League of Ireland in the Spotlight

League of Ireland soccer has been in the spotlight recently. Last week, Dundalk arguably achieved the finest result in the league’s near 100 year history, beating Maccabi Tel Aviv 1 – 0 in Group D of the Europa League. (A comparison of the potential financial return of this to date and that of success in domestic competition can be found here).

Moments after the full-time whistle RTE’s PrimeTime (coincidentally) broadcast an interesting report on changes to the structure of underage soccer in Ireland, and the possible implications this will have for both League of Ireland and schoolboy clubs.

International journal Soccer and Society in conjunction with Routledge/Taylor & Francis Online has also commenced publishing a special edition of the journal which focuses on the League of Ireland. The special edition addresses economic, historic and social aspects of the sport in Ireland. The collection of published papers to date can be accessed here .

2 replies on “League of Ireland in the Spotlight”

No disrespect to Dundalk, but the League of Ireland and the Irish League are the two worst leagues in Europe. If a 1-0 victory at home to a team that would struggle in the Vauxhall Conference is the best result achieved in 100 years, that says it all. If the League of Ireland is bad, the Irish League is truly woeful.

Domestic soccer is probably the sport hit most by partition. Any international sporting success that Ireland has achieved since 1922 has nearly always been in sports organised on an all-Ireland basis: rugby, golf, boxing, horse racing, show jumping. I struggle to think of any success achieved in those sports which were partitioned.

If there is ever to be a successful soccer league in Ireland, it will have to be organised on an all-Ireland basis. Given that the all-Ireland population is now approaching 7 million, it should be possible to organise an all-Ireland league that is at least on a par with Scotland (5m population) , the Nordic countries (4m-9m population) and within spitting distance of even Belgium, Portugal and Greece (10m population).

However, as long as soccer in Ireland continues to be partitioned, both leagues will be a joke.

As a young fresher, I had a letter with similar sentiments to this published in Gown, the QUB student newspaper, in late 1966 or 67. Half a century on, things are even worse. There isn’t even a decent inter-league competition between the two leagues now, whereas there was back then. Part of the reason is that the top-level administrators in both leagues are now well and truly imbued with a partitionist mentality. This is not the case with rugby, which is organised on an all-Ireland basis and has been far more successful in organising domestic competitions.

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