“Capturing the imagination of the Irish sporting public”?Posted: August 5, 2011
Manchester City have returned home from Dublin with the prestigious Dublin Super Cup trophy to add to their cabinet, easing past Inter Milan and a League of Ireland select squad. Airtricity XI manager Damien Richardson has claimed that the competition has ‘captured the imagination of the Irish sporting public’ – but with the only Irish team in the competition (BREAKING NEWS: Glasgow Celtic are actually Scottish, we are led to understand) suffering poor losses, has the competition really been as successful as what Rico claims?
In all truth, the League or Ireland team did play very well against Celtic. In the first half they were probably the better team, despite the 1-0 halftime scoreline to Neil Lennon’s side. The young Dundalk winger Daniel Kearns performed notably well, and may have perhaps caught the eye of Lennon. The second goal that Celtic scored was from a sloppy but fair penalty, but then the last three all came from a lack of fitness – importantly, not a lack of skill.
But most of the imagination being caught by the Irish sporting public will be from the likes of seeing a 5-0 scoreline, or Anthony Stokes’ fantastic finish late in the game. Unfortunately I doubt that the Super Cup has persuaded anybody to take up attending even the odd game of their local League of Ireland team after results such as that, which is what the best outcome of the pre-season tournament would have been.
The FAI have given the Irish sporting public another stick to beat the League of Ireland with. While Damien Richardson did have his team quite well organised in defence, at the end of the day there’s only so much preparation you can do in a week with a team that has been patched together with players from plenty of different clubs in the league, and in both divisions.
If the League of Ireland was going to be represented in the tournament, it should have been represented correctly. What is the point of having a team that’s supposed to be the “Best of” of the League, when the three sides with the best squads in terms of sheer quality are preoccupied with European football? Sligo Rovers, Shamrock Rovers and St. Patrick’s Athletic all chose not to release their players (bar a few Sligo squad members) for the competition because they were all in between European ties that weekend. The Irish sporting public will only see an Airtricity XI team made up of players from all of the other teams, and naturally presume that that’s the best that Ireland’s top football divisions can offer.
What is the difference that those three teams not being involved in the Dublin Super Cup made? Brendan Clarke, Conor Powell, Jason McGuinness, Gavin Peers, Alan Kirby, Richie Ryan, Joseph Ndo, Eoin Doyle, Craig Sives, Dan Murray, Stephen O’Donnell, Ronan Finn, Gary Twigg, Karl Sheppard, Ian Bermingham, Daryl Kavanagh, Danny North, Dave McMillan and Dave Mulcahy are all players from those three teams that would certainly have added a lot to the Airtricity XI team. Punters watching the Dublin Super Cup missed out on seeing all of these players, and more, in action and in reality that is a very large amount of quality they missed out on – and the Irish sporting public’s perceptions of the League of Ireland could have been quite a bit better had these players had their say.
Pre-season training begins at the start of July for most clubs, and earlier this year for Celtic as the Scottish Premier League brought the start to their season forward. While it may not have been ideal for City and Inter to play a pre-season tournament after only very recently returning to training, it would definitely have been less “not-exactly-ideal” than playing the DSC at the end of July with half of the potential League of Ireland squad unavailable. Afterall, the purpose of pre-season tournaments is to only gain match sharpness and fitness, which is still what City and Inter would have gained had it been played earlier.
And who knows, maybe with McGuinness, Ryan, Twigg and co. in the team, the outcome may have been different for Richardson’s team. Maybe they could have managed a draw – or even a victory – against Celtic. Maybe. It’s not unbelievable, that’s for definite. The main difference between Celtic and the League of Ireland team was fitness. Had a few other things gone differently – Kearns’ early effort going in, a stupid penalty not being conceded – the outcome could have been very different indeed, and in that case, it would have been fantastic publicity for Ireland’s national football leagues. And in that case, the Dublin Super Cup would have been a great success.
Before a ball had even been kicked in the Super Cup there was a lot of controversy in relation to the FAI’s appalling treatment of the League of Ireland team. Originally, the team weren’t going to be able to take showers following their matches against Manchester City and Celtic. The players were told that after the game they would have to make way for the other teams coming in to use the dressing room. They were also only to be paid €650 for their time and efforts in the two games and given two free tickets to the games. Upon this news becoming widespread, League of Ireland fans were outraged at the disgraceful behavior that the Football Association of Ireland was showing towards its own league’s players.
Eventually, the disputes were settled, with the League of Ireland representatives being brought by bus to a nearby rugby club’s facilities where they could shower and get changed. Their pay was also increased to €1,000 and were given four extra match tickets, bringing their allocation up to six. Funny how once the FAI’s actions were spoken up against, they very quickly gave the Airtricity XI squad a much improved deal, almost seeming as if the organisation knew that they were treating the players so poorly but expected to get away with it.
From a League of Ireland’s point of view, I don’t see the Dublin Super Cup as a success. I only see more examples of a footballing authority caring more about earning money and making the big names comfortable while wiping the shit from their shoes on their own national league, instead of trying to promote it in the best light possible.