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'We don’t have best stadia, best players or most glamorous league, but we have stories to tell'

Sometimes it takes an outsider to highlight the value of what you have, writes John O’Sullivan.

Updated at 19.15

OVER 110,000 PEOPLE have watched two videos on League of Ireland clubs in the past week, at a time when European competitions has elevated awareness of the League among the general public.

I’m sure anyone with an interest in our League will have seen, or at least be aware of the excellent videos produced by Copa90 on Cork City and Bohs (see below).

Source: Copa90/YouTube

I’ve seen many people comment that the videos, particularly Bohs’, are the best pieces of promotion done on the league in years; it’s hard to argue. The production value and storytelling within the videos are exceptional. Sometimes it takes an outsider to highlight the value of what you have.

I was interviewed by Copa90 for the Cork City piece in a pub beer garden just before kick off on our first game back in Europe in seven years. It was very relaxed, we chatted for a while as we watched some of the Skonto Riga v Pat’s game in a pub full of City fans urging on the Dublin side. Then I spoke on camera for about five minutes. It only took two people from Copa90 with curiosity, intelligent questions, a small handheld camera and editing skills to produce such strong videos.

The response on social media, YouTube and online sports sites was peppered with fans of clubs around the country pushing for that similar coverage, highlighting their own compelling and interesting stories.

It begged the question, why don’t we do it ourselves? It seems so simple in hindsight. The most compelling aspect of the Copa90 videos is that it’s largely fans sharing their stories and their passion, punctuated with footage of fans voicing that passion at games. What is any club if it’s not the people in and around it? What better way to explain to a wider audience the importance of the league. Let our fans become storytellers.

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We don’t have the world’s best stadia, best players or most glamorous league, but we have stories to tell that are as funny, sad, engaging, frustrating and inspiring as any story from any sport in any part of the world. Is Munster playing the All Blacks a more engaging story than the game between Athlone Town and AC Milan? Not to me. Is the casting aside of rivalries and club loyalties to support Mark Farren or Gary O’Neill a story that should be told, and remembered? Of course it is.

Source: Copa90/YouTube

Like all leagues we have goals, tackles, matches, series of games and leagues, but that’s mechanics. Our story is being a league is full of characters and memories that should be shared. No one falls in love with a club because of a good goal or even a league win. It’s the experiences, good or bad, the friends and the stories that you collect along the way that grabs you, and keeps you. The League is small enough that we know each other’s stories and legends; small enough that we can enjoy them and small enough that we recognise each other’s lies too.

We are an Island with a reputation for storytelling that doesn’t tell the stories of our league well enough. If we want to highlight to non-supporters what they’re missing; we need to explain what we would miss.

The FAI has a responsibility to collect and preserve the stories of our league whether they like to be reminded of the content or not. Clubs share that responsibility, individually and collectively. We can’t be reliant on the curiosity of an English company trying to tell the small stories from the world’s game, no matter the quality of their product.

When I interviewed for the Copa90 piece, the backdrop behind me was a Cork City flag featuring the crest from the Arkaga and Tom Coughlan era. We chatted about it, the €75,000 that Arkaga reportedly paid to have it designed and how City fans largely hated it, with many refusing to acknowledge it. The lads from Copa asked me if I’d prefer to do the interview against a different backdrop, but I didn’t. It’s is part of our history, part of our story.

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