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Dublin: 7°C Wednesday 28 October 2020
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Chart of the day: has summer football made a difference for Irish teams in Europe?

We look at the statistics since the Champions League began and compare Irish teams’ records before and after summer soccer was conceived.

Image: INPHO/James Crombie

IT’S BEEN A mixed few weeks for Irish clubs in Europe.

Shamrock Rovers passed a stiff test against FC Tallinn of Estonia earlier in the week; however barring a miracle, Bohemians look unlikely to recover from their 2-0 first-leg defeat tonight and beat Olimpija Ljubljana on aggregate.

St Pat’s play Kazakh side Shakhter Karagandy this evening in Inchicore chasing a 2-1 deficit from the first leg.

One of the primary reasons for introducing summer football in the first place was so that it would enable clubs to perform better in European qualifiers, given that teams would be in peak condition physically when the games took place.

We’ve researched this to determine whether it’s actually worked out in the Champions League and the results speak for themselves… In the nine seasons since summer football was introduced in the League of Ireland, teams from the league have won over two legs on 10 occasions, compared with just twice in the nine seasons prior to the introduction of summer football.

However, these statistics prove deceptive, as Irish sides nowadays have a considerable advantage, as there are more teams in the competition and thus, there is a greater likelihood they will face inferior sides.

In addition, League of Ireland winners were required to enter the UEFA Cup between 1994 and 1996, so they consequently had less opportunities to register victories.

(Before Shamrock Rovers’ victory this week, Shelbourne in 2004 were the only other side to reach the third qualifying round of the Champions League – INPHO/Morgan Treacy)

And Irish teams have only failed to reach the second round once (in 2007) since summer football began, compared with only three times ever prior to its inception.

Again, be warned that there are a greater number of weaker teams around now compared with before, while Irish teams have been granted automatic passages to the second round in recent seasons.

Therefore, there has been little evidence of drastic improvement in recent years, however there is scope to claim that Irish sides are slowly improving. Apart from Shamrock Rovers, Shelbourne (in 2004) are the only other Irish side to reach the third qualifying round since the format was introduced.

Our graphs below also demonstrates improvement. Keep in mind we’ve chosen to ignore 1994-1996 when Irish clubs didn’t enter the competition and counted results from 1992-1993 instead.

Post 2003 - CL ties played: 19; Ties won: 10; Win percentage: 53%

Pre 2003 – CL ties played: 10; Ties won: 3; Win percentage: 33 %

Do you think summer soccer has made a real difference to Irish soccer, generally? Have your say…

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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