You know it’s ok to be a fan of the Premiership, what with the local club scene in Ireland staggering from one disaster to the next and boasting ground facilities that have barely improved since the grim seventies. Wish it were otherwise but it’s where we find ourselves, constantly looking east and the bright lights of the Premier League for our football nourishment.
The traditional approach has always been to attach oneself to an English side from a very young age, with about 75% plumping for either Manchester United or Liverpool. That statistic clearly explains the frankly mystifying treatment of the misfiring Raheem Sterling at the Aviva Stadium a couple of weekends ago. Surely in the context of the first meeting of Ireland and England in Dublin since the horrors of the 1995 fixture, we should care little for Sterling’s less than machiavellian contract ruminations at Liverpool. But for some it was too hard to switch off, even for one day, from what has become a weekly obsession with their favourite English club.
Republic of Ireland FC
Hiding in the long green grass however is a small cohort, myself included, that tune in to ‘Match of the Day’ for the sole purpose of charting the progress of the Boys in Green, or the Republic of Ireland FC as we like to call them. In essence there is no particular allegiance to a single club, no primal screams when United miss the cut for Europe or when Chelsea grind the opposition to dust before scoring the inevitable deflected winning goal. For people of our ilk all that matters is that the teams hosting the greatest number of Republic of Ireland footballers do enough to stay in the top flight, anything else is a welcome bonus.
So as things stand it is the progress of Stoke, Everton, Sunderland, Southampton and the dearly departed Hull that we watch out for. These unfashionables often reside at the latter end of Gary Lineker’s droll introductions, but all that matters is that Walters puts in a good shift, Coleman burrows a path down the left side of the pitch or Shane Long has one of his good days that leaves hapless defenders trailing in his wake. It doesn’t pan out like that very often and of late there have been far too many occasions where a full round of Premiership games can pass us by without a singular outstanding Irish performance.
Football league show
It is because of this dearth of Emerald fireworks that Manish Bhasin and his Football League show has become our newest destination on Sunday mornings. And it was a great year to be Irish in the English 2nd tier in 2014/15 with 3 Boys in Green, Kieren Westwood, Wes Hoolahan and Daryl Murphy, making the Championship team of the year.
Indeed it was Bhasin’s programme that introduced us to the swashbuckling midfield talents of Harry Arter, who will be a Premiership big boy very shortly along with his all-conquering Bournemouth side. While Arter may have only briefly cameoed with Ireland, in the aforementioned ever-so-friendly game versus England, he displayed a spark that day to enliven the generally pedestrian Irish midfield.
Joining Arter in the English top flight for the 2015/16 season will be the ever mercurial Wes Hoolahan, who’ll be 58 by then, following Norwich’s successful navigation through the Championship play-offs. It is certainly the ex-Belvedere player’s last shot at infamy so we can hopefully expect the Canaries to flee the coop with Wesley manning the creative controls. James McClean move to West Brom also looks like we’ll be tuning into the Birmingham club’s solid defence of their mid-table standing.
Going in the opposite direction (or no direction if you are part of the Wicklow contingent) are the Hull Irish contingent of Stephen ‘tiny-industrious-manoeuvres’ Quinn, David ‘why-why-why-de’ Meyler and Paul ‘have-a-go-hero’ McShane who have to contend with life in the most competitive league in Britain. You’d expect Robbie ‘sweet-left-peg’ Brady to retain his Premiership status however, given that he has become Ireland’s left back of choice.
Young guns at the ready
So potentially a nice Republic of Ireland FC squad there for those of us who prefer not to pin our colours to one particular Premiership mast. And that spread could widen further if Jack Byrne continues to burn brightly at Manchester City, or were his namesake at Villa to abandon convention and stick with the country he has played with throughout his formative years. It’s pretty exciting, especially given the context of how our Euro 2016 campaign has been floundering so badly of late.
But all of that is months away yet so until the Premiership theatrics resume the only thing you’ll hear from the mouths of Republic of Ireland FC worshippers will be curious shouts of Go! Colorado Rapids, Go! LA Galaxy and erm Go! Orlando City.
- Author: Kevin Dunphy