Shamrock Rovers II joining the league is part of a bigger issue.
The League of Ireland Premier Division season starts in about a months time, with the First Division following aweek later. Last season Shamrock Rovers stole the headlines for both the right reasons (winning the Cup and putting in a good showing in the Europa League qualifiers) and the wrong reasons (throwing away a big lead in the league to come up short in the title race). So far this preseason, the focus as been on the Hoops, but more so the B side than the main team.
Controversially Shamrock Rovers have been allowed to enter a 2nd team in the first division in place of Limerick. It’s worth nothing that Limerick United have entered teams at underage level and are looking to be back in the senior league by 2021. So this may only be a temporary measure.
To be honest, I’m not against having a B team in the league of Ireland necessarily. My issue is that for some reason we need a B team just make up 20 teams. We’ve often said on our weekly domestic football podcast Get Your Bleak On that the league needs more teams. There was a chance to bring in a new team to take the place of Limerick, rather than allow a reserve side.
There is an issue with allowing big teams put in a 2nd team at the expense of expanding the league. The aim should be to get more teams in the League of Ireland. By the end of the decade, we should be looking at having two tiers of 14 to 16 teams, with a pyramid structure after that, whether that’s north and south regional tiers or North West, South, and East tiers., with further divisions below. The structure of the league needs improvement, and adding B teams is not the first step.
If we had bigger divisions and a 3rd tier with a pyramid structure, there’d be no real issue with B teams. A rule could be put in place that they can’t advance beyond the 3rd tier (and though it likely wouldn’t be needed, they have to be at least a division behind the main side).
However, if we need B teams to join just to bring the number of teams up to 20, that’s an issue. It comes down largely to money. Teams have to pay ridiculous money to join the league, and it ultimately isn’t worth their while. This isn’t Rovers fault, it’s the league’s. Surely teams should be funded to join the league. There’s a huge disconnect in Irish football between the FAI and the domestic leagues. It’s one that needs to be bridged this decade.
Will this be a good thing for Shamrock Rovers? Will some of the pressue be off the main side giving them an extra chance in the title race? Personally I don’t think so. It’d be a stretch to say this drama will take the mind off Rovers looking to displace Dundalk as champions of Ireland. But it’s a shame that rather than expand the league, it’s being contracted.
The latest episode of our domestic football podcast is out now.
Never miss a podcast, including our weekly domestic football show Get Your Bleak On out every Tuesday.
Post To Post Sport wherever you get your podcasts.