Irish League football has been an easy target over the years for cynics with it being unfairly compared to the more lucrative English and Scottish leagues. Some of the gripes people have had were minimal investment, poor infrastructure and a lack of ambition.
How times have changed — yet some still aren’t happy.
I genuinely believe the Irish League is in as good a place as it’s been for many years. Crowds are healthy, competition is fierce and there are lots of talented players plying their trade.
We have full-time clubs, which is a first, while the majority of clubs have academies that are producing players to service their first team.
In turn this is giving the young players vital first-team exposure and is drawing glancing eyes from across the water. Surely that’s one of the aims of the league and its member clubs, to give young players the platform to go on and have a full-time career across the water? Young Trai Hume is a shining example of that so long may it continue.
It has to be said the part-time clubs are exceeding expectations and the interest in the local game is growing due to the product all clubs are producing on the pitch. The style of football, which was regularly disapproved of, has improved immeasurably with all managers deserving a lot of credit for sticking to their footballing principles and producing an entertaining product.
Finances split opinion in every league around the world, not just in Northern Ireland. I just find it strange that some clubs have been criticised for seemingly being ambitious and wanting to spend their hard-earned money gained from European football or gifted by their successful investors.
The aim of all clubs in the Irish League is to be successful to the maximum level attainable, make progress moving forward on all fronts and strive to be the best they can be in every aspect.
If it means spending some money along the way, then is that really a bad thing?
Transfer fees paid out within the league has become more prominent in recent seasons, which I see as a very healthy position to be in. European football is a very lucrative income stream, with progression through the rounds giving clubs a bit more financial clout. The fact that they are then reinvesting it in local talent is commendable as it’s not only servicing other clubs financially but it means our best players are being retained while maintaining the quality of product on show.
Money can be the enemy at times but surely for Irish league football it’s giving our game the chance to flourish once again. The league is making headlines for the right reasons so embrace it and keep giving your club the support it needs and deserves.