Tuesday, 27 October 2009
Arguably the biggest team in the North-West of Ulster, it seems the famous/infamous Derry City are being touted for a return to the Irish League.
The call is being made by former Derry City legend Liam Coyle. In his statement he claimed "Moving to the Irish League is the only way forward for Derry City if they want to survive. If the Irish League was to take them back in it would mean less travelling."
He added: "It makes sense to go back and play in the country they are in."
It has been 37 years since the farcical situation emerged where-by the Candystripes opted out of IFA football and fell into the loving arms of FAI football. But this is 2009, we are in the longest recession in Irish history and suddenly those loving arms arn't quite as tightly wrapped around County Londonderry's finest - and I don't mean Coleraine.
Yes, Derry City have revelled in the good times, and there were many since their conversion to League of Ireland soccer. They are a team that have proven they can more than hold their own amongst the elite of the South's football. Two LOI titles, four FAI cups and a few fantastic runs in Europe are testament to their list of endevours over the years.
But now the bad times are on their way. The recession isn't just limited to those pesky 'bankers', it has effected everyone. Derry City are no different. So the suggestion is that maybe a return to the Irish League could put an end to their financial crisis. And from a footballing perspective I'd be very much in favour. Apologies to any Institute fans out there but Derry City are a much more attractive proposal for the Sky Sports cameras, not to mention the expansive fan-base that only the Red and White Army offer. It's a no-brainer.
However, the real issue here has nothing to do with what happens on the pitch. It's political. Returning to Irish League football would be like admitting that yes Derry City are in fact a football club from Northern Ireland. The mask would finally slip. A decision like that certainly won't go down well among those Ultras in the Brandywell at Halloween.
In hindsight it's easy to point fingers as to who was responsible for Derry's withdrawal from the Irish League. The IFA would be a popular choice in many quarters. My choice though would be the Troubles. They impacted strongly on IFA decision-making during the turbulent years of the 70's and 80's. But why shouldn't they switch the venue of games on safety grounds? Was one Bloody Sunday not enough?
As a devout Glenman I've heard all the conspiracy theories first-hand from fellow supporters about how the IFA go out every season to fix the league and hand Linfield the title. I have evaluated all the facts and have drawn the conclusion that I think this assertation is bullsh*t. I begrudgingly admit, Linfield have a superior advantage due predomiately to their home stadium, marketability, fan-base and the harsh reality that they are the biggest club in Northern Ireland. Supporter clubs in areas of Londonderry, and the one on the Shore Road next to Crusaders FC are examples of their continued 'loyal' following throughout the country.
Those with influence at Derry City Football Club need to think outside the box on this one. A return to their natural home in the Irish League? It would cut-out all those financially crippling long trecks to Cork, Galway and Dublin for a start. The all-Ireland Setanta Cup will still remain, should they qualify. Cross-border football doesn't mean having to leave one Irish governing body for another. Just ask the founding members of the Irish Football Association, Cliftonville FC - a club currently thriving in the middle of this recession.
Let's see a Derry City ruffling the 'Big Two's' feathers with a sustained assault on the 71 league title's between them. We can't guarantee big wages (unless your employer is FonaCab) but we are now reaping the benefits of our clubs not going full-time. Stability first, growth second. The IFA have got it right this time.
Alot of this depends on Derry City officials to bury the hatchet with those at Windsor Avenue. The removal of the chips from any remaining hunchbacked shoulders in the Bogside and Sandy Row areas in-particular would also be well-received by all. Then, and only then, should they make the much anticipated return home to the revamped, refreshed IFA Carling Premiership.
'Le Jeu Avant Tout' ----------- 'The Game Above All'