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The return of the LOI is like going back to school - it opens up a world of possibilities

‘Today, I’ll be sprinting back to the sport I love,’ writes our League of Ireland columnist John O’Sullivan.

It's back!
It's back!
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

WHEN I WAS a schoolkid, the only aspect of going back to school that I really enjoyed was getting new copybooks and pencil cases. Blank white pages and sharpened pencils seemed to open up a world of possibilities.

Today has that same sense of possibility.

Today the League of Ireland kicks off and we’re all unbeaten, at least until 10pm tonight. Today there’s no proof out there that the dreams and hopes we hold in our heart are far-fetched.

Any of us could be holding a trophy at the end of the season. That exotically named new signing who has looked promising in patches during pre-season might be a world beater despite the fact that his previous club plays in the seventh tier in England.

Those pundits writing off your chances? Sure, what do they know? Dundalk were nearly relegated in 2012 and look at what they did. Who saw that coming?

Anything is possible.

Back in school, over the course of a school year, my copybook would fall foul of sloppy penmanship; a lack of attention would mean that bad handwriting, partially erased errors and red biro corrections from an increasingly frustrated teacher would blot that copybook.

But on the first day back, the copybook was pristine.

2017 SSE Airtricity League Season Launch Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Today, every headline in every paper is focused exclusively within the confines of the pitch. Every feature focuses on players and managers. There are no late payments, no overdue bills. (OK, there’s no bills due yet, but that’s not the point. Today we’re financially stable.)

Today we might break our record attendance. Surely the general public are as excited as we are, how could they be otherwise?

Today, we look at the coverage and the output in the print media and online. Today, we see a shiny new league website and we see wall-to-wall coverage. There are new jerseys that look fantastic on the players in the promo shots and will probably look just as good on us.

Back in school, catching up with mates was great. Recounting summers, you’d embellish stories to match others that in years to come you’d realise were completely made up. You had your uniform and you’d shuffle into class, eyeing up tables, making sure you were sitting around your mates.


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Today, you’ll gather with your mates in your usual haunts before heading to your usual spot. New rituals burned into your mind. You’ll speak of the hopes you have, you’ll ridicule and criticise the opposition.

Limerick fans celebrate their promotion to the premier division Source: Tom Beary/INPHO

Today, you are part of something bigger than yourself, something you’ve missed. Today, all your one-liners will hit the mark, your tactical insight will be lauded as superior to the manager, your mates will tell you it’s you who should be in the dugout.

Today, you’ll scream and shout, groan and moan, have your heart in your mouth even though you wear it on your sleeve. Today, you’re back where you belong.

Today feels like that first day of school in many ways but I never ran into school in September near the pace I ran from it in June. Last year, I walked out of the FAI Cup Final at the Aviva Stadium at a crawl, not wanting to leave the day and the experience behind.

Today, I’ll be sprinting back to the sport I love.

We run to it every year and this year will be different, this will be our best year ever. I don’t have to listen to anyone who says otherwise.

At least until 10pm tonight.

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