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Thomas Tormey throws his eyes and ears over how the media covered the big stories in the League of Ireland in the last week.
‘Forget talk that “football is back”, the really enjoyable 7-goal thriller tonight was in Finn Park’ was the tweet from the Herald’s Aidan Fitzmaurice, trumpeting the seven-goal thriller on Friday between Finn Harps and Bohemians.
This game in Donegal acted as a nice fillip for Irish football’s image as the English Premier League returned to TV screens with its own 4-3 win for the home team at the Emirates on Friday.
Forget talk that "football is back", the really enjoyable 7-goal thriller tonight was in Finn Park. Hard on Bohs but kudos to @FinnHarpsFC— Aidan Fitzmaurice (@fitzmaidan) August 11, 2017
Speaking to Johnny Ward and Daniel McDonnell earlier in the week on the LOI Weekly Podcast, Bohs players Shane Supple and Oscar Brennan had emphasised how important an FAI Cup run was for the Phibsboro club.
Sadly for Bohs, rather than being shades of their last cup win at Lansdowne Road a quarter of a century ago, it turned out to be shades of 1993 and the infamous incident when their team bus broke down on the last day of the league season and the title eluded them after a play-off.
This latest Bohemian transport issue, involving a bus that wouldn’t re-start in Letterkenny, leading to a late kick off in Ballybofey drew a moderately amusing ‘Harps hit top gear’ headline from the Irish Daily Star, whose report focused on the ‘mechanics’ of how Harps won rather than the quality of the entertainment on offer.
The coverage from Finn Park was noticeably lacking in the hyperbole of the report from London in the same paper. One is tempted to ask why Harps-Bohs wasn’t ‘a real classic’ that got the FAI Cup ‘off to a flyer’?
Even the Irish Times stretched to “rip-roaring cup tie”, although they did list the score as 5-4 to Bohs, so perhaps their correspondent had a better night than most.
Dermot Keely made an interesting point in his Irish Sun column last Wednesday (see here). Dermo, a Dundalk fan these days, felt that the we may have had at least something of a title-race if Séanie Maguire hadn’t stayed with Cork for so much of the season. That is, if he had moved as soon as the deal with Preston was done, rather than waiting until mid-July.
Keely’s thinking was that since Maguire’s transfer was announced shortly after Cork’s victory in the six-pointer at Oriel Park in early June, the deal must have been done prior to this game. Furthermore, given that Dundalk had a good run of form immediately after that three-nil defeat, a Maguire-less Cork from late-May could have resulted in Dundalk closing the gap at the top.
I would never doubt Dermo’s mathematics, but this argument is unconvincing for a number of reasons. These include the size of the gap, and the fact that Maguire did not score when Cork beat Shamrock Rovers 4-1 in Turner’s Cross the week prior to the game in Oriel. Personally, I suspect Maguire’s absence may have affected Cork’s goal difference more than their league position.
That said, it is always worth reflecting on how the recruitment/movement of star players affects the balance of power within the league. Not just Maguire leaving Dundalk for Cork, but, for example, Daryl Horgan’s move in the other direction a couple of years previously.
The real news from Dundalk was, of course, Stephen Kenny signing a new contract. In a fascinating interview with Oisin Langan on Newstalk’s LOI podcast, Kenny seemed reluctant to confirm that he was “very happy with the club, very happy with where the club is going”.
Rather, he expressed a desire to manage at the highest level. With that level being higher than Dundalk, Kenny referenced an understanding with the club’s owners which seems to leave the door open for a possible future departure. This move is unlikely to happen any time soon.
There are some developments in relation to facilities for the team at Oriel Park that Stephen seemed particularly satisfied with. While he was also very clear about his European ambitions for the Lilywhites. He emphasised his determination to taking advantage of the good seeding that his efforts have built up and his desire to bring them back to the group stages of European competition.
Even if the challenges Dundalk face at that level are not simply born of the fact that they come from a small league, but from a small catchment area also. As Kenny was at pains to point out to both Langan and the club’s website.