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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.

Transfer Roundup: Mkhitaryan to Man United, Mane to Liverpool

Crystal Palace are in advanced talks to sign Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda according to reports in France.

The French international is out of contract this summer and is available on a free transfer. The South London club are long time admirers of the player and have been tracking him for over a year.

Mandanda is presently on international duty with the French team at Euro 2016. To date, he has amassed 22 caps for Le Bleus.


Tottenham Hotspur have failed in a bid to sign AZ Alkmaar forward Vincent Janssen. The North London club’s valuation has fallen far short of what the Eredevisie club are demanding for his services.

Spurs have already agreed personal terms with the player but are apparently reluctant to meet the £16.1 million asking price.

But Tottenham may have a battle on their hands with news emanating from France today that PSG are also interested in acquiring the services of the young striker.

Vincent Janssen scored 27 league goals in 34 appearances for AZ Alkmaar last season.


West Ham are interested in signing Inter Milan striker Mauro Icardi according to Gazzetta dello Sport and have already had a bid rejected for the player.

The Serie A side are demanding  €40 million for the Argentinian international according to the report. Atletico Madrid are also credited with an interest in the former Barcelona youth player.

A striker appears to be the main priority for the Hammers this summer having already seen bids for Alexandre Lacazette and Carlos Bacca turned down by their respective clubs.


Manchester United are edging closer to signing former Liverpool target Henrikh Mkhitaryan from Borussia Dortmund.

The Armenian international is represented by ”super agent” Mino Raiola who also happens to represent Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Both players are expected to complete moves to Old Trafford this summer.

The attacking midfielder is entering the last 12 months of his contract at Borussia Dortmund, who are now prepared to cash in on the player as they are unwilling to watch him walk away for free next summer.

The 27 year-old had a terrific 2015/16 season, scoring 18 goals in all competitions for Dortmund.


Liverpool are closing in on their biggest transfer so far of the summer in Sadio Mane. The Southampton player is believed to be keen on the move and the only stumbling block is a fee being agreed between the clubs.

The Saints completed the transfer on Norwich City star Nathan Redmond on Saturday, a move that many see as a replacement for Mane.

The 24 year-old Senegal international had been a long time target for Manchester United but now appears set to move to Anfield.


Leicester City have signed Raul Uche on a four-year deal from Rayo Vallecano according to Spanish newspaper AS.

The 18 year-old will go straight in to the development squad of the Premier League champions for the coming season. Uche is regarded as one of the most talented youngsters in Spain.


Championship side Reading are closing in on Heerenveen midfielder Joey van den Berg according to Dutch media reports.

The 30 year-old will join fellow country man Jaap Stam at the Berkshire club who are hoping for a promotion push in the coming season.

Van den Berg has been an important player for Heerenveen over the past three seasons but has decided against extending his contract at the Eredivisie club.


Image: YouTube

Why I’m Not Supporting Ireland as an Irishman

With the European Championships in full swing in France at the moment, I find myself one of a select few Irish football fans not caught up in the hysteria that my country are competing.

In fact, I don’t follow my national team at all – sacrilege, I know. But I would rather watch England or Wales play than Ireland.

I don’t consider myself a traitor or anything like that.  Actually, I’m a massive advocate of the League of Ireland, or as some know it #TheGreatestLeagueInTheWorld. I regularly attend League of Ireland matches and report on them consistently.

No, my gripe with the Irish football team is the clowns that are in charge of it, and one clown in particular: John Delaney.

I have a reawakened love affair with my local League of Ireland team Sligo Rovers over the last number of years, and our romance is now on a par with my love for Liverpool FC.

I have seen the good times at Rovers over the last number of years as well as having to endure the bad times of Owen Heary last season.

I haven’t had to endure as much heartache not as the true die hard fans, but give me a few years and hopefully I’ll be able to classify myself as one of them.

The League of Ireland is the national governing body’s dirty little secret. They leave it to run on its own, with little or no input in it, apart from when the European campaign starts or when the FAI Cup final (our version of the FA Cup) is on.

But during the rest of the season, the FAI (Football Association Ireland) just ignore the league. Moreover, the head honcho, John Delaney, would rather sit in a bar and get pissed on the company credit card than attend a match. Clubs don’t even get money from live matches shown on TV.

Then there’s the argument from fans that the players in the league are shite and because of that there’s no reason to attend a game.

This reasoning is, well, shite of it’s own accord. Out of the current Ireland squad at the Euros, eight of them are ex-League of Ireland players.

The league boasts many U-21 players, including the likes of ex-West Ham player Sean Maguire and current Sligo Rovers playmaker Kieran Sadlier. Not that I’m biased (well, maybe a touch), but current Rovers goalkeeper Michael Schlingermann is as good as if not better than who’s in the Ireland  squad in France. But, if he were just good enough, he would be playing in England, and therefore in the Ireland national squad.

It shouldn’t matter who you play for, players should get into the squad on merit.

exLOI players

I regularly get flak on Twitter over my views on Ireland and not supporting my country in international games.

I’m called unpatriotic, that I should go support England and leave the rest of the Irish fans in peace and to a certain extent I do.

But I’ll continue to boycott the national team until my league gets the respect it deserves from those in charge at the FAI. Can I see that happening in the near future? You’re having a laugh.

The FAI, and John Delaney in particular, have proven time and time again that they don’t care about the league.

They regularly let clubs who are in a difficult state of affairs go out of business – happens every 5 years or so.

The prize money in the League itself isn’t enough to buy toilet paper for a week, yet Delaney gets paid a ridiculous amount of money yearly.

So now you know why I don’t support my national team when it comes to the international competitions.

Yes, Ireland fans are great craic and a laugh to be around at these tournaments, but for a lot of them it’s time they jumped off the Ireland bandwagon. And when the FAI start to look after its league, the greatest league in the world might just be a bit better.

Maybe, just maybe, I might start jumping on the Ireland bandwagon.