As the curtain fell on the Premier League season, Stephen Elliott joined us on the Balls.ie Football Show to review the performances of Irish internationals across the club season. He also spoke of his memories of Saipan, and whose side he chose in the country's most recent civil war. You can listen by subscribing on iTunes or on your Android app of choice, by searching Balls.ie Football Show. Alternatively, it is below.
With the League of Ireland title race already slowing down to a procession for Cork City, the drama this season will be the fraught battle to avoid an extra-wide trapdoor. The League is once again being restructured, and from next season will comprise two ten-team divisions, as opposed to the 12-8 balance in favour of the Premier Division at the moment.
The decision was announced in December by the FAI, which they said came "following a proposal from the Premier Clubs Alliance" after further discussion of proposals from the Conroy Report.
It emerged soon after, however, that the decision to switch to two, ten-team leagues did not have unanimous support from the PCA, but was instead voted for in a 6:4 majority. A report by Neil O'Riordan of The Irish Sun claims that Dundalk, Derry City, Shamrock Rovers, St Pat’s, Bray Wanderers and Sligo Rovers voted in favour, with Cork City, Bohemians, Galway United and Finn Harps rejecting the proposal.
It also emerged that Bray were in favour of retaining the 12-team format, but were prepared to go with the majority vote. They then withdrew their support after the public backlash. Newly-promoted Drogheda United oppose the restructure, and there was much consternation among the first division clubs that they were denied a say in the decision.
Nonetheless, it has been confirmed, and three teams will be relegated from this season's Premier Division. It's unbearably tight: just two points separate bottom club Finn Harps from Bohemians, who are seventh.
Elliott is in the thick of it with Drogheda United, and he criticised the restructuring of the leagues.
I think it's ridiculous, to be honest. I don't know why they've done it. For me, you should have as many teams as possible in the league. Teams are going to get bored of playing each other. Maybe some of the big teams are saying they'll be playing the better teams more often, than the so-called smaller teams, but do you think that supporters will come out and watch that more? I don't think so, I think supporters will get bored watching the same teams playing each other. I think attendances will suffer under the new format.
Look, you have to go with what's in front of you, and they have their reasons for doing so, it adds a little pressure on the teams in the league this year.
As well, you look at the league below. It's a total disregard for the teams in the first division. There's only one team coming up, and if a team all of a sudden wins three or four on a bounce, the league could be over. Then some of the clubs in that league will struggle, because fans won't go to games that don't mean anything. It's tough enough to get them out to games at the moment.
So I don't know if they've truly thought it through, and I don't think they've asked the number of people that they should have asked. But I'm not making the rules, I'll be interested to see if it works in the long-run.
You can listen to the full interview on the podcast.