The SSE Airtricity League – yes, that SSE, although at least it’s not G4S – returns to the RSC tonight.
It’s probably recency bias at work, but I feel a lot better about the prospects for the First Division this year than the last couple of seasons. The creation of Galway FC plays up to one of my prejudices, i.e. that the League of Ireland would benefit from tapping into the GAA zeal for the county. It’s more exciting to be facing up to the entirety of Galway city and county than the representatives from Mervue, Salthill or Devon. Shelbourne may be a shadow of the club that won multiple trophies in the 1990’s, but I’d like to think that the endeavours of the Blues in the 1960’s and 1970’s still count for something. There are several teams in the Premier Division who are less likely to set the pulses racing than Shels, so it’s nice to have them around. And speaking of heavyweight clubs, who should we have but Shamrock Rovers! Okay, not the real Rovers, and objectively it’s a horror show that the League is reduced to this. Fully 10% of the senior clubs are now Shamrock Rovers. But subjectively, there’s something pleasing about the prospect of taking them on, even in shadow form. There’s certainly going to be some novelty value, so bring them on!
Not that you would be confident that Waterford United are going to be in any position to knock them down. The definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome and, alas, that looks to be the way the Blues are going. When Stephen Henderson left by mutual consent/was sacked midway through the 2011 season, the response was to replace him internally with Paul O’Brien. Two years, Paul O’Brien left by mutual consent/was sacked and was replaced internally by Tommy Griffin. In a league where it’s nigh on impossible to buy yourself a winning team – because no one has any money – managers can make a huge difference and there was little in the second half of last season to suggest that Griffin had discovered the magic formula that likes of, say, Roddy Collins seems to have. Athlone got him, we didn’t, and look where we all are now.
I’m being unfair here. No doubt Roddy Collins or, say, Mick Cooke, doesn’t come cheap in themselves, and maybe Tommy Griffin has welded together a winning combination. Time to find out.