By Aaron Cawley (@TheMoanyOne)
When you think of the League of Ireland what do you think of?
An underfunded, under appreciated, under supported league or do you think of it as a dying league, where people would rather spend a colossal amount of money to head across the Irish Sea than pay €10-€15 to watch live football every week?
The state of the League of Ireland is something that troubles me on a regular basis. I’m a Sligo Rovers fan, I’m bringing my children and nephews up to be Sligo Rovers fans. I pay my €15 admission fee to the Showgrounds week in, week out (I don’t always use my press pass), to watch my team, good bad or indifferent.
I hear the constant moaning from the stands about players and the team especially when things aren’t going to plan. To use a misinterpreted quote from the late, great Bill Shankly, “If you can’t support us when we lose, don’t support us when we win.”
While the above quote was never said by the great Scotsman, the mantra of it should not be ignored by League of Ireland fans.
Of course teams are going to go through bad patches on and off the pitch. Just look what’s happened with Cork City and Dundalk in the last 10 years and how they have bounced back from their financial troubles.
Clubs need supporters going through the gates. We are the life blood of the League of Ireland. We are the ones that keep our local clubs afloat, help them out when money is tight. We’re the ones who would do anything to make sure our clubs go from strength to strength.
For this to happen, all it takes is a bit of bravery from fans. It’s easy to scapegoat certain players when your team isn’t doing that well. These players hear it from the stands, they’re not oblivious to the abuse. At the end of the day they’re only human and make mistakes. How many of us make mistakes every day?
Instead of scapegoating them, try supporting them. Try clapping them when they do something right, no matter how simple it is, instead of sowing it in to them when they cock up.
I’ve had the privilege to speak to players and managers from a lot of clubs in the League of Ireland and they all say the same thing; it’s the supporters that get them going.
Players will respond to a crowd of 3000 fans a lot better than they would to a crowd of a couple of hundred fans. Believe it or not, bums on the seats matter to players. I know they might not always show it, believe me it does.
Players I know, aren’t infallible either. They’ll make mistakes off the pitch too. As a Rovers fan, I’ve just about seen and heard everything imaginable done by players off the field.
We have to remember though, a lot of these guys are young lads, living the dream and at times they’re behaviour is idiotic, in 5/6 years time they’ll regret their actions.
We, as fans need to get out there in greater numbers, push our league down the throats of those who don’t believe in it and make sure it doesn’t fall away in to obscurity.
We need to make the UK team supporting Irish people, stand up and take notice of our league, we need to show them the League of Ireland isn’t shite. In fact it’s one of the #GreatestLeaguesInTheWorld Then, and only then will our league get the recognition I believe it deserves.