I will sit right down/waiting for the gift of sound and vision
– David Bowie, “Sound and Vision”, Low (1977)
We’re moving into spring in Ireland, not that you’d know it if you were outside, bar the brave daffodils raising their heads about the muddy parapet. One way you might is the RBS Six Nations, which is slowly turning into a farewell tour of Irish rugby’s ‘Golden Generation’. The Gaelic football and hurling leagues are underway – one of the great precursors of summertime. It’s almost time for the National club finals in both those sports on St. Patrick’s Day. It’s also the return of the League of Ireland this weekend.
The bumper pull-outs in the Irish Daily Mirror are back; Extratime.ie is doing its stellar job, making the relative lack of media interest, and the FAI’s disinterest, an irrelevance. And I’m already panicking that Waterford United face another season of disappointment and a further spell in the difficult world of League of Ireland Division One. Waterford United, unlucky not to make it back to the promised land of the Premier Division after going out to Dundalk at the end of an arduous play-off campaign where they saw off Longford, will surely be ruing their chances this afternoon as their two Munster rivals, Limerick take on Cork City. Limerick came up into the Premier Division at the end of last season, and after a 19 year gap, they are making the most of it. A new manager, a new squad made up largely of overseas players, and most spectacularly, a new ground: Thomond Park.
Thomond, now one of the country’s most impressive stadia, is the home (as if you didn’t know) of Munster rugby. And for this season, at least, will be the home of Limerick FC. You have to hand it to the folks from the city of the Treaty Stone, they’re certainly going all-out on their return to the Premier Division. The thing of it being of course, whether such a course of action – designed no doubt to get the attention of Limerick people – will be sustainable for the club. That will depend largely on results. And if their rivals are anything to go by, getting back your Premier Division legs isn’t so easy. Of course, Cork City, run by FORAS, are back in the top flight on a supremely sustainable model; it might take a little longer for them to reach the heights of 2005 again, but at least they are doing it slow and steady. Limerick are, by contrast, going for the shock ‘n’ awe approach in terms of their return. The Thomond thing could go either way, being empty and atmosphere-less, or packed – but again this will depend on a run of results as well as an entertaining footballing style.
Only over the course of the season will this become apparent, but as was noted elsewhere this weekend, Limerick’s new home has certainly grabbed the attention of RTÉ as this game between Munster rivals is to be the first televised game of the new season. The problem being that the game has been shifted to a Sunday evening kick-0ff at 5.15pm to suit the telly men. A lamentable state of affairs, I don’t think many League of Ireland fans would like more of this to be the price of greater live coverage. Irish football has been played on Friday nights under floodlights for some time now and it is a vital part of what makes League of Ireland football the thing it is – it has become intrinsic to the sense of occasion; whether today’s televised game will act as the kind of advertisement the League needs, depends on the crowds, and whether a Sunday evening brings out the same release a late Friday kick-off brings. Will the first bit of sound and vision for the League this season be a gift or a curse? We can only wait and see.
Limerick FC v Cork City FC will be live on RTÉ Two from 5.05pm