Waking the sleeping giants

Growing up in Ireland, A country so proud of our history has always had competition to contend with the sport we today call football.

GAA being our national sport, one that so many play and love provides a stern matchup to soccer. England for example who many will agree consider ‘football’ as their national sport thrive more so than ourselves.

If you pay attention to the championship games within the GAA some of the battles on the field are rugby-like with shoulders flying, grown men being removed with a harsh challenge. However these are the split seconds that the fans crave and bring such a large following, of course added to by the men and woman who fought so hard in the early 1900’s to maintain a national sport.

With stadiums capable of holding double, treble and in some cases six times more than your average League of Ireland of ground, capacity crowds are a common sight on a Sunday afternoon in a Gaelic or hurling strong hold, much like St. James Park or Anfield where the supporters flock week in week out irrelevant of the recent results.

The Gaa in some respects is a more physical and a faster flowing game compared to the game of 90 yards with scores being registered in continuation for 70 minutes. With players somewhat much more physical in my opinion this is something we’re missing out on, The tough aspect to a game that tens of thousands turn out to witness and should games become more competitive maybe crowd’s would increase by a percentage.

The 22nd of May 2017 was a dull day for Finn Harps; an attendance of just 380 spectators witnessed a superb performance beating St. Patrick’s Athletic 3-1.

Without a doubt our lowest presence for quite a while, having to go back to the first division I reckon to better that figure, a record unwanted however reveals the sad reality of the poor football followings experienced by all clubs within the league.

Being considered the tech expert in the house, I had to make my way over to my uncle’s this morning waiting for an engineer to come fix a problem with the Television however a flat battery left me twiddling my thumbs. As I sat on the chair with my eyes in a daze out of the corner of my eye I spotted a book “The strings of my Harps” detailing Finn Harps inauguration to the League of Ireland.

Formed as a junior club initially in 1954, Harps went onto win the FAI Junior Cup in 1968 and “then secretary of the FAI, Joe Wickham, was to turn down the application [for entry into the intermediate cup] but with a promise and a proposition, when he told me “play in the Junior Cup this year and if you win it or reach the final, I will recommend that Finn Harps be accepted for the Intermediate Cup next season.”

Some of you may wonder why I bring this information to surface but this was a major stepping stone in the clubs history then progressing to acceptance into the League of Ireland in 1969 which was followed by a European tour in the 70’s.

Having experienced the European high’s that were buried within time, one may wonder is the potential there for a revival or is this dream just ambition.

A new stadium has been talked about for years just over the bridge on the other side of the ‘twin towns’ and brings hope to a fan base that consists of spectators from all over the county; however the stadium is quick to emerge from a bag of questions whenever public forums are held annually.

With bare minimum finance to get the construction in operation again this could be one of the potential downfalls for the dream of a return to the top but I’m a firm believer in having more pros than cons.

A new stadium could bring a fresh breathe of life to the club and benefit from a significantly large publication in the media with stadium renovation un common within the divisions.

Recently given a rough estimation of 1100 for an average attendance this season, it shows that a fan base is evident and hopefully can acquire a larger following should success come from the core and rejuvenate supporters.

A club steeped in history and being the only senior football team in the county provides an extensive fan base, despite Sligo and Derry being appealing journeys for many, living closer to their respective grounds as opposed to Finn Park.

A Leicester City story that many would love to see materialize and a period of change provides opportunity and a desire that a population thrive for a new beginning, a facelift for Irish football where clubs dominate for a period but the constant revolution can bring about an exciting future where one day hopefully the sleeping giants in the hills of Donegal will be alive and screaming.

Connor McGinty

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