Having recently visited Gortakeegan for only the third time surprisingly being a Harps fan I explored the former League of Ireland ground having heard talk of a proposed return to the top tiers of Irish football.
With a stand of approximately 800 seats (according to their website), a full size astro along with the main pitch. If you add this to a full size training pitch and 4 mini astro’s, one has to ask is the potential there for a third Ulster League of Ireland team.
From speaking to a local man who looked like he ran the club on a daily basis I realised “that it’s a great benefit to us that we own our ground and an area of land surrounding the stadium as well.”
With what their website describes as an overall capacity of 5,000 facilities are not their issue however only one defect in that statement is with the commentary box boarded up by a PVC door which I wouldn’t even call a commentary box. Sitting on a prefab rotting away it isn’t to appealing to the naked eye.
Other aspects include players, finances and of course fans link into the finances section.
With two underage teams currently in the U17 and U19 national leagues there’s room for development proving that there’s an underage structure(which has been in place for 2 years) capable of sustaining a high level of football.
Approximately an hour and a half from my hometown of Letterkenny it’s a convenient trip for an Ulster derby and if you add Derry to that “convenience” bracket a team who have a good following usually for their vast majority of away games.
According to google maps Monaghan is as near to Dublin as it is to Letterkenny which opens up their crowd to an extended audience. With Drogheda, Dundalk and Dublin as well surely away followings can contribute to a large percentage of their spectator count.
Having made a case for a crowd they can expect to receive this can’t be their only reliant source of income, however it wouldn’t be. As mentioned above they’ve got four mini astro’s and a full size pitch amongst their assets capable of bringing in vital funds that hopefully could see the club into an adequate of finance.
50 minutes from Omagh and Enniskillen this could be a source of players looking to play in the League of Ireland. Caolan McAleer is a great example of an Omagh man applying his trade at this highest of standard impressing game after game.
With what the man described to me as a “rivalry with the GAA for players” the success that these players want to experience is understandably with Conor McManus playing international rules for his country.
Having recently read an article reliving Dundalk’s success over the past 3 to 4 years reflecting on last’s season’s Europa League adventure and what an adventure it was, the stat read” between the years of 1963 and 2012 (50 seasons) the League of Ireland had a higher number of championship winners [15 clubs] than any other European league.”
This details to me what brilliant competitiveness exists on the isle of just 5 million people proving that the rise and fall of clubs is so frequent but also nothing to be worried about should you find yourself playing in the first division something I know only too well about being a Finn Harps fan.
Having mentioned Finn Harps I feel that they’re the best comparison to Monaghan United. With long spells in the first division but also gaining promotion and the dilapidating disappointment of relegation, Monaghan are well aware of this.
Founding members of the first division in the earlier 90’s they also were the first League of Ireland club to gain promotion via a playoff/relegation system.
Reaching the 2010 league cup final this was their closest brush with success losing to a narrow 1-0 margin to Sligo Rovers however withdrawing from the league two seasons later for what were described as “mainly but not only financial reasons.”
As compared to Finn Harps earlier success isn’t something you can just attain within 24 hours which I know about only too well especially in the Ollie Horgan era but when success does come as experienced on a cold November night it’s something you can recall at any time, a memory lodged in my mind and won’t ever be extinguished.
With the Fai expanding the leagues to two 10 division teams this season relegating three in my opinion it would have been easier to give clubs such as The Monaghan-Cavan partnership the chance to participate should they want to step up to the task.
Cabinteely having been a great success in the underage leagues seen out their inaugural season in 2015 finishing bottom as mentioned success is a slow process that takes time.
Recalling an interview, I did with then manager Eddie Gormley he explained how this was a long term project which some aspects of that are now coming together adding Jason Byrne to their squad who at the time of writing sit firmly in the top four of the first division with Waterford, Cobh and UCD only separated by a single point.
Can Monaghan emulate Cabinteely and make a much anticipated return?