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Behind the Scenes with Con

Updated: Tuesday, 02 Nov 2010 19:21

'Supporters of other clubs in the league joke about the description of Shamrock Rovers as the "Model Club", but in fact it's probably fair to say that the supporters of all other clubs would love to be in the position that the Hoops find themselves in.'
'Supporters of other clubs in the league joke about the description of Shamrock Rovers as the "Model Club", but in fact it's probably fair to say that the supporters of all other clubs would love to be in the position that the Hoops find themselves in.'

Three minutes into injury time at the Carlisle Grounds last Friday night.

Gary Shaw collects the ball on the edge of the box and shoots towards Alan Mannus' goal.

The ball sails into the top corner of the net past the outstretched hands of the Northern Ireland international 'keeper.

The Shamrock Rovers fans stunned into silence, and a wave of joy spreads from North County Wicklow to North Dublin as the news reaches the Bohemians supporters in the Jodi Stand, who celebrate the goal that's handed them a third League title in-a-row.

As we know, Shaw’s shot rolled easily into the hands of Mannus, and it was the Shamrock Rovers fans that went crazy at the full-time whistle in Bray, whilst the Bohs supporters thought about what might have been.

That scenario above is a reminder of how close the race for the Premier Division title turned out to be.

Literally, one kick of the ball could have changed everything.

Instead it was a 16th title for the Hoops, and great celebrations in Bray and beyond for Rovers fans, who've had a long wait since 1994 and the last League winning side under the stewardship of Ray Treacy.

On several occasions last Friday night before the match kicked off at the Carlisle Grounds I made reference to the fact that it reminded me of football in the old days.

Anyone who's watched our cult heroes segment over recent weeks will have been struck by the size of the crowds at League of Ireland matches in the black and white era.

The packed stand and terraces in Bray on Friday felt like a throwback to those days, although the black, grey and browns of those days have been replaced by jerseys, club sweatshirts, jackets, scarves and more.

Merchandising is alive and well as evidenced by the crowds around the country these days.

Check out the crowd at the FAI Ford Cup Final on 14 November and I think you'll see club colours galore.

It was heartening to hear that Sligo Rovers had already sold 5,500 tickets on the first day they'd gone on sale in Sligo, have now sold over 7,000, and are expecting delivery of more tickets soon from the FAI.

Already I expect that the atmosphere on the big day will be very special.

It would be great to think that both clubs will win new fans when presented with the chance to impress at the Aviva on Sunday week.

I'm well aware that I fall into the glass half-full category when it comes to the League of Ireland, but I really think this has been a much more positive season for the league than the previous two, since MNS came into existence.

We've spent much less time talking about clubs financial woes, and off-field misdemeanours, and much more time talking about what was going on, on the field.

Of course, I'd be stupid to think everything is rosy in the garden, and clubs do have problems keeping their income ahead of their outgoings, but at the moment in Ireland, that probably applies to most businesses. (Ask the Government how they're getting on, and you'll get the picture).

The return of Derry City to the top flight can only be a good thing.

They have a good ground, great supporters who travel to away games as well, and it spreads the nationwide appeal of the Premier Division.

Stephen Kenny is a fine manager, and the fact that he stuck with the Candystripes after their demotion is a credit to him, as are the team that went straight back up at the first time of asking, from a notoriously difficult league to get out of.

As I write the promotion/relegation play offs are about to get underway.

I can see why Sean Connor would be frustrated, his Galway side having to play Bray despite finishing 11 points ahead of the Seagulls in the league, but I suppose the same thing happens in England for the promotion play offs.

How often has the team who finished 6th in the table, miles behind the third placed team, gone on to get promoted?

It is rough justice in one respect, but it's also very exciting for the supporters.

At the risk of sounding like a scratched record, this really is the time now for the people of Galway to get down to Terryland Park and roar their heads off in support of their team.

If you're reading this after the event, let's hope it happened.

We had a very enjoyable MNS this week. Michael O'Neill brought the league trophy into studio, and the panel had a good old barney about the merits of Rovers league win, and whether Bohemians should have made it three in-a-row.

That debate went on longer than anticipated, and subsequently I had my editor Brummie Steve saying into my ear throughout the programme that we were under time pressure and to keep things moving rapidly.

In those circumstances things can get a bit rushed sometimes, and on this occasion I called Damien, 'Eoin'!

Don't ask where that came from, but he saw the funny side.

Michael O'Neill must take a lot of credit for what he's achieved at Shamrock Rovers in a short space of time.

Second at the first time of asking was very respectable, and now with a chance of the double in his second season at the helm.

He has been at pains to emphasise that a Rovers win in the league has to be achieved within strict financial means, and for the club to be sustainable long-term.

It can't make the same mistakes of previous league winners who have spent beyond their means and landed themselves in financial hock.

Supporters of other clubs in the league joke about the description of Shamrock Rovers as the 'Model Club', but in fact it's probably fair to say that the supporters of all other clubs would love to be in the position that the Hoops find themselves in.

Building a very strong fan base of all ages in Tallaght and beyond, paying realistic wages and still coming up with the goods on the pitch.

Viewers of the live matches on RTÉ over recent weeks may have heard Rovers fans singing mockingly 'The Hoops are having a party and Bohs are going bust'.

But I think if you asked the vast majority of Shamrock Rovers fans if they'd like to see Bohs actually going bust, they would say they wouldn't like to see that happen.

The rivalry between the two clubs is part of the oxygen that keeps the interest in what’s happening in the league going.

Bohemians may have to reign in their spending in the coming years, and they might be about to lose a huge chunk of their squad, but supporters of all clubs would miss Bohs badly if they weren't around.

Like Derry City, Bohemians will always bring a large support to away matches and that helps the coffers of all clubs in the league, so let's hope Pat Fenlon can work his magic to keep them at least in a challenging position over the next couple of seasons.

It's a tough challenge, but I think the league benefits from a strong Bohemians team.

I'd like to see Cork City FORAS in the Premier Division soon. They have the infrastructure, and the potentially massive fan base.

As I've already mentioned, the First Division can be very difficult to get out of, but for the Premier Division’s sake I hope they get up soon rather than later.

I read with incredulity that the majority of Premier and First Division clubs had voted for a return to winter soccer in Ireland at a recent meeting.

Of course the FAI have the final say on this matter, but it was an interesting development all the same.

Space prevents me from going into too much detail on this matter now, I'll make my arguments next week.

All I'll say for now is, nooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!

Jamiroquai sang about Virtual Insanity.....if the return to winter football ever happens here I'd describe it as ‘Absolute Insanity’.

I'm too happy at the moment to get wound up by the thought of this madness.

Finally, good luck to all the clubs involved in the play-offs and remember because the final play-offs takes place next Monday night, MNS will be on air at 11.35pm next Monday to include highlights of the play-off final that night.

Live!