With the League of Ireland 2015 season starting this weekend, we look, with just a slight amount of bias, at the case for the league being the best in the world.
The League of Ireland 2015 season couldn't be more open
There are three joint favourites to win the League of Ireland 2015; Dundalk, Pats and Rovers are all available at 11/4, giving each just over a one in four chance of winning. Last years runners-up, Cork, aren't far behind at 5/1. That is one-third of the contenders in with a quite realistic chance of winning it. The league is as wide open as can be, much like it has been for some time.
A staggering eight different teams have won the league in the last decade. Dundalk FC managed to win last year, just two years after they only stayed up in a promotion-relegation play off.
Equally, Any of six or seven teams could find themselves going down and the odds reflect this, meaning every single game has something to play for, you won't find a dead rubber.
€15 will see you into a ground for a match in this League of Ireland 2015 season, €10 for students. Season tickets, with a minimum 16 games, start at €119 - the price of two nights out. If you're a student, a season ticket will be even less, €79 at Bray for instance, while u18's and OAP's start at €49.
Tavey's pub across from St.Pats ground will sell you a pint for €3.60 or so. Dalymount has three bars, all reasonable value. In fact most grounds have a bar or one within very short walking distance meaning you can get a game and a few pints for €25 or so. There isn't much better ways to spend a night out for the same price.
The football is pretty decent
As most regular fans will tell you, the football isn't half bad. Most teams set out to win games meaning there is few defensive bores, even the bottom teams can often be seen playing beautiful attacking football. Wonder goals appear to happen nearly every week and even the most seemingly benign match can end up a cracker, Bray 3-5 UCD last season anyone?
The songs are the best there is
You won't get closer to the action
Many League of Ireland grounds will have you mere feet from the action. It also ensures fans feel as much a part of the action as possible, not hard when you could probably reach and grab a player from some seats if you were that way inclined .
The players hear the crowd and often the crowd can hear the players, feeding off each other; banter between players and fans isn't uncommon and always appreciated. You won't feel more involved in a game anywhere else.
Where else could you get chips and a burger while keeping your eye on the football? Nowhere, we'd imagine.
There isn't better mascots anywhere
We'd be surprised if other leagues teams but as much thought and expense into their mascots.
They even scrap now and then.
The clubs are integral to the community
Clubs and their towns are inter-linked. Dundalk FC, Sligo Town and Cork City, to name but a few, are directly representative of those towns and enjoy huge support from the community. The players, for the most part, are local lads you grew up with, the fans are local too. This results in fierce pride and passion in the clubs, as the clubs fortunes go, so does the mood of the (de) town.
The League of Ireland 2015 schedule means you can keep an eye on other leagues
A summer season, running from March to October and Friday night games means you can still keep an eye on any other leagues you might follow. In fact, it sets up sporting weekends perfectly, LOI on a Friday, overseas football Saturday and Sunday. The summer league also means you've live football to feed your fix during months when the other leagues are off.
It's safe to say the League of Ireland 2015 season is set to be a belter. We'll be bringing you the latest news, views and the best of the action throughout the season.