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A time of hope for the League of Ireland?

The start of a new football season is always a special time. It is sort of like how going back to school felt in your youth. You get to catch up with friends you haven’t seen in months. Compare notes on what you’ve been up to since you were last together. You get to share your hopes and dreams for the new season. How will the ground look? Have we signed many new players? If you’ve just been promoted, will you stay up? If you went down last term, will you bounce straight back? An FAI Cup run would be nice. Or an EA Sports Cup run. Or a Leinster Senior Cup run [I’m a Bray Wanderers fan]. Will we get more support this year? Will there be any high-profile friendlies in the mid-season?

These and many more questions run through the mind of the supporter. When the league season used to run winter to summer, parallel to England, the start of the season in August was a time of sun-kissed pitches and goalkeepers in caps to keep the blaring late-summer sun out of their eyes. The start of the season now that we have summer soccer in Ireland in a way is more natural in that it follows the calendar year from spring through to winter. We start our season as the daffodils come into bloom. We spring into action as the clocks go forward, seeded with the first warm days and the smell of fresh-cut grass.

The last few seasons in the SSE Airtricity League have been tough. The recession has raged and taken its toll on the finances of the domestic game. Clubs have struggled to keep their heads above water, to keep bulbs in their floodlights. In this sense the game has mirrored life in general in our nation. But 2016 seems to have come with a hint of hope in the air. Things are picking up. There is talk of recovery, even though it hasn’t filtered down from big business to the ordinary person yet. Hopefully the clubs and the league can enjoy their share of the upturn in fortune. Bigger gates would be welcome. More television coverage would be equally welcome.

A football club is a unique and special thing. It is a focal point of a community. A shared bond between its supporters. An opportunity to achieve sporting dreams for its players and coaching staff. It is an entity that has a history and a roll of honour. The chance to add to that is always a challenge but at the same time an privilege.

This season, as we celebrate the centenary of the 1916 Rising, as we run our Under 17, Under 19 and senior seasons in tandem for the first time, as we enjoy and savor the excitement of the build-up to our nation’s participation in Euro 2106, we can hope and dream that this season will be more special than most.

Author: Brian Quigley

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