LEAGUE OF Ireland football is returning, and President of Ireland Michael D Higgins has praised the efforts of those involved in ensuring the league is getting back in action.
In a statement released on Thursday afternoon, Preident Higgins spoke about the importance of the League in the community, and how important its return will be for some people.
He wished all sides the best of luck for the upcoming season and thanked for supporters for continuing their support virtually.
He said: "During the past year we have seen the doors close on our pitches and soccer grounds, matches and fixtures cancelled, cheering supporters forced to remain at home.
"It has been a difficult but necessary sacrifice, willingly made by players, coaches, staff and supporters as we face, collectively, the challenge of Covid-19. During this past year there have been many reminders of the integral role of the integral role within our society that is occupied by our sporting community. In towns, villages and suburbs across the country it has so often been our sports clubs and their members who have led initiatives to help, make contact with and reassure those of our people who are vulnerable or isolated at this time.
"It spoke profoundly of the role of our sports clubs and associations in creating and sustaining communities as places of belonging, of care and of shared interests and experience. Not only do they contribute to our cultural and sporting life, they also enable young people to flourish with dignity and self-esteem and so reach their potential.
"Sport connects neighbour to neighbour, promotes intergenerational solidarity and unites a diverse people in a common language. In terms of participation through the generations, club soccer is to the foreground."
He also took this chance to highlight the increase in gambling in football since Covid restrictions came into play, saying: "Sadly, the consequences of coronavirus related restrictions has led to increased gambling by those who are isolated, and unable to attend or participate in sports events at this time.
"May we all continue to work to protect our sports, and to support the game of football, its clubs and the FAI for all sports lovers."
His statement in full can be read here.
The League of Ireland will return on Friday, 19 March.