HAVING put out Belfast’s big three of Linfield, Glentoran and Cliftonville on their way to Saturday’s Setanta Sports Cup final with Shamrock Rovers, Dundalk boss Ian Foster admits he would relish the prospect of an All-Ireland League.
For now, the televised cross-border trophy looks like the closest he will come, as politics of a football nature and cultural differences still present obstacles.
But it’s something Foster believes would be a massive boost to domestic football, north and south.
“The three teams that we’ve played, if you had to go there on a Friday night, to Windsor Park or The Oval, to Solitude, it would make our league so much stronger,” said the Liverpool native.
“They are difficult places to go and get results. Different players, different styles, different referees, different fan bases, different stadiums. It would improve the product so much. I think we’ve got a wonderful product down here, but if you added those Belfast clubs into it you’d have one hell of a league.
“I didn’t have an opinion before because I didn’t know the quality of the northern teams. But you could have a 16-18 team league with the likes of Shelbourne and Cork and add in some very good quality from the north, it would be a wonderful product.
“There are politics and I understand that. You’ve got the two football associations and you’ve obviously got two different national teams and then you are looking at European qualification and things like that. It’s not easy and I’m not saying it would be. But for me it would add so much quality.
“You should assemble a committee from north and south and say, ‘right, go and work it out, get on with it’.
“Spend a year finding out which is the best way to do it.
“Because for me if you did do it everything about the league would improve. The fans would enjoy it more. The style of football, the quality of football, but ultimately the development of players I think would improve.
“Players improve by playing against better players and it’s something we are possibly missing out on. I believe our league is very, very strong. But if we can add to it add to it.
Meanwhile, Shamrock Rovers boss Michael O’Neill said yesterday that there have been no major developments regarding a new contract. “I’ve nothing more to say on that at the minute, we’re still in discussions.”
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