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OPINION: The FAI are doing the League of Ireland no favours

Ronan Mullen

(This article originally appeared on The Season Ticket)

While this term may have gotten off to a somewhat inauspicious start, tales of last year’s European adventures still dominate the Dundalk memory bank.

It remains a run rife with reminiscence, a series of highlights which led Stephen Kenny’s men from Tallaght to Tel-Aviv and several sites besides.

“Obviously we qualified for the Europa League and had a great run, but the next step is the Champions League,” reflects the 45-year-old. “We have to think like that.”

“We are asking a lot to compete with the level of resources the clubs have at that level but we must certainly strive to have that”
“We mustn’t accept mediocrity, we must have a desire to get better all the time and constantly improve.”

Easier said than done, of course.

Cork City, for one, have gone some way to putting a spanner in those works, the Leesiders’ stellar start showing their desire to shed the bridesmaid dress this time around.

With that in mind, domestic matters should prove distraction enough by the time European football rolls back around in July. And yet, Dundalk will likely be pushed to the pin of their collar as much off the field as on it.

FAI red tape hindered their progress on more than one occasion during 2016’s historic conquest, after all, a fixture overload leaving Kenny and co. fighting fires on all fronts.

One would hope the game’s governing body would afford their champions something a little closer to top billing 12 months on, yet yesterday’s announcement suggests the League of Ireland will remain off broadway for some time yet.

FAI HQ confirmed on Monday that Manchester United will face Sampdoria at the Aviva Stadium on Wednesday 2 August.

It will be the second time the Red Devils have played at the redeveloped Lansdowne Road after featuring in the stadium’s opening game seven years ago.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, captained by John O’Shea on the night, beat an Airtricity XI 7-1 in-front of a sell-out crowd of 50,000.

That tonking was hardly a masterclass in PR for our domestic competition, yet this year’s iteration seems like even more of an own goal.

On the same day that the English and Italian outfits hoover up the Irish media glare, Dundalk will likely be contesting a qualifier for next season’s Champions League.

To call it an “unfortunate oversight” would suggest those responsible actually care.

John Delaney et al have long since foregone any semblance of grassroots development for a quick buck from abroad. Why should this be any different?

Ronan Mullen

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