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Dublin: 12°C Thursday 13 May 2021

Stuart Byrne column: Unfair to cast aspersions about the league after one match

In his final column of the season, Stuey discusses Roddy’s remarks and how improvements can be made to marketing the LOI.

Pat's skipper Ger O'Brien (right) and Derry's Rory Patterson during the FAI Cup final.
Pat's skipper Ger O'Brien (right) and Derry's Rory Patterson during the FAI Cup final.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

A LOT HAS been made about comments from Roddy Collins yesterday, who suggested that League of Ireland is a poorer standard than England’s League Two.

According to Roddy, he was relaying a statement made to him by Luton Town manager John Still after the weekend’s FAI Cup final between Derry City and St Patrick’s Athletic.

Now I’m not sure whether Still did say that or not but it is unfair to cast aspersions about the overall quality of the league going on one match — especially a cup final. Since the FAI Cup final has been moved to the Aviva Stadium, it has tended to be a tense affair and it is not in any way a fair reflection on the quality in the league.

I don’t really want to go on about the comment because it was one comment made by one person but, for me, there is nothing in it.

I would have spotted an awful lot in terms of quality from some of the players on show on Sunday with most of the good football coming from Pat’s players. It’s not always the obvious things that stand out, it’s little things that players do that will tell you a story about how intelligent they are.

I’ve often gone to games and my opinion of who the best player on the pitch is could be completely different to someone else.

To be fair, I don’t think any of the cup finals that have been held at Lansdowne Road have done the teams or the league justice. They are one-off affairs which nobody wants to lose and there is an overall tendency to be very conservative in their play.

That was the case on Sunday as we saw that Derry were happy to stand off St Pat’s and let them come at them. The Saints were considerable favourites and rightly so.

The players wouldn’t have admitted it in the lead-up to the final but the whole thing about the 53-year run was something that has always been there. I played for the club and it did have an affect on the players. It is quite an intimate club so you get to talk to the fans quite a lot and it was something that came up time and time again.

But Liam Buckley, his backroom team and this group of players have got that monkey off their back now and credit is due for that.

Looking ahead, however, Pat’s and all the clubs will need to tackle the issue of attracting more fans to games now that the season has ended.

I’ve said it before but something drastic needs to happen to rebrand this league. I think a complete and utter overhaul is essential. People tend to switch off at the mere mention of the ‘League of Ireland’ and a facelift has to take place.

To take one example, I saw very little in the way of marketing in the lead-up to Sunday’s game. It’s not hard to do these things as the preview clip of Laurence Kinlan (Elmo from Love/Hate) proves. That was done by a young guy in RTÉ, a LOI fan, who had a video camera and a couple of ideas in his head.

Source: RTÉ Sport/YouTube

He put together that one-and-a-half minute piece. It wasn’t rocket science, just a little bit of imagination and desire to do something different. We’ve got all these platforms to showcase Irish football on several different kinds of media but they are the simply things that we can’t even do properly most of the time.

All it takes is a good idea, an iPhone and a clever bit of video editing to create something worthwhile.

The reality is you’ve got old men running a brand that should be targeting a young audience. And it’s failing miserably.

It has to be a collective effort and we need a specific role for somebody to take the challenge by the scruff of the neck. Someone who is passionate about their role and backed by financial resources to market the league properly.

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Stuart Byrne

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