There was a very welcome visitor to the sports department (my desk) on Monday morning in the shape of Tom Red, our horse-racing correspondent. Conversation started with a look ahead to the racing season in Roscommon before turning to soccer, both domestic and international.
We both lamented the decline of football in general and particularly in terms of homegrown talent available in the Premier League. It seems this Premier League bashing has become popular of late and probably with good reason too!
We also touched on the shenanigans at Athlone Town FC where a match-fixing scandal is the latest setback to afflict a club, which once frightened the great AC Milan over two legs in the Uefa Cup (remember that?). Tom and I both agreed that the ownership of the club had had a big part to play in allowing standards to slip in recent years. We also agreed that both of us had been part of an unofficial boycott of our favourite local clubs (he Athlone, me St. Patrick’s Athletic) due to the way in which the clubs had been run.
Funnily enough, Tom’s faith started to decline due to Athlone’s failure to pin down a hero of mine at St. Pat’s, Trevor Molloy. My own patience ran out over the course of a few seasons but started with a belief that not enough was being done by League of Ireland clubs in their communities. While I’ve relaxed my stance due to certain improvements, I fear Tom’s has hardened.
The weather on Monday was far too nice for our conversation to be all doom and gloom, however, and we eulogised about the Shelbourne side which held Deportivo La Coruna at Lansdowne Road as well as Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers’ exploits in Europe.
We ended our chat in agreement that if the right people got involved and the proper support was given to Irish clubs, it would be possible to see regular participation in European competition. With the English Premier League seemingly in decline, now could be the time for those who govern Irish football to come up with a plan to discourage talented players from wasting their development years among the big money reserve teams cross channel.