30 April 2007

Was there a game on Friday night?

Work commitments prevented me from making the trip North for the 0-0 draw against Derry City on Friday night, so unfortunately I won't be able to bring you my usual report this week. Rather than take a week off though, I'd like to use this opportunity to talk about something that has long troubled me about the game here in Ireland - coverage of the League by the media.

There's an old saying that "the newspaper never refuses ink". That is, it seems, unless it involves the League of Ireland. To put it bluntly, coverage of Irish soccer - particularly by the print media - is nothing short of abysmal.

Quite often I'll flick through the sports sections of Ireland's main newspapers on a Saturday morning and wonder whether League games had actually even taken place the previous night.
Even when the games are covered, the quality is often dubious and appears to have been included in the sports section as something of a token gesture. More often than not, papers seem to choose not to send a reporter to games and simply offer up a re-hash of someone else's report. Not surprisingly therefore, mistakes are also common. One of the more ridiculous I have spotted came after Bohs knocked Bray Wanderers out the League Cup last month. The Irish Daily Mail claimed the following day that the win had "moved Bohs up to third in the table". Perhaps with mistakes this big its just as well that they tuck their coverage so deep into the paper!

I was pretty disappointed to miss the game against Derry (only the second game I have missed all season) and I spent the night desperately checking the internet and teletext to find out what was happening at the Brandywell. Through these two sources I was able to find out that the game had finished scoreless, however, I was eager to find out how the game had gone and how Bohs had played on the night. Even the message boards, which are normally full of opinion after the game, were of no real use to me as most of the regular posters were at the game. The fact that they would not be back in Dublin until the early hours meant that I would have to wait until the next morning to read about the game in the sports pages.

On Saturday, virtually all of the major papers carried the score, however, (as usual) very few offered any real insight into how the game had actually panned out. As they so often do, the likes of the Daily Star and the Daily Mail attempted to cram the entire night's action from across the League into two pages, while the Irish Independent couldn't even muster up more than 50 words on Derry versus Bohs.

The newspapers themselves would no doubt tell me that League of Ireland coverage just wouldn't sell newspapers and, working in the journalism game myself, that argument is something I can undoubtedly appreciate. However, what I do find extremely disappointing is to see just how far down the news agenda the League of Ireland sits. Even more so, when you consider the huge number of column inches given over to the Irish national team and the exploits of Irish players over in Scotland and England.

The only paper to offer any decent coverage of the game was the Irish Mirror. (Not surprising perhaps, seeing as it is one of the league's main sponsors.) Somewhat predictably though, the report was stuck six pages in from the back, behind numerous musings on the goings-on in the English Premiership.

Shunting the League well through the paper is something that the Irish papers seem to be good a though and most days it is a hunt to find even the smallest snippets of Eircom League news.
The lack of media interest in the Irish game is almost as baffling as the lack of support it receives from its own people. Then again, I suppose it all goes hand in hand. Perhaps its just something I'll have to get used to as a League of Ireland fan.

A few weeks back I bumped into a sports reporter with one of the bigger newspapers here so I decided to put the question to him… "why does the local league get so little coverage?". The answer, he said, came down to two things: lack of demand from readers and the poor standard of the League.

As I said earlier, the first point I can accept. As for the second, well, I'll leave you with my reply to said reporter.

At least the quality of football on offer on a Friday night is a damn sight better than the standard of coverage it receives in your paper on a Saturday morning.

Next up is UCD at home on Friday night. Come on Bohs!

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