Stephen Walsh, a self-proclaimed League of Ireland fanatic, discusses the Top 10 Traits of every Irish domestic football fan.
League of Ireland fans are a breed apart; travelling up and down the country in the best and worst of weather to support a league which is treated with total disdain by the rest of the public.
Who else would travel from Ballybofey to Wexford for a league match?
I wanted to pay homage to our fellow supporters, and after some mindless searching on Google one day; the topic of what it takes to be a fan in our fantastic league hasn’t been discussed (or else I haven’t found it yet).
There were lists of the top ten European displays, League of Ireland players, as compiled by Mark McCadden back in January with the Star, and a list of the top ten goalscorers. But nothing on the League of Ireland (LOI) fans.
So here we are, the ‘Top 10 Traits Of A LOI Fan’. Bear in mind these are just some of the traits associated with us mad men and women, and if you have any other suggestions we would love to hear them!
We’ll start it off on a positive note, especially considering the time of year it is. Every fan regardless of their club, dreams of that day their beloved side will be in the Group Stages of the Champions League.
Every League of Ireland fan in the past couple of months has been proud to tell everybody that Sligo Rovers beat Rosenborg and that St. Patrick’s Athletic got a draw against Legia Warsaw away from home. Not even our Scottish neighbours Celtic managed that in recent weeks.
No I’m not talking about those Panini stickers that everyone went crazy about in the past few months for the World Cup. I’m talking about those stickers that some groups plaster over opposing grounds and buildings to mark their territory i.e. Commandos 84 and SRFC ultra’s.
These stickers end up in the strangest of places, have a good look around the next ground you visit and see if you can spot some!
Every League of Ireland fan has an opinion on all the relevant sites dedicated to the league.
Extratime.ie have a presence at every game in the country and knowledge of all things to do with the league. The LOI Blog are very strong on social media and provide some good alternative columns written by David Meier and Stephen Henderson.
Goal.com has entered the Irish market this year and has proven to be a welcome addition to the league with their impressive podcast while their “Inside LOI column” has proven to be a good read on a weekly basis.
And who can forget ourselves, Pundit Arena, providing interviews and analysis on the League of Ireland in general.
Every LOI fan has their favourite site and won’t be shy to tell you why they think one is better than the other!
Those three letters have proven to be the starting point of many a good argument about what is ‘wrong’ with the league. Some LOI fans are able to list all the negative points about UCD’s inclusion in the League such as their lack of tradition in comparison to other League of Ireland clubs, and that their travelling support is a fraction of other clubs.
However, other fans point to the fact that LOI regulars like Cillian Morrison, Ciarán Kilduff and Shane Duggan have all donned the Blue in the past.
It’s a fascinating debate and one that every LOI fan has found themselves embroiled in!
5. The Jersey
While the jersey mightn’t be seen on every person at the ground, you can be pretty sure that most fans have a kit which does get donned at the big games.
For some, certain jerseys are lucky, and some unlucky, but all are cherished.
Often the jersey is used to represent one’s club abroad, while League of Ireland jerseys are often seen at the Aviva Stadium during Irish international matches. Recently clubs have started to recreate jerseys from past eras with Bohemians and Cork City being the two most recent examples. Both jerseys were very well received by their fans.
6. That One ‘Friend’
If you’re a League of Ireland fan then you definitely have that ‘friend’ that tells you that the league has no talent. It’s a common argument made against the domestic game but one that has much evidence in its rebuttal.
It’s amazing to watch their reaction when they realise that the likes of David Meyler, Kevin Doyle and Séamus Coleman didn’t just fall from the stars and actually only played up the road from them a few years ago.
7. Club Merchandise
We were going to include this in the jersey section but felt it deserved its own topic. If you’re reading this then you are more than likely guilty of buying something to help your club at a certain time, and now it just lies in the corner of a room or attic gathering dust.
Scarves and pin badges are definitely near the top of the list for some, while for others thousands of programmes sit n the corner, occupying space in the house.
True LOI fans will only throw programmes in the bin as a very last resort.
Yes, we know it would be easy to go into League of Ireland fan mode complaining about the fact that live games will take fans from the games and as a result your club’s gate receipts will be down (and not adequately refunded in prize money) but let’s not do that now.
We all have our favourites on the RTÉ panel who we like listening to more than others because of their personality. Damien Richardson will always divide opinion but his command of the English language must be near Oxford professor status going by some of the lines he says during the course of a game.
But the pundit that stands out above all is Pat Dolan. Love him or hate him, the ex-LOI manager is television gold. One quote from Pat Dolan that will always stand out is when he said that St. Patrick’s Athletic ‘s Chris Forrester was worth €17 million. A little bit of an overestimation maybe?
Regarding the presenters, Darragh Maloney is the best around, but with Bill’s retirement it’s looking like we might have Peter Collins presenting instead, I’ll just leave it there.
9. Away Grounds
Yes they can bring all sorts of complaints from fans regarding lack of shelter, poor toilets or food facilities. Yet being honest, we don’t think many fans would swap their away day memories for anything.
In fact many a fan will plan their holidays around these games and turn into walking travel guides. Need somewhere to drink in Drogheda, or a chipper in Cork? Ask a League of Ireland fan! Let’s face it who wants to miss Dundalk’s P.A. doorbell?
10. Cult Hero
Every League of Ireland Fan has that player who they thought was the best thing since sliced pan, when in reality they were average players.
You were probably the lead singer in your section when it came to starting a chant for this player but slowly as the season went on people realised that he wasn’t that good and didn’t deserve a chant i.e Guntars Silagailis.
Other players were supporters’ favourites, not just because of what they did in the field, but their actions. Joey Ndo is one that definitely stands out for his warm up routine before matches. Who else would do keepy uppies before a season defining match while the rest of the team were jogging?
It’s only right to include George O’Callaghan on this list, one of the great players in that Cork City side of 2005. ‘Georgie’ was often in the headlines, both for his antics off the pitch, and his bright white boots on it. T
he white wheels were spotted around Leeside after the league win as youngsters tried to emulate the midfield starlet. All to varying levels of success it must be said!
* Bonus Trait: Fanzines *
Yes they have declined in numbers in recent years due to the wide availability of online sites but there is still something nice about physically reading the fanzine in the ground before the start of a big game.
Another reason for the decline in fanzines is the simple fact that supporters own the majority of clubs now and whereas before it was easy to write an article complaining about the owner, it becomes a lot harder to do when your friends are involved in the running of the clubs.
The Shamrock Rovers fanzine is probably the best around at the moment with regards to content while other fanzines like the one in Cork City is good. Sadly, nothing compares to some of the fanzines that existed in the past such as “No more plastic pitches”.
A little known fact is that UCD who were mentioned above actually had a fanzine that ran for a number of years and it was called “Student Till I Graduate”.
Stephen Walsh, Pundit Arena.
If you have any other suggestions to the list mentioned above, comment below or Tweet us @punditarena.