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.