Friday 20 April 2018

Quinn view of League still worth looking at

Former Ireland international Niall Quinn
Former Ireland international Niall Quinn

John Fallon, Seán Ryan and John Greene

At a time when the League of Ireland is starved of fresh ideas and blood, it was disconcerting to hear Niall Quinn reveal that it was the national league clubs who objected to his involvement with the Irish Sports Council.

The ex-Ireland international spent a short stint on the ISC before his successful bid, along with the Drumaville consortium, to buy former club Sunderland in 2006 and is still perplexed by the motivation of those against his participation in the quest to improve the domestic product.

Almost a decade later and the same problems, specifically low crowds and pitiful prize money, continue to plague the League.

As the Black Cats chairman who took the club out of the Championship to become a Premier League mainstay, his vision for overhauling Irish football is worth a listen.

"When I was on the Irish Sports Council, I had great ambitions, great drive and big ideas," explained Quinn.

"I attended one meeting and have the notes still at home. There were lots of things in the air. I didn't lose any sleep over it."

Quinn agreed that the League of Ireland has plenty to do when he hears that four of the country's best 16-year-olds have just joined English fourth division club Stevenage rather than play in the FAI's new underage leagues.

"The day a young Irish player says, 'No, I'm going to stay to do my Leaving Cert because I've a better chance in the league here that will get me past Stevenage, and get my degree', is when the FAI is working correctly. Developing elite players depends on the FAI's finances, so the system is broken."

* * * * *

The disparity in frees conceded by Dublin (21) compared to Fermanagh (4) in last Sunday's football quarter-final proved to be more of a talking point afterwards than the controversial own goal credited to Stephen Cluxton.

It raised questions as to whether the Dubs are an indisciplined bunch, or was referee Pádraig O'Sullivan biased in favour of Fermanagh. The answer to both questions is a resounding No.

The real reason for the disparity in frees stemmed from referee O'Sullivan's excellent use of the advantage rule. The strength of the Dubs allowed them to get their passes away despite being tackled illegally and, rather than call play back for an easy Dean Rock point from a placed ball, the referee allowed play to continue, with the Dubs generally punishing the offenders on the scoreboard.

Fermanagh, on the other hand, lacked Dublin's strength when tackled, and often went to ground, leading to referee O'Sullivan giving them the benefit of the doubt and awarding a free.

Don't expect the disparity in frees to be at anything like the same ratio when Dublin meet stronger opposition.

* * * * *

If you can't wait for the NFL season to start - 32 days as it happens - then why not pop along to Dalymount Park this afternoon for Shamrock Bowl XXIX, the game which will decide this year's national champions in American football.

In a repeat of last year's decider, the Belfast Trojans and Trinity College will face off again this year, with the Northern side looking to complete a four-in-a-row.

American football is one of the most rapidly expanding sports in Ireland. This season, 19 clubs fielded 22 teams in the Irish American Football Association's national league. Today's game, which gets under way at 3pm, features the two best teams from the Shamrock Bowl Conference (SBC) - the IAFA's elite division consisting of the 10 best clubs in the country.

American football in this country is played under NCAA rules - the same rules as used in College Football in the United States - as seen in Croke Park & Aviva Stadium in recent years.

Trinity College's Rob McDowell is regarded by many as the best athlete in the top division at the moment. He is known in the league as 'The Highlights Reel' because of his ability to make impressive plays.

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