Tag Archives: Monaghan United

Monsters Inc

A few weeks back in the glorious days of Tramore Hinterland (“glorious” because my utterings were actually worth something tangible), I wrote about how the decline of the League of Ireland seemed to have bottomed out. As the league resumes after the break for the European Championships, the news that came out of Monaghan last Monday made such a notion look narcissistic. I’m following it on a regular basis now so it must be okay, right? Wrong, and what’s more you have to worry that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

There’s a very good article on Extratime which shows with whom the fault lies in the League of Ireland – everybody, which is a counter-intuitive way of looking at it given the viewpoint of Shelbourne chairman Joe Casey that neither the FAI or Monaghan United is to blame. Joe is being too kind. It’s staggering to see that most clubs will pay more to be part of the League of Ireland than they’ll ever receive in prize money. Are the FAI trying to set clubs up for a fall? On the other hand, his mindset reflects that despite everything there’s still an inate inability in the League to live within your means. I know he’s making a general point and it’s unfair to zero in on examples chucked out in the course of an interview, but are we really meant to be believe that it’s impossible to legislate for pitch damage and Garda costs? We’re talking about a club who employed Roddy Collins, who you can be sure didn’t come cheap, yet have the cheek in their Twitter feed to blame the FAI for everything. Yep, everyone involved is to blame, and trying to absolve people on the basis that they all have the best of intentions is just going to let the problem fester.

Seeing as I was getting all radical yesterday regarding that most sacred of cows known as the Munster hurling championship, a little fighting talk regarding the League of Ireland will not go amiss. The FAI should embrace the opportunity from this crisis to impose some form of collective bargaining on the League of Ireland. It may sound corny to say that soccer is predicated on a system where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, but it’s true. When Manchester City won the English Premier League last season they received more prize money than anyone else. So they get rewarded for their success and their opponents get proportionately punished for their failure. It’s the economics of the madhouse, yet I’d guess it’s the way every league in Europe is set up.

Ironically the Premier League has got progressive tendencies. Thanks to the collective TV deal clubs lower down the league get far more than they would get in a purely free market system. For evidence of what happens in such a system, look no further than Spain. And don’t concentrate on the points tally, the goal difference is much more telling:

I’m not sure how collective bargaining would work in practice. The more radical elements, such as sharing all ticket revenue, would probably be illegal under EU law as a restriction on trade. But the FAI need to ensure that every club has a minimum source of income so they can’t turn around and claim that they couldn’t afford to pay the costs of policing games. Something has to give. The authorities cannot seriously think ‘more of the same’ is the way forward. Can they?

Oh, and before anyone blames the average Irish soccer fan and their event-junkie mentality which sees them spend thousands going to Gdansk but won’t spend tens to go to Gortakeegan, just remember that while you might be righteously correct it’s not usually a good idea to blame your potential customers for your failures, mmkaay?

Bottom dwellers

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.

Football, eh? Bloody hell!

The words of Alex Ferguson after the fateful (for Liverpool fans) 1999 European Cup final were ringing in my ears last night as Waterford United contrived to throw away a two goal lead midway through the second half and lose 4-2 to Monaghan United, effectively ending any pretensions to finishing top of the division. With Derry drawing last night, the Blues would have been only two points off the top. Now the best case scenario is beating Shelbourne away in the final game, thus leapfrogging them into third and getting into the playoffs, which would be against Monaghan or Derry away. Some ‘best case’.

The demoralising thing about the manner in which the Blues’ season has unfolded is that Monaghan’s year is a mirror image of Waterford 2009 campaign: bobbing around in the top three, having a good FAI Cup run and losing the League Cup final. A mirror image, that is, right up to the denouement of the league season, because while Monaghan are powering away into the top two and probably winning the division outright, Waterford are falling apart just like they did last season. While it’s dispiriting that Monaghan United (Est. 1979) are running rings around the venerable old Blues, one should learn to accept that Waterford United long-running woes have meant we are no more entitled to Rodney Dangerfield-style respect than Monaghan are – Waterford United might was well have been est-ed in 2010 for all the attention I’ve given them. But what is going on that the current generation of Waterford United players seem to implode when going gets tough? I have no insight into whether Stephen Henderson is capable of providing an answer to that question. But we’re going nowhere if it isn’t.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch . . .

At the back end of 2008, this writer was in Australia for the Compromise Rules. There was a series of cafes in Perth, along a street, and the smell of cooking made the body desire some food. The ‘Sporting Limerick’ jersey was on me upon walking in, and the Asian counterman said to me in a broken English accent, ‘Do you know what the greatest sporting occasion in the world is?’ Assuming he was referring to something from that side of the world I replied ‘The Melbourne Cup’, ‘The Bledisloe Cup’. ‘No, No’ he replied, ‘the greatest sporting occasion in the world is the Munster hurling final’. It turns out that he had been to Ireland a year earlier, and visited Semple Stadium for the Waterford vs Limerick decider, sealed by the late Dan Shanahan goals. A small world eh. Truthfully, it brought a tear to my eye.

Cute story there from Henry Martin over on AFR, and while one should not be too hasty to read too much into such an isolated encounter it does show what the footballers of all stripes in Waterford are up against. The Déise of the soccer variety are coming apart, once again falling to the might of Monaghan United. Last year the Blues could plausibly claim that their paper-thin squad was struggling to keep things going in three competitions. So what will be the excuse this year, especially when you consider that Monaghan, hardly giants of the game, are trying the same trick this year and are able to beat Waterford with seeming impunity? It looks bleak for the Blues at the moment and being out of the cups means there ain’t much light at the end of the tunnel.

Then there’s the other footballers. They’ve already had a great year but those achievements shouldn’t, in the manner of Noel Gallagher, stop them demanding more. Limerick’s remarkable brush with triumph against Kerry last week should give Waterford confidence that a newly promoted team from Division Four should have what it takes to beat the likes of Offaly. The Biffs do have home advantage, one they used to great effect in beating Clare in the previous round. One fears that those wily old stagers will have too much for a Waterford team who might already be getting in their our-hands-were-tied excuses.

Something of the night about them

Tuesday night’s match against Shelbourne represented the first real obstacle in my attempts to connect with Waterford United. When living in Liverpool, going to night time matches was a chore. You’d get home, have maybe an hour to wolf down your dinner and perform the multitude of daily tasks that have accrued to any 21st century home owning man – sometimes you’d even have to do the food prep yourself, Goddammit! – before engaging in a madcap charge up to the ground a good ninety minutes before kickoff so you could be sure of getting a decent parking space. Getting away was an exercise in torment as 44,000 people tried to squeeze through the bottlenecks around Anfield. It was always enjoyable when you were in the ground, but there were many times when but for having already laid down £35 for a ticket I’d have stayed at home and played Pro Evolution Soccer.

So forgive me Father for I have sinned – the relief that flooded through me when the match was called off was dangerously close to a mortal one. Admittedly parking and quick getaways are not a problem at the RSC but finishing work at half five, getting back to Tramore, eating without chewing then getting back to Waterford leaves about, ooh, half an hour for me time. How diehards not only do this but actually seem to revel in it . . . perhaps I’m getting old.

It makes you grateful for the more intense nature of the hurling championship, where even the nature of local rivalries means even a devalued-by-the-back-door Munster championship retains its charge. Bundling all the excitement into a few matches allows you to get a ferocious hit and time to enjoy the more tranquil pace of real life. League soccer is often called a marathon, not a sprint. At times it feels more like thirty-something marathons.

Then to put the tin hat on proceedings, I only noticed the Monaghan match was on last night five minutes before kick-off. Like the Blues, I must try harder.