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Islands in the Stream

 

How are you finding watching football via streaming? I’m sure there will be lots of market research put together when all this is over telling us about our collective thoughts on streaming as League of Ireland fans, but for the moment we are just islands in the stream, individuals watching games alone.

I have to say I’m enjoying it. I’d rather be in the Carlisle Grounds – don’t get me wrong – but watching via a stream on my computer or phone is much better than I envisioned it. I certainly enjoyed Friday’s win over Cabinteely in the El DARTico. Our 3-0 win was dwarfed though by UCD’s 8-0 haul against Wexford, on a night that saw a full First Division programme average a whopping four goals per game. The results, which included a statement of intent from Cobh Ramblers to gate-crash the play-off party [they beat Drogheda at United Park] means that there are six teams in the mix for the promotion / play-off places.

Monday night’s four First Division games saw another 14 goals rain in, and saw things tighten further at the top. Just three points now separate the top six sides, with eight games to go. Drogheda recovered from Friday’s loss to Cobh by thrashing Cabinteely [who now seem to be in freefall]. Cobh themselves continued to climb with another away win – this time over Shamrock Rovers 2 – and are now as serious a contender for the title as anyone else.

Watching Bray’s 3-1 win over Athlone Town via the streaming on the club’s Facebook page was an ideal way to spend a Monday night. With long-time stadium announcer and club legend Vincent Kirwan providing the commentary, an enforced absence from the Carlisle Grounds didn’t feel so painful.

With streaming I find I’m more focused on and invested in the game, instead of being distracted and side-tracked by what’s going on in the stands or elsewhere in the stadium. It takes more power of concentration to watch a game in this fashion, but the pay-off is worth it as you feel that you have seen more football than before.

And there is more football – the ball is in play more and cards are being dished out less, in the absence of spectators. These are desirable trends; if we could hold onto them when the crowds flock back that would be great, but I doubt that we will be able to. A live crowd has an influence on proceedings and that’s part of what they pay their money for. The game needs gate revenue so the influence of the crowd has to be accepted as part and parcel of the match-day experience.

As well as watching League of Ireland via streaming in recent weeks I have watched all of my cross-channel side Rochdale’s pre-season via streaming. The squad for the 2020-21 League One campaign was announced this week and it was great to see former Shamrock Rovers player Gavin Bazunu confirmed as our first-choice goalkeeper for the coming campaign.

The club played their first competitive game of 2020-21 on Saturday in the League Cup against Championship side Huddersfield Town and came away from Huddersfield with a fine 1-0 win. Watching via streaming, it was great to see an Irish-flavoured defence in front of Bazunu, with Paul McShane and former Celtic and Cork City defender Eoghan O’Connell in the back four. O’Connell – who scored the winning goal – is also club captain for 2020-21.

Manager Brian Barry-Murphy, himself a former League of Ireland player, is one of only two Irish managers in England’s top four divisions [the other being former Bray Wanderers player Graham Coughlan at Mansfield Town], also played Irish midfielders Jimmy Keohane [who has played for Wexford Youths, Sligo Rovers and Cork City] and Jimmy Ryan on Saturday.

Brian Quigley

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