Gearing Up

'What does the League of Ireland mean to me? Everything. I'd be homeless and unemployed without it'

With the 2020 season about to get underway, The42 asked some of those players, managers and volunteers on the coalface one simple question…

THE PAIN, PLEASURE, privilege and the pints.

Ahead of the start of this season’s SSE Airtricity League, The42 asked some of those players, managers and volunteers at the coalface one simple question: what does the League of Ireland mean to you?

Answers could be one word, one line or one stream of consciousness.

All were from the heart.

Vinny Perth (Dundalk manager)

vinny-perth Oisin Keniry / INPHO Oisin Keniry / INPHO / INPHO

“I’m someone who has stood at Harold’s Cross watching St Pats, stood in Richmond Park, watching St Pats, someone who has… I lived close to the Dunne family, Richard Dunne’s father used to bring us to games every Sunday afternoon.

“I remember Gabriel Egan’s voice on a Sunday afternoon. For me, I’m steeped in it. I love it. When Irish clubs play in Europe I go and watch them if I can and actually almost cheer them on….

“I got a little bit of stick for going to watch [Shamrock] Rovers last year in Europe and cheering them on because I believe in what we do, I believe in Irish football.

“We’ve got to sort ourselves out first before we start wondering why people aren’t taking us 100 per cent seriously. This league has real scope and we have to push it.”

Ian Bermingham (St Patrick’s Athletic captain)

ian-bermingham-protests-the-decision-to-award-bohemians-a-penalty Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

“It’s been my life. For the last 15 years I’ve given everything I could to play in the league. I’ve been able to enjoy amazing moments with my friends and family because of it.”

Joe Casey (Shelbourne chairman)

lorcan-fitzgerald-and-deane-delany-lift-the-trophy Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

“We wouldn’t survive without our volunteers, it’s as simple as that. There is so much sacrifice but it is worth it, we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t love it. I’ll give you an example. Gavin White would volunteer on the media side of things, promoting the club and using social media to help spread what we’re doing.

“The other night he is cycling down the back roads to the AUL in the lashing rain to do some video stuff with the players. He’s on his bike when he’s getting blown all over the road and he gets nothing for that in terms of money. He doesn’t even get a bloody season ticket for it.

“The season is about to start and we can’t wait. We’re back in the Premier Division and it just feels like we’re there at a time when we know we’re doing things the right way, we’re building something that isn’t on sand. We all know what happened under Ollie [Byrne], we’ve fought back from that time over the last 12, 13 years and what I would say now is we have something real, something pure. It’s not just going to collapse.

“There are young volunteers and people within the club who want to drive things forward. Six years ago they were boycotting games and protesting against me because of the decision to go to Dalymount. But they’re older now, some are married and have kids, they are the ones coming with fresh ideas and helping to drive things forward.

Chris Shields (Dundalk midfielder)

chris-shields-after-the-game Ciaran Culligan / INPHO Ciaran Culligan / INPHO / INPHO

“It’s everything. Without it I’d be unemployed and homeless. I’m missing my wife’s 30th birthday because of Friday’s game so it also provides me funds to apologise with flowers.”

Ronan Finn (Shamrock Rovers midfielder)

ronan-finn-celebrates-with-the-trophy Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

“I’ve been in the league for 15 years now. It’s something that’s a privilege to be a part of. It’s all I know really, in terms of football. I’ve had very successful days, but I’ve also been relegated into the First Division. I’ve had some real lows in football. That’s what it’s all about.

“Eventually when I do retire, I’m sure I’ll look back on my career and be proud of the achievements. But there’s a few years left and I’m hoping to add more medals to my collection. But I’m very proud to represent Shamrock Rovers now and over the past few years. Clubs beyond that, it’s your national league and someone you’re proud to represent.”

Luke Byrne (Shelbourne defender)

colin-mccabe-and-luke-byrne-celebrate-winning-the-league James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“It allows me to do what I love.”

David Cawley (Sligo Rovers midfielder)

david-cawley-celebrates-his-side-scorig-a-goal Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

“I’m at a stage in my career now where this is it for me, the League of Ireland is my livelihood and it’s my working life. I’m not going to be getting a move to England, I’m not going anywhere like that, that’s not going to happen for me now so you need to prepare for what’s to come when this is all finished.”

Stephen McGuinness (PFA Ireland general secretary)

stephen-mcguinness Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

“It’s real.”

Keith Buckley (Bohemians captain)

keith-buckley-celebrates-after-the-game Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO


Robbie McCourt (Waterford midfielder)

robbie-mccourt Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

“It means a lot to be honest. I’d love the League of Ireland to do well and it’s grown a lot in the last couple of years. I’ve been a League of Ireland fan since a young age, I live two seconds away from Dalymount Park. I used to go to all the matches and my whole family are big League of Ireland supporters, so it does mean quite a lot to me.”

Ollie Horgan (Finn Harps manager)

ollie-horgan Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

“Oh, Jesus Christ. It’s madness. It’s headaches. It can be brilliant and it can drive you mad. The off season is a tough time for us but once the games start that’s when everyone can try to take it all in and try to enjoy the night. Friday night cannot come quick enough for us. Friday nights, the games, that’s what it’s all about.”

Andy Myler (UCD manager)

a-general-view-belfield-bowl Tommy Dickson / INPHO Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

“I know that hashtag Greatest League in the World. For me, I’ve played all my football in the League of Ireland. Done all my coaching in the League of Ireland. So from a football perspective, it’s meant everything to me.

“I’ve done all my activity there. It’ll be great to see the changes, what’s coming along the line with the FAI, we can actually grow it into a product that people can be proud of. There’s a room of people here who really want to make that happen, and we just need to be positive about it and actually move it forward.

Brendan Clarke (St Patrick’s Athletic goalkeeper)

brendan-clarke-takes-a-kick-out Simon Larsson / INPHO Simon Larsson / INPHO / INPHO

“There have been highs and lows, experiences and memories, celebrations and regrets. But always living for Friday nights.”

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