There’s not much to say directly about the resignation of Paul O’Brien as manager of Waterford United. Nine goals in eleven games spoke volumes as to the futility of the efforts of the Blues this season, and the only interesting observation that can be made about the manner and timing of his resignation is that he had offered his resignation before the Wexford Youths game at the weekend. I had recently suggested to my neighbour that the first 45 minutes of the game against Longford Town were, despite a fine goal expertly finished off by Michael Coady, the worst I had ever experienced at a sporting venue. “The Cobh game was worse” was his world-weary reply. When you can’t even say there has been entertainment in defeat, it’s time to move on.
But where do the Blues go now? I’ve being banging the drum for the pointlessness of the First Division for a while now, but as we face into a season of no hope I realise now that it’s even worse than I initially thought. While Dundalk, our conquerors in the promotion playoff back in November, have been able to splash the cash on a heavyweight of the domestic game in Stephen Kenny and sail serenely into the top half of the Premier Division, Waterford couldn’t even hang to Gary Dempsey, let alone Seán Maguire. I can’t say with certainty that Longford have been able to hang on to their players, although the presence of Keith Gillespie and his never-ending talking point for fathers of young children at the RSC (“did you know he played for Man Utd?” “Yes, you told me that last time Longford were here. And the time before that, and before that . . .”) suggests there is some money behind them even to this day. For the rest of the teams in the First Division, it’s a question of cobbling together a squad of junior players at the start of the season, bereft of any knowledge of how these players might fare as a team or how they might cope with the step-up to the senior game – and it is a step-up, despite any jaundiced impression I might give to the contrary – and seeing how they get on. A couple of years ago the Blues were able to supplement such a squad with a known talent like they did with Liam Kearney. No one of that stature these days at the RSC, and it’s showing.
So far, so rehashed (not that that’s ever stopped me in the past). What’s new in the aftermath of O’Brien’s resignation is the feeling that there’s nothing to be done about. Our recent bête noire, Mervue United, operate under similar restrictions and it looks like they’ve gotten it right for the 2013 season. Good for them, and amidst this moaning about the unfairness of the system it shouldn’t be forgotten that everyone else in the division has the same problem. However, the Blues are now locked into a scenario where things can’t get any better. They’re committed to the squad assembled in the close season and that’s that. It would take a genius of Alex Ferguson-proportions to transform them into contenders, and while he is an unrealistic option even the realistic ones – Pete Mahon’s name has been mentioned – don’t look that, well, realistic, especially with the Shelbourne job up for grabs. Who would want to come here when they can go there?
I’ve argued before that the solution to such doom-laden prognostications is for a one-division League of Ireland. At least if there’s nothing to play for you can look forward to the visits of the top teams every now and again. Things are getting so doom-laden for the Blues though (and losing last night to Limerick in the League Cup won’t help; another potential visit from a top team knocked on the head, and the manner of defeat was grim as well) that I’m beginning to wonder whether anything can jolt the club out of the seemingly terminal decline. In the current League of Ireland, they don’t come much bigger than Sligo Rovers. If the city can’t get the blood up for their visit on Saturday week, the counsels of despair could become deafening.