Mons' demise is sadly no surprise
Being a League of Ireland fan is a bit like being Charlie Sheen's AA sponsor. You expect to be let down on a regular basis and that's just what happens.
When Monaghan United fell off the wagon and joined Sporting Fingal, Galway United, Kildare County and Kilkenny City in the ranks of the deceased, no one who follows domestic soccer was all that surprised. Monaghan came from an area with a negligible soccer tradition, had very little support and never belonged in the Premier Division in the first place.
The most disappointing thing about Monaghan's withdrawal is that it may materially affect the outcome of the title race. Monaghan held Shamrock Rovers to a draw in Gortakeegan, which represented two points dropped by the champions vis-a-vis their rivals Sligo Rovers and Saint Pat's who both won away to Monaghan. Expunging Monaghan's results means that this game didn't count. Should what looks like being a very close title race be decided by one or two points in the Hoops' favour it will make a mockery of the competition.
No credible league can carry on in this manner. A local junior competition shouldn't have to legislate for teams pulling out at the halfway stage let alone a national one. We've heard a great deal in recent years about strict rules concerning team budgets which would prevent clubs living beyond their means and prevent fiascos like this but that, sadly, seems to be just so much flannel.
Monaghan were an accident waiting to happen. And so was the situation last season when Galway city found itself with three clubs in the league, even though it realistically can hardly support one. On both occasions the League stood idly by until the inevitable occurred.
When this season limps to its close, hopefully without further withdrawals though it's hard to see how Wexford Youths will survive given the collapse of the Mick Wallace project, the league needs to take a serious look at its structure.
How was it, for example, that two seasons ago Derry City and Cork City, clubs with large followings in cities where there is a genuine desire for League of Ireland football, were playing in the second flight when barely surviving outfits with a handful of supporters were operating a level above them? You could defend this state of affairs by observing that the normal processes of promotion and relegation have to be followed and that the authorities can't dictate who plays in the top flight. This would be okay if we were talking about a normal league but this isn't a normal league. Normal leagues don't have teams dropping out halfway through the season.
The answer may be a single division league restricted to clubs who can command the kind of support which makes their participation feasible. Limerick City and Waterford United belong in the top flight, UCD don't and neither do, fond and all of them as I am, Longford Town who could conceivably do Limerick out of a Premier Division place this year. Finn Harps and Athlone Town, once hotbeds of the game, have already been virtually destroyed by prolonged spells in the lower division with no ties against the bigger clubs to entice souls through the turnstiles.
Maybe it doesn't matter much to you. But the Irish team in the qualifiers could well be backboned by players, Kevin Doyle, James McClean, Seamus Coleman, Keith Fahey, Wes Hoolahan and Stephen Ward, who all got their starts in the League of Ireland. The international team needs a viable domestic competition. The league which gave the world Paul McGrath, Roy Keane, Gerry Daly, Paddy Mulligan, Mick Martin, Ronnie Whelan and Jim Beglin can't go on like this.
Sunday Indo Sport