What next for Irish football?

by Ian Walsh

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It was back to the reality of the League of Ireland last night for St. Patrick’s Athletic as they aimed to put the disappointment of crashing out of the Europa League on Thursday night to Steaua Bucharest behind them, by defeating Drogheda United.

While Bucharest progress to the lucrative group stages of the Europa League, the Saints are faced with a relegation battle. Only Pat’s, Bohemians and Cork City have been ever present since the Premier Division was set up in 1985, and with 14 defeats this season they now must find their winning ways at home, that carried them so far in Europe.

Stuart Byrne eased those fears by scoring the only goal of last night’s game, as Pat’s recorded their first win in 6 games. A vital 3 points in the bag for Jeff Kenna’s side moves them 6 points clear of the relegation places, and up to 6th in the league.

Having performed so well in the qualification rounds of the Europe League which saw them pocket €90,000 per round, and a €140,000 windfall from the visit of Bucharest to the RDS, the clubs financial future is certainly secure, which can’t be said for many other Irish clubs at the moment.

The Saint’s have done a great job of raising the profile of Irish football in Europe, and bowed out with their heads held high. They won’t however be back next season, not unless they win the FAI Cup, a competition they have failed to win since 1961.

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Another side that flew the flag for Irish football in Europe was Derry City. But, just weeks after competing in the Europa League qualifying stages, the Candystripes have become the latest League of Ireland club to run into financial difficulty.

The players were last Friday paid just 25% of their monthly wages, meaning they pocketed just one week’s wages instead of their usual four week’s wages.

Derry has lost two of their main sponsors, with a resulting loss of revenue, leaving the club in disarray. The Candystripes are now trying to raise £50,000 by asking 50 local companies, businesses and individuals to donate £1,000 each in a bid to boost finances.

Derry currently lie 3rd in the LOI Premier Division, 11 points behind league leaders Bohemians, and 7 points behind 2nd placed Shamrock Rovers. They will need to keep up the pace if they are to get out of this financial mess, and the only way to do this will be qualifying for Europe next season.

It is clear that European football benifits the likes of Irish clubs, as we play second fiddle to the centre stage of football across the water. Eventually there will be an Irish club in the group stages of the Champions League or Europe League, and after St. Pat’s, Derry City and Bohemians performances this season it looks like it could be coming sooner, rather than later.

Ian writes for Touchline Views which is part of the twofootedtackle Blog Network, and will be writing a weekly column on Irish football.

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