Macdara Ferris takes a look at what made the biggest impact on Extratime.ie with the public with the top 10 articles of 2016!
The iconic Carlisle Grounds, situated on the DART line at the edge of the Bray, is the oldest-surviving ground in the league - having been in continuous use as a sports venue since 1862. However if Bray’s owners have their way Wanderers will be on the move to a new greenfield site and a 'state-of-the-art Centre of Excellence' in the Bray area with a 4,500-seater UEFA Category 3 Stadium.
That is the plan as published in the club’s five-year strategic plan, a report which was funded by the FAI. This was the funding that St. Pat’s declined to take from the Association calling it ‘crumbs from the rich man’s table’!
For Bray, they see their future away from the historic Carlisle ground. “We cannot operate a professional club without proper training facilities,” said chairman Denis O'Connor.
“The Carlisle Grounds has been a great home for the Seagulls but it lacks practice pitches, all weather pitches, proper changing facilities, even proper shelter for fans – and ultimately space for our teams to advance.
‘You mean to tell me that you literally won’t walk five minutes down the road to watch the European Champions train?’ That was this writer’s accusatory question to my extratime.ie colleagues in Bordeaux one afternoon in June.
Due to pitch issues at the match stadium in Bordeaux, UEFA switched Spain’s training session on the eve of the game against Croatia. They trained at the Stade Chaban-Delmas which was adjacent to where ET HQ was for the second week of the Euros.
With match previews to be edited and train tickets to be purchased there, wasn’t too much enthusiasm to go watch Spain train from some! However we did eventually all go and see Spain’s famous Rondo during their training session as described in this article that also gives flavor of being in Bordeaux for Ireland’s game against Belgium.
A late goal can be a nightmare for the match reporter. The ‘on-the-whistle’ match report is a bit of an artform and the late goal which changes a draw into a victory means a major rewrite. When that late goal is Robbie Brady’s winner against Italy in the Euros that means a major re-write but one no doubt Dave Donnelly was happy to do!
Dave covered all of Ireland’s games at the Euros and he caught all the drama of the matches for the Boys in Green including on the famous night in Lille:
“The lines between glorious success and heroic failure were defined at Stade Pierre-Mauroy as Robbie Brady's late header sealed the Republic of Ireland historic passage to the last 16 of the European Championships.
It was a performance of rare control and purpose from Martin O'Neill's side, the best of his tenure, and called to mind the side's last big performance on French soil, the World Cup play-off second leg in Paris in 2009.”
Following November’s announcement at Shamrock Rovers that named Stephen McPhail as their new Sporting Director and Stephen Bradley as the new Head Coach, this article was an in-depth look at the new developments and direction at Rovers.
In 2016 the Hoops secured a €1.5m investment. In addition to the new Sporting Director role, this has allowed for the appointment of new full time administrative staff during the year (CEO, COO and Community Officer) and infrastructure developments at their training ground in Roadstone. Planning permission is also currently being sought by South Dublin County Council for a new 2,000 seater stand in Tallaght.
This was a slightly sideways review of the season with the good, the bad and the very ugly of the year. Andrew Dempsey concluded that it was a year with roaring success, underachievement on the pitch and very ugly financial issues have all culminated to shape the 2016 season.
Our article promoting episode 75 of the extratime.ie sportscast made our top 20 list. This was a bumper addition where we spoke to a host of Dundalk players after their famous victory over BATE Borisov in the Champions League qualifiers. That was a night that many players would describe afterwards as the best night of their careers as Dundalk’s devastating performance guaranteed the Lilywhites at least the Europa League group stages. Also in this episode we caught up with former Athlone Town and Limerick CEO John O’Sullivan, as well as speaking to Shamrock Rovers’ Bradon Miele.
So 11 of our reporters and photographers correctly predicted that Dundalk would make it three-in-a-row in the league. Maybe the less said about the 17 others who said that Cork City would win the title!
At the start of the season we thought Finn Harps would be relegated and Derry finish eighth. Since both of their managers seemed to talk down their chances all season, we don’t feel too bad that we didn’t predict Harps staying in the top flight and Derry securing European football.
A discussion about an academic paper published in the Economic and Social Review made our top 20 as we delved into the Barry Reilly’s University of Sussex research on ‘The Demand for League of Ireland Football’. His conclusion that attendances overall would improve if the top flight in the league reduced in size matched the recommendation to reduce the size of the Premier Division included in the Conway Report. We await the outcome of ongoing discussions between the FAI and the clubs (through the Premier Club Alliance) on the future of the league.
Our man in Alkmaar Caoimhin Reilly was on hand to bring us the drama as ten man Dundalk got a draw thanks to a late equaliser on debut in the Europa League.
It is great to see this article hit number one on our chart as it reflects the hard work and passion of extratime.ie owner Gareth Penrose. If it wasn’t hard enough to run a volunteer driven League of Ireland website, this guy makes it his task of tracking down the numbers through the turnstiles each week.
The publishing of the figures by clubs can be hit and miss (that means you Derry City!) but we believe that it is vitally important that the game can be benchmarked by just how many people come to watch. It seems our readers agree by making this number one on our list, by the League of Ireland media who regularly quote our figures and even by the FAI who quoted them in their ‘independent brand report on the League of Ireland’!
You can also read the Top 20 to 11 articles of 2016 on Extratime.ie . Leave a comment below on your favourite story or stories from the League of Ireland season, be it from an ET reporter or elsewhere.