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Behind the Scenes with Con Murphy

Updated: Tuesday, 31 Aug 2010 11:07

Behind the Scenes with Con Murphy

After Monday night's back matches, it would seem that Sporting Fingal's bid for the title has come a cropper with defeat at the hands of St Patrick's Athletic.

Bohemians' late winner at Drogheda United keeps them very much in the mix, and Pat's win over Fingal, having trailed at one point, suggests that they're in the race for the long haul.

With nine matches to go, Shamrock Rovers look to be in the driving seat, five points clear of Pat's and Bohs, with Sporting and Sligo Rovers probably just a bit too far behind to win the title, but still very much in the hunt for a European spot.

Significantly, with two 4-1 wins in a row, the Hoops have helped their goal difference and now are just one goal behind Pats in that stakes, and eight better than Bohemians.

Whether you're a fan or otherwise of the 10-team division, between the race for the League title, places in Europe, and the battle to avoid the relegation play offs, it does mean that every match for every team still has something at stake going into the final round of games.

Paul Doolin was smiling when Liam Buckley more or less conceded the league title to Shamrock Rovers in his interview last Friday.
But Bucko probably was being realistic in terms of his own team’s chances of lifting the trophy come seasons end.

Rovers run of 25 points out of a possible 27 is the sort of form that any team going for the title would love to be on.

Bohemians may have stuttered against the Hoops and Galway recently, but their response has been very good.

Three games played since, and three wins in the bag including two awkward away matches in Louth against Dundalk and Drogheda.

To be honest from a selfish RTÉ point of view, we'd be hoping that the title race goes down to the last day.

It's not in our interest for any one team to run away with the League title, as the series of live matches coming up on RTÉ Two and RTÉ.ie wouldn't have the same appeal if the title is sewn up with three or four matches to go.

With Pat's also still in the hunt, it should lead to some really tense exciting games, and for the TV viewing public, as well as those going to the matches in Dalymount, Tallaght and Inchicore, it should be unmissable.

I was interested to hear that Pete Mahon had criticised unnamed clubs for 'tapping up' two players in his squad.

The timing of the statement from Pete was interesting, and it was also interesting to hear from the three panellists this week that they thought the practice is pretty widespread.

It's a very grey area. If a player has played with another player previously and they've remained friends, and player A says to his pal, player B, would you be interested in coming to play for us at club X next season in an off-the-cuff conversation, does that constitute 'tapping up'?

It's also important to remember that players who are within six months of the end of their current contract are perfectly entitled to talk to any club, and we've seen many instances in England for example, where a player signs a pre-contract with a club, committing themselves to a certain club, whilst playing out their contract with the club they're at.

In fairness to the players here who've taken chunky pay cuts over the last couple of seasons, if the opportunity arises to move on to another more lucrative contract, it's hard to fault them.

That is as long as those clubs offering the improved contract aren't losing the run of themselves, as some clubs have done in previous years landing themselves in financial hardship.

On a separate note, the general consensus from our three panellists this week was that the two-match ban handed down to Gary Twigg for his goal celebration in the match against Bohs at Tallaght is extremely harsh.

If the ban is on the basis of the match delegates report, the FAI would want to be very clear about any club affiliations that the match delegate might have to avoid running the risk of being accused of bias.

On that note, it's probably fairly well known that I've been a fan of Shamrock Rovers for many years and could therefore be accused of bias in making the argument I'm making now.

But if for example, the FAI delegate was connected to any of the clubs who might benefit from Gary Twigg's absence in a head to head match between those two sides, then surely his report that resulted in the ban of Twigg would surely be compromised.

The question would also have to be asked why players from other clubs haven't received such sanction for far more blatant celebrations in front of opposing supporters already this season.

Off the top of my head I could instance several occasions when goading of opposing rival supporters has occurred, and surely if those players weren't sanctioned, then the ban on Twigg smacks of selective discipline.

I thought it was very interesting to hear Gordon Strachan talking about the recession affecting crowds at Middlesborough this season.

Last weekend they had 14,000 at their match against Sheffield United, and it was the lowest crowd for a competitive match at the Riverside Stadium since it was built.

Strachan went on to add that the only people earning big money in the area were the footballers at the club, and although the argument about players in Ireland earning big money vis a vis the supporters coming to the games couldn't be made, the question of whether the recession has hit the crowds attending games would be applicable.

It's not unreasonable to assume that the rise in unemployment and the decrease in people's disposable income has hit attendances in the Airtricity League.

For some the €15 to attend a match could be the €15 that goes towards the phone or electricity bill at the end of the month and, in that instance, the match has to be forfeited.

Having said that €15 for an evening's entertainment isn't bad when you compare it to the price of a night in the pub, at the cinema or going to a concert.

I must admit I absolutely love going to matches.

I was working with a great editor in RTÉ on Saturday night who was cutting the Premier Division matches that I was reporting on for Premier Soccer Saturday, and despite the fact that he's a wonderful editor and understands football very well, he was telling me that he has no real interest in the game at all, or any sport for that matter.

I was astounded because for me not liking football would be akin to not liking all the great things in life, wonderful food, beautiful women, great music, spectacular natural phenomena; all the good stuff that makes the world go around.

I just couldn't live without football and especially going to live matches.

I still pity those who restrict their football diet to the box in the corner of the room, or the pub. It's just not the same. Ask anybody who goes to Airtricity League footy.

We may be a small band compared to the stay at home brigade, but I wouldn't swap it for anything.

As the league comes to a climax, savour it, because you know you'll miss it when the close season arrives!