By Philip O’Rourke (@effect_phil)
Do the FAI see our own national league as a joke, or do they even see it at all? It really doesn’t seem like it at times. The lack of advertisement from the FAI at the start of the new season, the lack of investment and funds given to the clubs and the lack of or no recognition of the league at all would suggest their minds are elsewhere when it comes to football on this Island. Their minds being on the bank accounts of each person that is on the board of the FAI or has anything to do with the Aviva Stadium.
John Delaney is the main culprit. Citing that he works 365 days a year is all well and good but what is his productivity in these days? I could easily go to work and sit at my desk for 8 hours, but it doesn’t mean I’m influencing anything. That’s what it seems like Mr Delaney and the rest of the suits are doing.
Can anybody remember the last time he was at a league of Ireland game? Does he even support a club in the league of Ireland? I’m not just blaming him as an individual, as there are more culprits that are supposed to be helping are game but are instead helping themselves, but he is the major figure head in this problem. So, what should we do?
On the first day of the new League of Ireland season, it was reported Mick McCarthy, the new Ireland Manager, was at Richmond Park to watch St Pats versus Cork City. Now, watching may look a loose term. He was definitely there, as it was made sure that he was pictured there with supporters, but whether he was watching the game or not is to be debated. If he did watch it then I would imagine he was impressed by the likes of Conor Clifford, who got the Man of the Match award or even Brendan Clarke, who pulled off some quality saves.
I was at the game and caught a glimpse of him sitting in his seat and I can tell you he wasn’t writing down notes. Maybe he doesn’t need to, maybe he takes mental notes, or a better explanation would be that he was only there as a PR stunt spun by the FAI to make it look like they are interested in the League of Ireland. ‘Keep the fans onside’ and make sure they keep coming to the Aviva Stadium in their masses so that the coffers can be kept full.
I’m not judging Mick McCarthy as a person, I don’t know him personally, and I do enjoy his opinions and view when he plays pundit, but I was hoping, after seeing him at a League of Ireland game, he would be open minded about the pool of players he could have at his disposal. Recent events with Declan Rice and Jack Grealish should have put him off chasing English-born players and redirected his gaze to our own players here playing in the League of Ireland.
The long term plan put in place by the FAI, having McCarthy in charge for a few years and then paving the way for Stephen Kenny to take charge, after he had worked with the under 21’s looked like a positive step forward, given Kenny’s involvement in the league of Ireland, but recent events seem to have made this all look like a lost cause. I’m talking about the recent news that McCarthy is now chasing another English-born player, Patrick Bamford.
Now before I start, I have no problem with getting English-born players playing for our country, if they give 100% while wearing the green jersey. After all, Mick McCarthy himself is a proud Yorkshire man who put his heart and soul into it when wearing the green jersey. I’m not even going to have a go at Patrick Bamford, as I don’t know him personally either. He could be a nice guy who does see himself as Irish. I’m not even going to go into his footballing ability, he did well at Middlesbrough but not so well at Crystal Palace for whatever reasons. No, my gripe is the fact we are chasing him up, or it seems Mick McCarthy is trying to persuade him to declare for the Republic of Ireland.
Firstly, nobody should have to be asked or persuaded to play for our country, or any country for that matter. They should just want to or be proud to be even considered. Secondly, this is an insult to those younger, hard-working players in the league of Ireland who aren’t being considered even though they put in just as much hard work and would relish the opportunity to play for their country, without having to be persuaded. It just feels as though the same trick keeps being repeated.
Yes, we have had successful English-born players playing for us, Tony Cascarino, John Aldridge etc but in recent times this has not been the case. I’m thinking of the most recent English imports that have been put in front of our very own, Simon Cox and Aiden McGeady. You may argue that we have not produced anything better than those in our League of Ireland but I would dispute that. I’ve watched plenty of football in the league and in my opinion some of the players would not have faired much worse than those mentioned.
You are probably going to ask, ‘Well name some then,’ but what would be the point? It would be my own opinion that would just result in ridicule of me and the players I mention, so I’m going to keep that too myself for now. If you want to know, go and watch a game and see the talent on show in our league and then form an opinion on whether the players in the League of Ireland are better or worse than what we have playing in our national side or what we are currently trying to recruit.
The fact remains, the FAI have very little faith in our league and until something changes in regards to the establishment, or the control of the League of Ireland gets handed over to another third party or even the clubs themselves, we will continue to be stuck in the same cycle.