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LOI Season Needs Extending to Ease Fixture Congestion

As of last week, Dundalk FC have eight League of Ireland games to play in twenty days. That equates to a game roughly every 2.5 days and that doesn’t include Europa League or the FAI Cup (The League Of Ireland equivalent of the FA Cup) final against Cork City.

With so many games coming up, not just for Dundalk, but also Cork City and to a degree St Patrick’s Athletic who all took part in European football this season, there have been calls from fans for those in charge at the FAI to extend the league season by a couple of weeks, allowing Dundalk in particular to get adequate rest periods between games.

I as a Sligo Rovers fan am for this. I think it’s highly unfair on Dundalk, that due to their own success this season they are being punished having to play so many games in such a short period of time.

For years, we as fans prayed for a League of Ireland club that wasn’t Shamrock Rovers to be doing well in Europe and when we finally have that we whinge that they are looking for preferential treatment.

I watched the recent Dundalk against Cork City match and saw the way the Dundalk players looked out on their feet after the game.

Daryl Horgan could barely move after the final whistle and even Alan Keane pulled up with a minor (well, hopefully it’s minor) injury with about ten minutes of the game remaining.

We want the profile of our league heightened. We want our clubs to be playing against some of the best sides in Europe on a regular basis. And we want to show those outside of Ireland that we have both decent teams and decent players in the league, but as fans we don’t seem to want to make the sacrifices to make that happen.

Would it be the worst thing in the world if the league was extended by a couple of weeks? Would it be wrong to show bias to Dundalk this season? For me the answer to both of those questions is no.

There’s no doubt that Dundalk this season at times have been different gravy to every other team in the league, scoring goals for fun, pulling apart teams and deservedly sit on top of the League of Ireland Premier Division table.

They’ve shown time and time again the resilience they have to beat teams, to grind out results and to show at times especially in Europe they’re not there to make up the numbers.

I know the likes of John Delaney aren’t going to see this article because that would mean he actually cares about the league and it’s no longer his “difficult child”, but something needs to be done to help Dundalk fulfill their potential in Europe.

It was be an injustice for them to lose the league title because of the amount of games they’ve played this month – an injustice unless you’re a Cork City fan that is.

So I encourage all neutral League of Ireland fans to show those in charge that we are behind Dundalk in the Europa League and, for their own benefit, to extend the league by two to three weeks to allow Dundalk the chance to be playing European football after Christmas.

After all isn’t that what they want, focus on the league in a positive light or am I just deluding myself?

Dundalk FC’s Fairytale Continues with 1-0 Win v Maccabi Tel Aviv

They have been at it all season in Europe, but on match day two of the Europa League little old Dundalk FC from Ireland – a crowd of part timers – created a bit of history.

They became the first Irish side to win a European group game, beating Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv 1-0 in the Tallaght stadium thanks to another Ciaran Kilduff goal.

Dundalk did fantastically well on matchday one, coming from behind to draw one all with with Dutch side AZ Alkmaar, again thanks to a Ciaran Kilduff goal.

But the win over Maccabi Tel Aviv definitely trumps that, and it will arguably go down as one of the greatest triumphs to date for Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny.

Dundalk certainly weren’t favourites coming in to the game. Maccabi have players such as ex-West Ham, Liverpool, and Chelsea player Yossi Benayoun, and ex-Chelsea defender Tal Ben Haim, but that didn’t stop the home side from dominating possession.

At times they showed those watching around Europe that there are players of high quality in the League of Ireland, and when you come to play one of our teams on Irish soil you are not in for an easy night.

Dundalk controlled the tempo of the game and Maccabi were reduced to pot shots from outside the area. Whenever they did manage to get in to the Dundalk box, the defence and goalkeeper were up for anything Maccabi threw at them.

To say I was a little bit jealous watching the Dundalk fans rocking the Tallaght stadium would be a bit of an under statement. As a football fan, watching your team play in Europe is the pinnacle of club football.

The team assembled by Stephen Kenny is something special. He is getting the most out of his players, and more importantly the players want to play for their manager.

Dundalk’s quality (Dundalk currently sit top of the League of Ireland table, four points ahead of second placed Cork City) is forcing managers around the League of Ireland to have a look at themselves and evaluate what they are doing.

They have managed to drag the quality of the teams around them up a notch, and hopefully over the next few years fans will see that improvement both on the pitch and off it as League of Ireland teams regularly qualify for the groups stages of both of Europe’s top club competitions.

With Zenit St Petersburg next up for Dundalk, I don’t see them fearing the Russian giants. They have already pulled off two shocks in the competition, and for them another shock win will be a feather in the hat of both Kenny and the players.

It’s been a marvellous few years for Kenny after Shamrock Rovers, who incidentally play their home games at the Tallaght stadium, sacked Kenny.

With all the turmoil they are currently going through, I have no doubt in my mind every one of them would love to have him back at the club.

Hopefully Dundalk can keep pushing forward and hold on to Kenny, otherwise all his hard work could be undone by a manager that wants to change things too quickly at Oriel Park and Dundalk will slump back to mid table mediocrity.

Here’s to you Stephen Kenny, Dundalk FC, and all their fans for doing the league so proud. Let’s hope for another historic night on the 20th October!

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 –


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.