You’ve no doubt seen the videos by now. Whether it was ‘we’re f***ing magnificent’ or ‘downing a shot’, they’re all as embarrassing as the next; a point of ridicule across the continent. But while the suits in jerseys were living it large last week, their domestic league was once again falling apart.
On Monday morning, while sitting at my desk in work, an email landed in the inbox. ‘Monaghan United Press Release’, read the subject line. Nothing unusual there, apart from the fact it was Monday and press releases from clubs are rarely seen at the beginning of the week. Perhaps it was a new signing, I thought before the email opened.
Then I read it.
“Monaghan United after much deliberation and soul searching have decided to bring to an end its involvement in Airtricity League of Ireland, this decision was a hard one and not taken lightly but it was felt that this was the only real option left to us at this time.”
There were no hints of this happening and little warning apart from pleas for an increase in fundraising a few weeks before. For many supporters of the league it came as a major shock.
But, the worst thing of all was that some of the players weren’t even notified. Stephen Maher took to Twitter to voice his disgust at not being informed by the club. How did he find out? By seeing a tweet. To not notify a member of staff before the general public were informed was, regardless of where you stand on the side of the argument, is poor form.
The story coming from a source close to the club on Monday was that two senior players had been informed of the decision and were asked to spread the bad news to their soon-to-be-former teammates. What more than likely happened was that the statement was released before some members of the squad had got the news.
Meanwhile Roddy Collins, who was on holiday in the Canaries at the time, was informed shortly before the statement was released. It all points towards a quickfire decision by the club, despite the aforementioned deliberation and soul searching in their statement.
Making countless phone calls to the club (who, to give them credit, were willing to answer every question put their way), the FAI and PFAI on Monday it was clear that everybody was on a different wavelength.
With the majority of the association in Poland, it caught them very much off-guard. When a call was put in to a press officer that is usually very efficient an hour after the statement was released, he admitted that the Association still needed to draft a response because they were so surprised by the decision.
Why then, did Monaghan chairman Jim McGlone insist that they had met with league representatives in the days leading up to the decision? You don’t need me to tell you that one side has been misleading with the truth.
In addition, the PFAI’s very strongly worded statement about the players not being informed was an indicator that they were caught on the hop by the decision too. Although, disappointingly, they refused to comment further when contacted following their initial communication.
By Wednesday and as the post-mortem of Ireland’s disastrous performance in Poland continued, the news of Monaghan’s demise was forgotten about by mainstream media. No mention on the news bulletins and little information in the papers, it was all being swept under the carpet.
Yet mentions of John Delaney ‘being alright now’ continued. He was great craic after a few pints, sure, despite being laughed at by many of his contemporaries at the tournament for his laddish behaviour. The banners unfurled by numerous sets of supporters on Friday night said it all, Derry’s effort ‘FAI drinks, LoI club sink’ telling you all you need to know about what the most passionate fans in the country think of the past week.
No, Monaghan didn’t have the greatest fanbase in the country and probably shouldn’t have been allowed into the top tier if they were struggling so much but the incident, once again for the umpteenth time, highlights the longlist of failures that belong to those running the game.
To clarify, this is by no means a dig at Delaney for enjoying himself. Instead, it is an attempt to highlight how detached the FAI’s hierarchy are from the domestic game. While their clubs struggle financially, they’re enjoying what was effectively a holiday.
Spending some of his €400,000 salary on buying supporters of the national team drink is all well and good if the prize money for being the top club in the country was more than 25% of the CEO’s annual income. When you take into account that the accumulated fees from clubs every season outweighs the prize money, then it’s clear as day that the link between the league and Association is far from a two-way asymmetrical one. The FAI were meant to improve the league when the assumed full control over it, not create a perception where many now believe they take more money out than is put back in.
Agree with Alan’s comments or do you have an issue with his criticism of the Association? Tweet him @alansmith90.
Alan Smith has been writing for ExtraTime since 2008. He works as a full-time journalist based in Cork, working as a sub-editor for TCM and freelancing for a range of national titles. Follow him on twitter @alansmith90.