A good three weeks after Dundalk had wrapped up the league title, the ten teams of the League of Ireland Premier Division played their 36th and final league game of the season on 26th October last year. We would not see the champions start the defence of their title this season until the 15th February, almost four months later.
It's long been an issue with the League of Ireland schedule that too much is packed into too short a period of time. This is especially true in the early part of the season when Friday/Monday double headers are the norm. Now, well into the second half of the season, when the sprint really starts to feel like a marathon, and players' legs are weary, it becomes an even bigger issue.
On closer inspection the LOI fixture list is still daft; six league games in Sept/Oct - 5 in a 14 day spell in April. Finn Harps are a club with tight resources and they won’t have a home league game in Sept so a lot riding on FAI Cup. It’s completely dysfunctional
— Daniel McDonnell (@McDonnellDan) December 19, 2018
Last night, all ten teams played their second game in four days. There will be another full round of fixtures this Friday.
Bohemians, who currently sit third in the league on course for their best season since 2010, last night drew 0-0 with Derry City and Dalymount Park in what was a dour affair. Afterwards, their manager Keith Long was quick to point the blame at the packed fixture list for the poor quality and entertainment on show in the game.
"We have to show more respect for our players.
"We can't continue to play Friday and then Monday."
Bohemian FC manager Keith Long blames tonight's "poor spectacle" against Derry City on injuries and fatigue, and calls on the FAI to extend the #LOI season. pic.twitter.com/98QDiUoGvI
— eir Sport (@eirSport) July 1, 2019
I think as a league, we need to start showing a little bit more respect for the players. We can't keep continuing to ask our players to play Friday and Monday. But it's down to the clubs. We need to extend out the season. We need to make our season a little bit longer, make our off-season shorter...
... It's a false economy really, when you look at it. Playing Friday/Monday, gates are down, receipts are down, as a result, although we've had a good crowd here tonight. You get spectacles like that. We're shorn of eight players here tonight. Our supporters come to watch their team play and they want to see our best players playing, but injury and fatigue have restricted what we could do tonight.
I think need to, as a league, as clubs, we need have a look at it. Definitely, we need to extend out the season because we can't continue... we've had two weeks off! And now we're playing three games in a week! It doesn't make sense! Common sense is not that common in our league at this moment in time, and we need to address these issues so we don't spectacles like that tonight.
As Long points out here, the issue is with the clubs rather than the FAI in this situation. Because most League of Ireland clubs don't pay wages in the off season, the shorter the gap between seasons, the more expensive it is for clubs. But as Long would argue, this is possibly a "false economy" with the impact it has on the quality of the league and its attendances.