League of Ireland blackout a relic of days past

The @SSEAirtricityLg account didn’t even run a list of full-time scores during Cork City’s game against St Patrick’s Athletic on Saturday, writes Brendan O’Brien

League of Ireland blackout a relic of days past

It’ll be 30 years this summer since the great awakening that was Euro ’88 and, no doubt, the newspapers, the internet and our friends in broadcasting are already thinking about various ways and means to flood the public consciousness with retellings of events in Stuttgart, Hanover, and Gelsenkirchen.

It’s hard to know what else there is to say about it by now, but, rest assured, there will be a slew of new angles and perspectives on it all. The study of history in general has changed. Scholars are more interested in the stories of ordinary folk than the great captains and chieftains of ancient times. Maybe, that will be reflected here come June.

For those of us lucky enough to have been in Germany at the time, the warm glow of events away from the field has never dimmed. For every memorable game, there were a million little scenes that left an indelible impression, though it’s probably no surprise to learn that Ronnie Whelan’s wonder goal against the USSR gives particular pleasure. The aesthetic value of the moment is obvious, but for this columnist it will always be framed in the context of the split second beforehand, when yours truly managed to stick the butt of the stick holding our tricolour into the brother’s eye, meaning poor Paul missed the single greatest goal scored by an Irishman when he should have had the best view in the house.

It took him a while to get over that one.

It may be an extreme example, but the thought has often crossed the mind that those punters who have made the effort to travel to a game and pay their hard-earned to get in are being short-changed by the fact that those at home are treated to a much more rounded, sedentary service.

TV is, of course, to thank/blame for that.

While some grounds have state-of-the-art screens on which to watch replays of key incidents, the vast majority of games that we catch in the flesh are digested without recourse to such technology and it often leaves you rueing that decision to make a sprint for the loo or root around for the Twix you bought on the way in.

Which is exactly what happened last Friday.

Cork City were 2-0 up against St Patrick’s Athletic in their season opener at Richmond Park when Graham Cummins made a dash to challenge Kevin Toner for a high ball towards the Pat’s box. By the time the Twix was unwrapped, Toner was on the floor clutching his face and Cummins facing the wrath of a number of Pat’s players. The red card that followed was greeted with astonishment by the gentleman from Cork seated in front of us, but it was three days before the incident was screened, on RTÉ’s Soccer Republic, and we finally got to judge for ourselves. Three days! That wouldn’t have been acceptable in 1988, but it’s par for the course in the SSE Airtricity League.

John Caulfield made a valid point about the paucity of coverage that attended Cork’s President’s Cup clash with Dundalk the week before, but here again is proof that the League of Ireland is too often its own worst enemy. The official SSE Airtricity League Twitter account only emphasised that on opening night.

There were 12 goals scored across the four games played last Friday, but only four of them merited a mention on the league’s Twitter feed. So, while Ronan Finn’s 23rd-minute goal for Shamrock Rovers was noted, the next update from Dalymount Park was Dan Casey’s 83rd-minute goal for Bohemians to give the Gypsies a 3-1 lead.

This is basic stuff. A study in the US late last year found that 70% of adults in America regularly use a second screen while watching TV. People don’t just expect updates now, they take it for granted that they will be notified of a goal or a try or a point, even as the team responsible is celebrating and the referee is noting the player responsible.

The @SSEAirtricityLg account didn’t even run a list of full-time scores this day last week. A good hour had passed after the final whistle in Inchicore, the Waterford Regional Sports Centre and Oriel Park before the first of the match reports popped up on screen. Some Cork fans would have been bypassing Portlaoise by then.

Friday was a good night. The atmosphere in Dalyer was electric and the Dublin derby eventually delivered a large dose of drama. Cork-Pat’s was simply brilliant entertainment, Waterford announced their return to the top tier with a home win over Derry City and even Bray Wanderers’ stalemate up in Dundalk was something to acclaim.

Once you got to see or hear about it, that is.

Email: brendan.obrien@examiner.ie Twitter: @byBrendanOBrien

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