Airtricity League continues to be overshadowed

The Airtricity League began under a cloud this year with 2005 champions Cork City going out of business due to financial problems.

The League of Ireland changed to summer soccer in 2003 and, along with the introduction of full time professional players, the standard of the league has improved.

However, this has led to problems with clubs spending more than they can afford. This season we have seen many clubs return to part time football.

Soccer is the largest sport in terms of playing numbers in Ireland but low attendances and lack of interest continue to plague the league.

The vast majority of people interested in soccer support teams who play in the English Premier League or the Scottish giants Celtic.

There is an obvious gulf in class between the leagues with some of the world’s top players on view in the English league.

When a player begins to shine in the Airtricity League the talk soon turns to what English team will he be sold to.

Last year Keith Fahey and Jay O’Shea were two of the stars of the League of Ireland, they signed for Birmingham City and Fahey has impressed in appearances this year.

Kevin Doyle and Shane Long signed for Reading from Cork City in 2005 and both have become internationals since their move, with Doyle now first choice alongside Robbie Keane.

Brian Murphy, the 2009 League of Ireland Player of the Year, signed for Ipswich Town in the January transfer window and has made 14 appearances since then.

The Airtricity League will always struggle to attract large crowds when the players who represent the national team all play their football abroad.

The Irish rugby provinces of Munster and Leinster are able to sell out grounds of 20,000 each week, as they have international players like Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell.

It’s unrealistic to think that players such as Duff or Keane will ever play in the Airtricity League as the wages they can earn abroad are so big.

League of Ireland games tend to take place on Friday or Monday evenings so that they do not clash with Premier League games. This is done to encourage people to attend, but other things must be done.

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