Critical campaign beckons for so many

Critical campaign beckons for so many

SSE Airtricity League of Ireland supporters do two things: dream and worry.  Being thrilled or tormented is just the way it is.  There is no escaping the feeling deep in your heart that your club ought to aspire to seriously compete for the biggest prizes on offer.  Others have come and conquered; so hope - often misguided - is a friend.  You also know that trouble is usually only around the corner. 

The best of times are frequently followed by the worst of times, and vice versa.  Dundalk retained their Premier Division status in 2012 by virtue of a relegation play/off triumph over Waterford United.  Two years later Dundalk were perched on the summit of Irish football.  Now the next challenge looms for Stephen Kenny’s splendid Lilywhites: sustaining success.

Winning the title brings no guarantees and previous champions’ have slipped dramatically.   Joy can briskly turn to despair, clubs have gleaned silverware then frighteningly within months they can be scrambling to stay afloat.  Cautionary tales are sprinkled everywhere.  Ultimately the LOI is a weird, wacky, and occasionally wonderful world in which loyal followers keep coming back for more.  The familiarity of everyone involved breeds a type of contempt, but a spiky Dublin derby can be an interesting place for a neutral.

What is galling, though, is the unavoidable issue that more people should attend the games.  When grounds like Turners Cross, Oriel Park, Richmond Park or the Sligo Showgrounds rock all things local seem to matter again.  That type of ‘community pride’ sustains the believers, who plough on defiantly.

On the eve of the new season there has been the predictable frenzy of transfers.  Most of the top performers in the League have seen service with several different outfits.  Long term contracts are no longer common, everyone operates in survival mode.  Get to the summer transfer window and pray that the gates have been healthy enough because otherwise players will be trimmed from the squad.

Very few are operating with strategic plans in mind; it is all about the here and now.  It is a considerable pity because those graduating into the Football League in the United Kingdom means the product in Ireland is worthy of respect.  Unfortunately the majority losing promising youngsters are forced to accept less than the going rate when the deals to let footballers go are being finalised.

Most don’t get the cut they warrant or deserve.  There are so many facets which can be improved upon, but thousands will still flock to matches this Friday and Saturday.  For a few nights only they’ll walk tall and proud, adamant that 2015 might just be the campaign in which pleasure outweighs pain.