What, more match-fixing? Yes, sadly. In a week where the Irish sporting public were shocked to see a tight GAA match not end a draw, the #greatestleagueintheworld was rocked by further betting allegations.
Indeed, such was the magnitude of the fall-out from the previous scandal (involving Athlone) that coverage continued into last week also.
Speaking on the LOI Weekly podcast, Damian Lynch and Johnny Ward both questioned the level of criticism aimed at the FAI. Lynch expressed his own discomfort at the “militancy” of the players union; while Ward referenced the irregular gambling patterns around the game and recommended that those involved in criticising the association should engage in some self-examination.
No sooner had the two lads ‘dropped’ their podcast, than hordes of Rozzers were revving their vehicles up the foothills of the Dublin mountains to Bray Wanderers’ training base.
The Sun carried the most balanced coverage of the Athlone issue and they were out in front on this story again, revealing that the Friday 8 September friendly between Bray and Waterford was under investigation by the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (aka the fraud squad) following a complaint (see here).
Owen Cowzer further revealed that Bray’s players had also been questioned about four other games, including their Irn-Bru Cup defeat to Elgin and two games Bray actually won.
Exclusive: Five Bray Wanderers games looked at for potential match fixing https://t.co/McDeMzRQbX— Owen Cowzer (@OCowzer) September 15, 2017
News of the Gardaí’s swoop on the Seagulls training ground in Carrickmines was carried across all newspapers, although only the tabloids really strove to add to the information contained in the various statements issued.
Paul O’Hehir writing in the Mirror, revealed that the raid involved “up to ten police cars” (see here). Those of us who, when the occasion demands, attend Rovers-Bohs derbies in the Leinster Senior Cup are used to the feeling that there are more Gardaí than fans at a game, but more coppers than players at a training session must be a new one for Irish football.
More useful information was provided by Paul Lennon in Friday’s Star. Ireland’s brightest daily cast some illumination on the scene by revealing that the original complaint to the Gardaí had involved large three figure bets on the number of goals Waterford would win by, the ‘handicap betting’ market.
The now First Division Champions won 5-0. This differs somewhat from the allegations involving Athlone in that they involve bets placed before the game rather than during it.
Thankfully, there was also some football to distract from the gambling. Saturday’s EA Sports Cup Final dominated the build up to the weekend at the expense of those League of Ireland Premier Division fixtures that were still being played.
Coverage of third or ‘League’ cup competitions, both here and across the water, often revolves around the status of the fixture/tournament for the teams involved. The issue is often more pronounced here given the tendency of our media to, wherever possible, highlight any aspect of the League of Ireland apart from the football.
With the coming-and-going of All-Ireland competitions the prestige level of our own league cup seems to fluctuate somewhat, but most of last week’s coverage seemed to emphasise the importance of Saturday’s clash between Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk.
The tone of the interviews given to Jamie Moore on 98fm’s League of Ireland podcast were perfect examples of this general positivity. Both camps, in the forms of Stephen Kenny and Dave McAllister, were keen to underline that Saturday’s fixture was a “cup final” and, as such, was a match to be savoured.
McAllister noted that the chance to take part in such occasions was a major benefit of a career in the League of Ireland rather than in the lower divisions of the EFL, while Stephen Kenny was happy to place his side’s record of reaching League Cup Finals alongside their other achievements.
Of course, cynics might point out that Kenny actually rested some players for the game.
However, his post-match comments to the Sun maintained the pre-match emphasis: “the three trophies are all important and I treat every cup final like it could be our last” (see here).
A worthy attitude, in both the good and bad sense; but one which Rovers, Bohs, Sligo, and Dundalk fans, amongst others, would have done better to adopt over the years.