Saturday, January 7, 2017

League of Ireland 2016 in review


    The year is review is about Dundalk, Dundalk and more Dundalk. 1st Dundalk won 3rd title in a row. This is a huge achievement since it is so hard to keep the same roster from they year before. They started out front and remained there all year.....very similar to the previous year. Cork chased them all year just like the previous year. They (Dundalk) also reached the FAI Cup final for the 2nd year in a row. Cork City who placed 2nd for 3 years in a row finally beat Dundalk F.C. in the 2016 FAI Cup final. The final had a huge turnout of 26,400 spectators. This was second best at the Aviva since it was built in 2010. (1st FAI Cup Final in the Aviva).

            Cork City, Derry City and Shamrock Rovers will all be playing in the Europa League 2017-18. These teams will earn about half their budget playing international games so they all will be favorites to challenge for the League title in 2017.

Limerick FC won the First division and they will play in the premier division in 2017. Longford Town will be regulated to the First Division. Wexford Youths lost the playoff games to Drogheda United. Drogheda U will play in the Premier League to keep the League fresh will 2 new clubs.


            Top scorers: The top scorer was Cork City’s  Sean Maguire. He was followed closely by Derry City’s Rory Patterson and Dundalk’s David McMillan. Not 
surprising all their clubs will be playing in Europe next year. 


 Stephen Kenney phenomenal coaching Dundalk to their 3 consecutive Championships. He also guided them in 3 rounds of the Champions league and group stage of the Europa League. He turned Dundalk around in 2013 after a 4-8-18 in 2012 record. They were supposed to be regulated. Monaghan United withdrew from the league saving Dundalk Premier League status. Kenney led his players to a 2nd place in 2013; thus qualifying them for Europe League games and money Dundalk spends wisely to acquire players.  

Player of the year: Daryl Hogan was named Player of the year. Stephen Kenney was named manager of the year. Other outstanding players who were nominated for POTY were Stephen O’Donnell (Dunalk), Sean Maguire(Cork), Greg Bolger (Cork) and Gerard Doherty GK (Derry City).


European Success: Dundalk entered the Champions League and beat Iceland Champion. Third qualifying round they had to play Belarus Champion BATE Borisov. They beat them 3-1 aggregate. Dundalk then entered the Champions Route against Polish giant Legia Warsaw. This game was so big Dundalk had to play in Dublin’s Aviva stadium. 30,417 fans showed in the Aviva to cheer on Dundalk in Europe’s Champions League. Unfortunatly this is where Dundalk fairy tail play ended in the Champions League. The losers at this stage get placed in the group stage of the Europa League.

Dundalk was seeded into this formittable group. Zenit Saint Perersburg were a great team and their fans were as scary as their team. Many Russian Zenit fans followed thier team to Tallaght stadium and made quite a spectacle of themselves. Dundalk play very well against all this competition but the wear and tear finally caught Dundalk. This was the most spectatular season any LOI club ever had.

Money Earned: It is estimated Dundalk earned $5.4 Million in the Champions League. By enter into the group stage of the Europa League they earned 360,000 for their win and 120,000 for their tie. After astronomical expenses Dundalk will pocket 2.5 to 3 Million of the $5.4 Million earned. Their priority is to sort out the lease with the owner of Oriel Park. They will make no investment. The thought is the will but the Park from the owner, and place a new pitch before they invest in a new stand. They will invest in their youth development plan and try to keep Stephen Kenney who has guided this miraculous run since 2013.


Finally a few stories in 2016 that did not involve Dundalk...

Stadium redevelopment: Tallaght Stadium just got the go ahead to add a 3rd stand behind one of the goals. This will make Tallaght a UEFA category 4 stadium enabling any LOI club play European matches there if need be. When Dundalk played in the Europa Group stage against Russia, Netherlands and Isreal clubs Tallaght was near capacity. Maybe the council are hoping there can be a repeat each year for other LOI teams!?!?!?
Artist picture of Tallaght Stadium 3rd stand. to make Tallaght a UEFA Category 4 Stadium (8,128 capacity)

League Restructuring
Yes most of the talk about the League is about Dundalk FC. Dundalk 3 League Title in a row, the Champions League success, the Europe League group game win and tie and the money windfall from such progress.  There were a few other stories like being player of the year in Dundalk leaving for England. There was Corks City’s frustrating 3 years of chasing Dundalk and not catching them.
           There is also talk about contracting the Premier division going from 12 to 10 clubs and the first division increasing for 8 clubs to 10.  There is a huge push back from Premier Clubs resisting this change. Shamrock Rovers, Dundalk, Sligo Rovers and Derry City were in favor of reducing to 10 teams. I find it funny that 4 out of the 5 clubs that want to reduce to 10 are the ones playing in the European tournaments. As we all know they clubs boost up their roster since they will have more money for playing in the European tournaments. The teams that against dropping 3 out of the league at the end of this year are the clubs that are in jeopardy of failing to remain in the Premier division.


Avg Att
Attendance is also reached a 10 year low with average attendance at only 1,472 for the 2016 season. This is troubling at face value. There was a drop off with the league leaders and the lower teams. I believe 2017 will bounce back to 1,500 average. First the 2 lowest clubs were regulated. Limerick averaged attendance was above the premier league average in the first division so they will help immediately. Also Dundalk and Cork never seem to relinquish their old on the #1 and #2 spots. The almost repeat of the 2015 season got a little old for the followers and it stayed that way all year. This did not create excitement in other clubs when teams change position in the standings.

Outlook: Well I believe the teams who have the bigger budgets will get the better players. Since about 1/2 the budget can come from the Europa League and exponentially more from the Champions League--- look for Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers, Derry City and Cork City to be the favorites at the start of the season. Limerick F.C will be a nice addition back with just the City drawing more attention to the league. Drogheda United will bring back the Louth Derby. Doesnt sound to exciting but i dont care.... I like the LEaguie of Ireland...why ...well I am Irish. I dont care about the Premier League.... I like this League. I like the history behind it, I like the clubs that play in it and i Like the fans that support it.  I am hoping for another Club like Dundalk to make the 3rd round in the Champions League and pack the Aviva again.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

American pop college hockey teams to play in Belfast 2015 today and tomorrow

UMass Lowell vs Northeastern and Colgate vs Brown

       This will be the inaugural Friendship Four tournament. This tournament is the 1st one. This tournament features 2 teams from Hockey East UMass-Lowell and Northeastern and 2 teams from the ECAC Colgate and Brown. More that likely these teams will feature future feature NHL players.
The venue has not been announced however the SSE Arena is getting a 3 Million refurbishing just announced in 2015. The SSE Arena is under new management and I am sure they want to explore different entertainment shows.

Hockey East
UMass Lowell has won Hockey East in 2013, 2014 and reached the final in 2015. They are currently (Nov 26/2015) sit in 1st place in Hockey East and are nationally ranked at #4 in the nation. Northeastern is also from the tough and ruggard Hockey East and are located in the think of Boston.

2 teams were selected from the Providence RI (Brown) and Colgate (NY state). These games will be league games and will count in standings. This will make each game very competitive and entertaining for the fans.

The winners of each game will face the winner of the other and the losers will square off. These games will be played Nov 27 and 28, 2015 and be televised in the states.

Here is hoping Northern Ireland or Republic of Ireland or the combination of the both can field a national hockey team to compete in the IIHL Ranking some day.

Ireland has not competed in the IIHL since

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Irish Rugby

      Well Ireland had a disappointing end to their World Cup quest in the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Ireland lost to Argentina 20-43. At this point all the European nations have been knocked out of the competition.

Ireland was the 6 Nations Champion 2 years running. England and France have always had strong teams and it look like a European nation could challenge the Oceanic Nations for the World Cup title.

Just as the European nations dominate in soccer, the Oceanic nations dominate in Rugby.

Looking ahead Japan will host the next tournament in 2019. Ireland is looking to host the 2023 tournament. Ireland need 10 to 13 stadiums mimicking New Zealands successful tournament. Ireland's bid is going up against France, Italy and South Africa.

South Africa has not hosted since 2007. That was when they hosted the entire tournament. South Africa has the stadiums from their FIFA World Cup. They have been unsuccessful in their last 3 bids of 2011, 2015 and 2019. Every other year the Rugby World Cup has rotated from the southern Hemisphere to the Northern. Next year it will break the trend and be played in Japan. There may be sympathy to go with S Africa since they have been denied.

Italy also has the stadiums from their robust soccer league. Italy's bid I see as a little behind Ireland. Ireland has the stadiums but they also have much better fans support. Fans from England, Wales, Scotland, Wales and France can easily get to Ireland. Italy is a step behind Ireland with the Rugby quality.

France can match every thing Ireland has. France has the fans of France. They will also draw from the surrounding nations from the European Rugby nations. They also have in place the stadiums. The negative is they have already hosted. France so far has hosted the most successful (based on attendance) in 2007.

Ireland Bid: The positives it that they will probably have the highest attended Rugby World Cup. The European nations have done better than the Southern Hemisphere nations (S Africa, New Zealand and Australia). Ireland already has 4 ready Rugby Stadiums and the GAA has said the GAA stadiums could be used. 13 stadiums are already in place and they have the infrastructure already there to host. Ireland also have a very strong team that should make the knockout rounds to keep attendance high. England, Wales, Scotland, France and Italian fans will make the journey to keep attendance high if Ireland falters like England did in 2015. The positive over France is Ireland has never hosted solely everything else is about equal. Over Italy is a much stronger team and much stronger fan support. Advantage over South Africa is they have hosted a sole tournament in 1995.

The vote also go with Ireland since both Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland have one team to represent the island.