There have been plenty of League of Ireland related pictures doing the rounds on social media during the Euros. The most famous of all shows current Irish internationals wearing the jerseys of their former League of Ireland clubs.
It’s a fantastic endorsement of the league and it shows what can be achieved by clubs across Ireland, but it is, or should be, a mere drop in the ocean.
There have been a few major tournaments involving the Republic of Ireland and plenty of opportunities for the FAI to improve the game at grassroots level in this country. But let’s face it; very little has been done to promote our national league.
This fact was hammered home recently as Athlone Town manager, Alan Matthews, finally ran out of patience and resigned from his post. Now there are many problems at boardroom level at that club but Athlone Town is merely the latest club to face extinction in the face. It might be Athlone this week, but it’ll be some other regional club the next.
The League of Ireland remains the problem child of a Football Association that would rather spend its summers following the senior internationals. Fair enough, but without a strong league and an emphasis on grassroots development there will soon be no major tournament involvement.
The Genesis Report helped to improve matters at senior international level, now it’s time to carry out a similar review of domestic football. Two issues for discussion could be the emphasis on winning trophies at underage level and League of Ireland clubs getting out into communities and schools and creating new stakeholders and supporters.
Of course a review of this nature will be neither easy or quick but with a more streamlined approach Irish football can one day have even more than 8 players in League of Ireland kits for a photo op!