population centres are not being represented in the Premier Division.
“It’s a big issue and one that’s not easy to solve. It is a meritocracy, football is based on merit and it’s not easily solved but we have all these big population centres that won’t be playing in the Premier Division and that is an issue for everyone involved in football,” Kenny added.
The Ireland boss, about to enter discussions with the FAI over a new contract as his present deal expires in July, also said he wants the senior Republic of Ireland side to represent the nation. “It is a new Ireland, a new team, a multicultural team that represents all strands of society. It’s evolutionary in its style,” Kenny said.
“One of our objectives was we wanted schoolboy teams to look at the senior team and want to play like them, that they want be like that.
“That’s something we haven’t achieved yet but we have an aspiration to achieve. We’re on the way to that and have scored 20 goals since March, having not scored for a long time. We can see the team has improved, the 18 players that we’ve brought through, players from the League of Ireland, like Chiedozie Ogbene and Jamie McGrath. We’ve seen Gavin Bazunu come from Shamrock Rovers and right through the team players who came from the league such as Séamus Coleman and James McClean.
“Football in Ireland is the biggest sport. Unlike other sports, it relates to every strand of society. That’s what you get with football. It can be powerful and I feel in the future collectively football in Ireland will get stronger.”