Great Finish, But League Still A Virtual Secret
The Last Word by Brendan White
(first published in the November 2010 Monaghan United play-off match programme)
Last Friday’s 2-1 win in Tolka Park against Shelbourne was a great night for all Waterford United supporters. Before the game however, I couldn’t help but become very agitated by a discussion I had heard on the radio while en route to Dublin.
The first problem I had with this discussion was that it was entitled ‘the current state of the domestic game’. The word ‘state’ may not have been intentionally used in the negative but after its use I wasn’t too optimistic as to how the conversation would proceed in a positive light for the League.
What followed, though, was something I hope I never have to listen to again. Many people phoned in and made their feelings known about the League but the presenter seemed to have his mind set that there wasn’t much positivity to be found. A fantastic and exciting finish to the Premier Division wasn’t good enough; a similarly fascinating finish to the First Division barely got a mention either.
One text read out asked why there was no mention on the 12pm or 1pm sports bulletins of Shamrock Rovers winning the League the previous night, their first Premier Division success for 16-years. The explanation was that it was already ‘old news’ by that time. That statement pretty much summed up the discussion.
Radio stations promoting sports teams and their Leagues, whether local or national, play a vital role in helping teams survive financially. The argument was that the newspapers and online coverage was covering the League pretty well already which to an extent is true. But radio stations have the advantage to reach out to the many, many people who for example drive regularly to work, from work, during work and everyone else who listens too. These are people who could support their local team if they knew the goings on in it.
Another text sent in said that the only time the League is covered properly in the press is when trouble is in the air, as the recent St Patrick’s Athletic and Shamrock Rovers match in Richmond Park proved. This was a minor incident, by a similarly minor group, who wanted trouble and got it. It was a disappointing end to a good Cup semi-final but was once again blown out of all proportion.
One Dublin radio station even found it ‘juicy’ enough to include it on its late night talk show; one must wonder whether they even knew the match was taking place before they caught wind of the violence. The highlights were so ‘good’ that it even made it onto the late news on the television.
Whatever people may say about the coverage of the Premier Division, the First Division is pretty much a best kept secret by parts of the press. Most newspapers may include the results, and maybe even a League table if you’re lucky, but a match report from the First Division from this season would be like gold dust to supporters. Four teams went into the last series of matches with a chance to finish in a number of places, from 1st to 4th in the First Division. The excitement over the see-saw Premier Division title race certainly overshadowed the second tier.
Local press is vital to get the League and its news out to the people. Live matches and updates are what we want and are certainly lucky to get, especially in Waterford having two radio stations and numerous written publications. Derry City is also one that comes to mind when a lone commentator travels the length of the country to single-handedly commentate on away games.
But the excitement of Saturday night in Tolka Park, and the rollercoaster that has been the First Division this season, is the reason the League will continue to keep interest. A tight and competitive League is what we, the supporters, want and thankfully have been treated to. Some of the football played in the First Division has been top class from a number of teams.
Super saves, outstanding goals and a fascinating end to the regular season is the reason we watch football, and particularly League of Ireland football. Changes may be upon us in the near future, who knows, but as the final texter to that show said, this League “is what it is” and we accept, embrace, and maybe even love it for that.