Soccer: Just like the good old days
Last Monday night at Turner’s Cross brought us back in time, to what a journalist recently called the Golden Age of Irish soccer. It wasn’t all that long ago, either. We’re not talking here about pre- Common Market days when things were all so different.
No, the Golden Age, allegedly, happened in the early part of this century; from 2000 or thereabouts up to about 2008. It was a time when we could watch exciting, skilful football without having to get a cable or satellite subscription. A great many of the players, particularly with the bigger clubs, were full-time professionals.
Behind the scenes, however, overspending was reaching crisis point. When the overspending became public knowledge, it was almost too late for many clubs. Sporting Fingal are no more, Monaghan Utd withdrew from the League this season, and a number of clubs are still in a difficult financial situation. With all that’s happened in the past few years, it’s been difficult to get excited about League of Ireland football.
But there are bright spots. After an embarrassing hammering away to UCD, Cork City turned in a performance last Monday night against second-placed Drogheda Utd which had fans dreaming of a return to the glory days.
Determination, skill, courage and imagination were on display as City won a thrilling, sometimes controversial match by three goals to two. Not even a controversial penalty and sending off could upset the home side, with City re-taking the lead only minutes after the penalty which had brought the scores back to 2-2.
During the closing minutes, in contrast to previous times this season when City have been holding on to a lead, it wasn’t backs to the wall stuff. Despite being a player short, City continued to attack and could have scored a fourth goal just before full time. The huge ovation which greeted the final whistle spoke volumes of how much the disappointingly small attendance of 1,392 appreciated the performance. Defeat in the FAI Cup in Tallaght on Friday night was disappointing, but even then, City played some good football, though with a serious lack of penetration up front.
The fans, particularly City fans, appreciated the display they witnessed, but not too many were very appreciative of the person who decided that it was a good idea to have a full round of League fixtures on a Monday night. There are two obvious reasons for this. The first is the rather obvious fact that the vast majority of League of Ireland players are part-timers and long journeys for a match on a week night necessitates players taking time off work, something for which they must be compensated. Arranging the matches for that particular Monday night was another master stroke. The first Monday night of the much-hyped English Premier League season with Sky Sports covering Manchester Utd’s opening match; did nobody think that such timing would take from attendances around the country.
The FAI’s slogan is; We Care About Irish Football.