Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

29 April 2004 Edition

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Giving soccer a bad name

Those in search of neo-nazis rioting on the streets or hooligan "firms" orchestrating pre-arranged acts of violence should pop down to their local Eircom League game, if what has been laid down in print in the last couple of weeks is to be believed.

No Eircom League ground is safe, it appears. Average football fans run the risk of being caught in the midst of sets of rival supporters going hell for leather at each other every time they attend a match.

It's savage, it's brutal, it's all organised by militant right-wing supporters who crave violence and have an insatiable thirst for blood.

Just like that other media feeding frenzy around this weekend's Mayday protests, however, it's all complete and utter fabricated nonsense.

No one is suggesting that there are not certain unsavoury elements in the fan base of the league but all true supporters, irrespective of what team they may be affiliated with, know there is no place for those particular mindless idiots. There have been unsavoury scenes in the past, and they must not be repeated again in the future.

That said, why is it that so many of those whose job it is to report on the league endeavour to tarnish its name with such gusto at every given opportunity? They are in a position to influence the public's perception of Irish soccer. They are intricately involved with the domestic game and know that much of what they have put their names to is nothing more than sensationalist scaremongering.

The Eircom League has struggled to raise its profile in recent years. It has battled hard to gain more exposure in all forms of the media. Recently inroads have been made, mostly in the written press. Extra column inches each week may not seem like a lot to the casual observer. However, to a league endeavouring to draw more and more fans away from the comfort of their living rooms and local pubs to watch their local side, such increased coverage is a small step forward on the long road ahead.

Yet it is also true that when it comes to running the league's name into the ground, there is no shortage of space in any paper. In truth, this is when coverage of the league hits its peak.

When the press indulge in a rabid feeding frenzy, such as the one after the recent Bohemians v Shamrock Rovers derby game, every club and every fan suffer the consequences. People will quite simply not "risk" coming to domestic league matches if they believe even half of what they read.

One paper, for example, carried a 30-paragraph article on that game in the next day's edition. Roughly two thirds of what was printed alluded to the "riot" at Doyle's Corner, just two minutes' walk from the ground. It is clear there was an incident of violence at the said location, but the figures reported for those involved where highly inflated, the severity of the disturbance was exaggerated and the whole incident, unsavoury as it was, was blown out of proportion.

This is just one example of the irresponsibility of coverage of the Eircom League the day following the derby match. There was a plethora of inaccurate, overblown and unsubstantiated reports that struck a hammer blow at the heart of the league. Yet the worst was still to come.

What was printed in the Evening Herald was, in my humble opinion, one of the worst pieces of reporting ever committed to print. A Shamrock Rovers supporters club, the SRFC Ultras, were portrayed as a neo-nazi affiliated, right wing band of troublemakers who attempt to ape the behaviour of English football hooligans — a fearsome bunch with only destruction and violence on their minds, a band of mindless rogues who are a menace to anyone who dares travel to the same game as themselves — you get the picture.

The Bohemian FC Board of Directors and FAI Chief Executive Fran Rooney issued statements in support of SRFC Ultras but the damage was already done.

For a league that is crying out for more support, this is a blow that may well take years to recover from.

Galway on course for double

Galway have an Allianz National League double in their sights, as both their hurlers and footballers progressed through to their respective Division One finals at the weekend. Both had to graft hard showed their battling qualities by producing the goods when it really mattered.

Galway's footballers took on Tyrone at Pearse Stadium in their semi-final replay after the previous week's epic encounter had ended in a draw.

It seemed that Galway had the measure of Tyrone right from the off, and the seven-point lead they took in at the interval was no less than they deserved. However Tyrone, looking for their third successive league title, would not lie down easily and fought back well to take the game to extra time. It was only then that Galway finally pulled away and secured their final spot. Crucial points from Michael Donnelan proved the key as Galway ran out winners by 2-18 to Tyrone's 1-19. Galway will now face Kerry for the title in a much anticipated and finely poised clash.

Galway's hurlers knew they would require a large winning margin if they were to progress to the NHL Division One Final. Limerick provided the opposition, and gave Galway some stiff competition for the first half, with only a point separating the sides at the interval. The turning point came early in the second half when Limerick had a man dismissed for violent conduct. Galway, sensing their opportunity, went all out to secure the win. Two goals in three minutes game them a comfortable cushion and they never looked like being troubled too much from that point on. The winning margin of 3-15 to 1-10 was easily enough to see them through to the final. They will face a ragged but determined Waterford side in the final. Galway should go into the game as favourites, taking into account Waterford's porous back line and poor defensive record.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1