The FAI gets flak over all manner of things, with justification in most cases. But it’s only fair to point out when it gets things right and their elegant playoff system for the League of Ireland is one of those occasions. It keeps things interesting for the whole season as the top three is a reasonable target for most teams in the First Division and finishing in the bottom three is a constant source of dread for many of the teams in the Premier Division. It puts a premium on winning the First Division title because they are the only team who don’t have to go through the minefield that is the playoffs, although there is a benefit to finishing second as it confers home advantage against the team that finished third.
And it is an advantage, as Galway United demonstrated last night in ensuring their survival. The fact that Waterford United couldn’t make it count against Monaghan United reflects the unerring ability of the Blues to screw up, both when it comes to playoffs and when playing Monaghan – unbelievably it’s the fourth time they’ve lost this season to the ‘Magic Mons’ (note the subtle editing on Wikipedia, surprisingly not from an embittered Blue after last night’s result).
So where to for the Blues in 2011? Derry’s promotion might help matters. Unlike Cork Whatevers they were a proper Premier Division club with Premier Division resources, so they were always going to be strong favourites for promotion. It’s a thesis undermined by the fact that the paupers of UCD got five more points in 2009 than Derry did in 2010, but if Derry were still in the First Division no one would be looking past them as likely champions while there will be no obvious candidate next year. It would also be nice if Monaghan went up. Heck, I’ve seen us beat Bray not once but twice so that must auger well should they end up back in the lower tier. No doubt there will be much debate on the future of the manager, which I’ll leave to more informed / irrational souls. One thing’s for sure – it’s going to be a long, bitter winter for Waterford United and it’s fans.