Last season was an incredibly challenging one for Galway United. The club failed to win any of their opening nine league games. Mid-way through their star central midfielder was sold due to financial difficulties. On the last day of the season, with relegation looming, fans received an email asking them to leave their season tickets at home and buy a ticket because of ‘a critical financial situation.’
A year of turmoil and angst both on and off the field, interrupted by one brief instant. In a world that ultimately consists of a continuous cycle of millions of instants merging and reshaping each other until a single moment is near impossible to isolate, one moment shone out.
Galway welcomed defending champions Dundalk to Eamon Deacy Park without a win in the league. The game played out to form a mildly entertaining 1-1 draw as the clock ticked the 93rd minute. Then it happened. A bolt from the blue as Gary Shanahan struck the ball into the back of the net and instigated pandemonium.
The goal itself, or the flares that magically appeared, or the entire Galway bench clearing out to race after Shanahan are not what stand out from the white noise. The spectacle was endearing but expected when an under-pressure side lands a last-minute winner. What truly stood out was the roar.
A deafening boom that rocked the stand and epitomised the ecstasy-fuelled relief-and-cmon-ta-fuck-you-boy-ya sensation that simultaneously rippled through the ground.
— Marc Ludden (@marc_ludden) April 28, 2017
Yesterday Bohemians released an outstanding video which perfectly encapsulates what the League of Ireland is about; accessibility.
— Bohemian FC ?⚫ (@bfcdublin) January 29, 2018
Football is the country’s leading sport. We have an insatiable interest in the beautiful game that manifests itself in so many weird and wonderful ways. All of its thrills and delectations are on our doorstep, waiting to be tapped into.
This time of year routinely produces football league previews that analyse everything but the football. A plethora of concerns re economic breakdowns, headship reproaches and attendance uncertainties.
This is the annual resolution reader. What does the league need to do, what it needs to do it, and what the fan can do to help.
The irritation at the repetitiveness of the rhetoric is only surpassed by the banality of it all. Yet, it only tells part of a story.
Sport exists to entertain. It is a fundamental tenant of its being.
Even with the onslaught of virtual reality, an ever-increasing level of digital availability and dwindling attention spans, entertainment is still most valued through human experience.
The healthy appetite for the Premier League is driven by highly-orchestrated marketing and a craving desire for entertainment. By no means is it the best league in Europe, or even the most competitive. A highly-uneven elitist structure of minimal strong sides and masses of average ones as the gap between 1st and 2nd is the more than the gap between 20th and 8th.
But it is expertly-packaged, well covered and routinely produces at least one televised entertaining game.
Fans persist with it for that moment. That delightful bolt from the blue when a weekend of dour games is broken up by a 4-3 Liverpool Man City thriller.
The profound satisfaction that guarantees is routinely available within Ireland. It is not a competition between one and the other and anyone who tries to make it such is woefully misguided. If one thing can be obtained from the overwhelming number of televised games recently it is this; the audience cannot get enough football.
A world of football exists, and it begins on our doorstep.