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The FAI Continue to Ignore League of Ireland Players

As many of you who follow me on social media know, despite being Irish, I don’t support the Irish national team.

In fact in the recent European Championships in France I was hoping for an Italy win but Portugal dashed my hopes of that.

My attitude towards the Irish national team has seen me get stick and abuse from Irish fans, at this stage I’ve been called every name under the sun because of it, but it’s water off a ducks back.

The Irish football world has been full of the joyous news this weekend that Martin O’Neill, Roy Keane and the rest of the Irish backroom team have finally signed the new deal that the FAI offered them last March.

Woohoo. Am I bothered? No. Why would I be. Why would I be excited about a national team who like John Delaney don’t give a rats ass about the League of Ireland.

Before you say it, yes I am aware that Gary Rogers has been part of the last few Ireland squads. He’s even made the bench on the last couple of occasions but did anyone think he was realistically going to earn a cap? If it didn’t happen against Oman it wasn’t going to happen at all.

Ireland boss Martin O’Neill in his most recent Ireland team announcement mentioned Dundalk’s Daryl Horgan. Well he belittled him in my opinion.

Why? Well his comments about Horgan.

“I am in constant touch with Stephen (Kenny) – well as often as you can – who is a very busy manager at this minute.

They have issues with fixtures because of their success, which is fantastic on one hand, and obviously a bit of a pain on the other hand.

But Horgan has done exceptionally well and he would have been (included) in normal circumstances, but these are not normal circumstances.

He would have certainly made the provisional squad — without a doubt.”

Those comments show that although Horgan is deemed good enough for the provisional squad by Martin O’Neill, he’s not not deemed good enough for the match day squad.

This to me is nonsense. If, and as some say, when Horgan moves to the UK, he’ll be part of the Irish set up from then onwards.

Another League of Ireland player who’s been over looked. and I’m amazed that both O’Neill and Keane have done so, is Cork City’s Sean Maguire.

Whilst he’s not getting the same exposure as Horgan and Rogers he’s quietly going about his business at Cork City.

For me Maguire is as good as any of the players called up to the Irish team for the latest set of World Cup qualifiers. His twenty one goals in all competitions including the Ireland U-21’s this season surely is enough to warrant at least a call up to the provisional squad?

Hopefully in the near future we’ll be seeing both Gary Rogers and Daryl Horgan, at least, playing in the green of Ireland.

If both players can sustain their current levels at Dundalk then along with Stephen O’Donnell and Sean Maguire they could be making up part of the Irish set up for years to come.

Or at least Horgan, Maguire and O’Donnell could be anyway. Sadly for Rogers, he’s coming towards the end of his career.

It’s time for the Bundesliga to be rated as one of the world’s best.

‘Bundesliga is just a league whose champion is decided before the start of the season, no title challenge, none what-so-ever.’

We’ve all surely heard this sentence somewhere, and whoever said it needs to think again.

First of all let’s all face it, Bayern’s frightening dominance isn’t in favour of the league, but that doesn’t decrease it’s value at all.

Many were blinded by The Bavarian’s significant success in the recent years that they can’t see the true beauty of German football and how unique it is. Why? Let’s find out. Here are reasons why the Bundesliga is one of a kind:

1- Talent

From Götze and Kimmich to Draxler and Weigl, The German academies are the gifts that keep on giving.

The number of stars the country has produced on it’s own land in the last decade is astonishing. Out of 23 world cup winners in 2014, 21 of them graduated from German academies and started their professional careers in Germany while 14 of them were 25 years-old or younger.

The credit goes to the German FA who rose from the ashes in 2000 after their catastrophic display in the European Championships. They set up a new rule in 2001 regarding youth which makes it mandatory for all 18 top-flight professional teams to run a youth academy.

In addition to that, under the new Bundesliga rules a club with a top-rated three-star academy gets an additional $400,000 in funding every year which is an outstanding fee for small clubs. The better your academy is, the better your funding gets.

2- Style of Play

Ever wondered why German teams are hard to beat in European Championships having the second highest UEFA coafficent in the last 5 years?

Talent plays a big part, obviously, but it’s mainly because of the league’s special style of play which consists of hard work, constant movements, and of course, extremely high discipline.

There’s a reason why Germans are labelled as ‘machines’, their work rate in every game is sky high and it’s a fact that Bundesliga players cover more distance than others in Europe. They use the opposition defenders’ bad positioning to break the defence up by moving as one unit, and that’s also extremely enjoyable to watch.

3- The fans

90 minutes of shouts, screams, chants and flag waving.

The German fans put as much effort outside the pitch as the players on it. The level of loyalty reaches a new level in Bundesliga as 13.235.945 fans attended 324 matches last season, with the average of 43.254.

These passionate supporters show their class as well. They generously welcomed the refugees in the country at their stadiums and invited hundreds to watch matches in 2015.

The fans also play a big part in the club ownership after the German FA set the 50+1 law (1998) and it suggests that a registered club should have minimum 7 members.

The league requires that either a club, or a limited company which is controlled by a club with 50% + 1 vote can get a license to participate in the 1st or 2nd German league.

There’s so much more in a league then it’s title challenge. It’s time for the Bundesliga to be fairly rated as one of the world best leagues if not the best.

Dundalk FC – Doing Ireland Proud

Stand back – this is going to hurt if you’re too close to me –

DUNDALK FC FROM IRELAND ARE ONE WIN AWAY FROM THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE GROUP STAGES

What an achievement by the Lilywhites this week as they over turned a 1-0 first leg deficit to beat Bate Borisov 3-0 on Tuesday at Tallaght stadium.

They couldn’t play at their own ground, Oriel Park, because it didn’t meet UEFA standards for this phase of the competition.

Tuesday’s performance was surreal, and so was the atmosphere.

Tallaght was filled with not only Dundalk fans, but fans of other League of Ireland clubs who wanted to experience European football at a club level.

Irishmen and women were out in droves to show the world that Ireland are backing not only Dundalk, but also Cork City, who, competing in the Europa League, overturned a 1-0 deficit to Dutch side Genk at Turners Cross If Dundalk can do it, then who knows – maybe Cork can pull it off to.

As it stands, Dundalk are now guaranteed European football up until Christmas, and the League of Ireland is guaranteed some international exposure up until then.

Someone quipped last night on Twitter that Dundalk now will earn more this year than FAI boss John Delaney.

While this made me smile, it’s a sad fact – it take European competition for one club to make more than the FAI head?

But I’m not going to get in to that again.

While the win over Bate Borisov – the club which eliminated them last season – was a total team effort, Dundalk will count their blessings.

They have an on-fire David McMillan on their books, who’s scoring for fun at this stage. This season, he has been exceptional, scoring some very important goals in both domestic and continental competition.

With some meaningless international friendlies played this month for Ireland, he at least deserves a call up to the national team, even if he doesn’t get any playing time.

Now, it all rides on the next tie – if Dundalk can get an easy game in the next round of the competition and they can progress to the group stages of the Champions League, the club can do themselves and our league proud. After all, 2016 is the Year of the Underdog.

Dundalk – Ireland in the Champions League

To say that this week, I am going to be jealous of all the Dundalk fans, is an understatement.

It’s not something that I typically would admit to, but having the opportunity to hear the most famous music in world football at your home ground is the stuff of dreams.

I had the opportunity in 2013 to hear Zadok the Priest at the Showgrounds, and to say it was not a spine tingling experience would be a lie. It was a powerful 90 minutes to be a Sligo Rovers fan, even if the result did not go our way that night. It’s still a night I will never forget.

Oriel Park will no doubt be full to capacity tonight as Dundalk FC take on Icelantic Champions FH Hafnarfjordur in the UEFA Champions League second-qualifying round first leg.

This season marks Dundalk’s second successive season in the Champions League. Last season, they were beaten 2-1 on aggregate by Belarusian Champions BATE Borisov.

Many neutral fans, myself included, felt that Dundalk were unlucky last season to go out of the competition when they did and their manager, Steven Kenny, will be hoping that last season’s experience will prove pivotal in his side going through to the next round of the 2016/2017 competition.

Irish teams do not have a great record when it comes to participating in European competitions at club level, surprisingly enough.

The only noticeable success over the last 10 years or so came from Dublin side Shamrock Rovers in 2012, when they got through to the group stages of the Europa League after beating Serbian side FK Partizan on away goals.

In the group stages, The Hoops were paired with Tottenham Hotspur, PAOK and Russian side Rubin Kazan.

While they did not manage to pick up any points in the group stage, losing to all three teams, having an Irish team in the group stage of such a major European club competition was deemed a success for the League Of Ireland.

Unfortunately, since then no Irish team have made it that far. If they get a decent result in the 2 legs of the second round, and an easy draw in the next round, Dundalk could better Shamrock Rovers and maybe get in to the group stage of the Champions League or the Europa League.

Who knows – maybe they could win a game or two!

The only drawback for League of Ireland fans (and you all know how much I love a good moan) is that it seems none of the national TV channels will be showing the games live.

This is yet another deficiency shown towards the league – it gets no support from television. In fact, games were being streamed live by a UK firm, but unfortunately you couldn’t watch them if you were in Ireland.

The internet connection was brutal, large portions of the games were missed by ex-pats, and to even watch a game you had to place a bet on a betting site.

While, as a fan, I applaud the fact someone outside the league has an interest in it, the extra terms and conditions that came with having to watch the games were appalling. Imagine in 2016, being somewhere in a large populated area and not having a proper internet connection.

Hopefully next season the Internet problem will be solved and I’ll be writing about an Irish team that played group stage football in the Champions League and performed well – the stuff of dreams.

Irish Fans Abroad – Come Home, Support Your League

So there we have it – the Irish dream in France ended. The team went out with their heads held high, losing to a very good French team that ultimately lost the final.

There were plenty of positives to look forward to if you support the national team going forward, especially for World Cup qualification.

While I’m not a fan of the national team, the fans over in France have done themselves proud, and because of them, I’m proud to call myself Irish.

They “stood up” and “sat down” for everyone and anything, including the French police in a recent video posted online. They filled the streets of France with noise and were a joy to watch.

Unlike other fans, the Irish were welcomed wherever they went, having brought a bit of colour to the competition and putting on display what it’s like to be a true football fan.

The internet is awash of videos of the Irish fans, being Irish, having the craic and showing why we’re such a welcoming country.

But that’s as far as it goes for me.

My main problem with those who attended the European Championships is their inability to attend matches that are maybe a 10-15 minute drive from their house.

Instead, many of the same Irish fans preferred to spend hundreds of euros on attending games during the European Championship.

Come on folks – tickets to League of Ireland matches are only €15.

Those in charge of the FAI now have to try and convince those who follow Ireland that the league in which 8 players who played in this summer’s competition is worth supporting and following.

Clubs have to react to the feeling of good will and entice new fans in through the gates.

There is a massive opportunity available at the minute to clubs throughout the League of Ireland to improve attendance after the European Championships.  What scares me, though, are many clubs letting this chance pass by without drawing more local fans into local stands.

Club football ambition is crucial for Irish teams who can capitalise on the Irish achievements in Europe, but concepts like “forward thinking” and “planning ahead” is a foreign concept for many League of Ireland clubs. “Spending money to making money” goes against the ethos of those in charge of Irish clubs.

The home league is littered with decent players, who in my opinion are as good as those who participated in this summer’s European Championships.

It will require clubs making the connection between international success and home-grown development – which unfortunately seems rather unlike for Ireland just yet.

People need to get out and shout from the rooftops that the LoI is worth spending your money on. Irish folks here consider you a “weirdo” for supporting your local team and wearing their merchandise, and that stigma has to be removed.

Fans – do all in your power to get people to adopt a League of Ireland club over the summer and give them your support.

Perhaps even plan on attending a game over here, just to see what all the hullabaloo is about.

I’ll gladly pay for anyone to attend a Sligo Rovers match to give them the Showgrounds experience, to show them why I love my league and League of Ireland fans are “the greatest fans in the world.”

I made the same offer last season, and I make it again for the upcoming 2016/2017.