Oh Sit Down

Archive for August, 2009|Monthly archive page

LOI — a hidden gem

In Soccerball on August 4, 2009 at 14:04

In years gone by, I had occasionally thrown an awkward glance at League of Ireland soccer, as do the majority of soccer fans in Ireland. I had attended a few St Pat’s games, swayed by the energetic enthusiasm of a friend who was a Saint through and through. I admit I enjoyed the experiences and with St Pat’s being my local club (well, the club whose ground was located closest to my childhood home), I formed a long-distance relationship with them.

In Ireland, our national league tends to receive a sneerful attitude from soccer fans who much prefer to follow the English Premier League and would happily pay €300 to take a trip across the Irish Sea to watch a game, yet scoff at attendees of local LOI games.

What a shame. As I found out on Sunday evening, the LOI is a hidden gem.

I attended the Shamrock Rovers and Derry City league game at Tallaght Stadium. This was my first LOI game in about six years, and I was impressed.

First of all, when I arrived outside the stadium about 30mins before kick off, there were hundreds of people milling around. I began thinking that Tallaght are really adopting Rovers and making them their local team. Once i entered the ground, I was shocked by the amount of people already in their seats. The stadium has only one stand open for business (the stadium is still under construction), and there were very few seats vacant.

Once the match began, the die-hard Rovers fans started chanting and singing. I was well impressed. They even have a song for former Manchester United recruit Dessie Baker! I was thinking that this was just like the Premier League, but on a smaller scale. These die-hards adore their club and the players. I found it difficult to take it in…it was surreal.

Rovers went into a 1-0 lead quite early on thanks to a stunning placed effort from Sean O’Connor which sailed into the top corner. The crowd went bananas. Straight away the “Yer never gonna believe us, we’re gonna win the league” chants began.

About 20 minutes later, a headed goal from Tadhg Purcell from a cross dug out brilliantly by Dessie Baker. Purcell struck me throughout the 90 minutes as a very good player, and one who may be good enough to ply a trade at Championship level in England.

The crowd wer in raptures at this point.

Derry suddenly woke up and applied some pressure and carved out a number of chances but in Barry Murphy, Rovers have a very competant goalkeeper. He might not be the tallest keeper around, but he has safe hands.

A minute into the second half, and Derry scored with a scorching drive from just outside the penalty box. Another great goal. The ground was silent.

Derry pressed and pressed, Rovers tried to make their counter-attacks work. It was a very good second-half, full of determination, courage, and some very nice football.

Humour seems to rank quite highly with the Rovers fans. Chants at the Derry team of “You’re Brits, and you know you are….you’re Brits, and you know you are….” were followed by “What’s it like to…what’s it like to…what’s it like to have a Queen? What’s it like…..”

Rovers hung on in the end to win 2-1, keeping themselves within three points of leaders Bohemians, and effectively ruining any chances Derry had of winning the league.

As I left the stadium, amid a chorus of 4,000 delirious Rovers fans bellowing “We’re gonna win the league”, I felt proud to be out supporting my national league and to have witnessed a great game of football so close to home.

I have a feeling that games of this stature and passion are very often witnessed in the League of Ireland and I want to make sure that I experience a bit more of that very soon. The passion and enthusiasm of the Shamrock Rovers crowd is to be commended and is infectious. The atmosphere was fantastic and I’m sure Derry were intimidated by it. Once the stand on the far side of the pitch is completed, Tallaght Stadium will be more like the fortress that the Chairman Jonathan Roche is hoping to create. Last, but not least, the football was pretty good too — not the hoof and chase game I was expecting at all.

What are your experiences of LOI soccer?