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Thread: Third Tier Talk - A Championship Mk II

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    Cavan/Monaghan FC, Klub Kildare FC and Carlow Kilkenny FC were at U17 level this year. 2025 or 2026 are the likeliest seasons that either might make the step up. A Harps supporter is dismissive of Cavan/Monaghan. Monaghan United might return?
    A Championship: 4 years - 8 first teams - 0 financially ruined. First Division '14: 7 first teams.
    Opportunity seems lost somewhere in between for new clubs/regions to become part of LoI family.

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    Interestingly, both Kildare and CK United are moving up to the U19s for 2023, but as Legendz says, Kerry needed a few seasons at that level before making a senior move:


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    Quote Originally Posted by culloty82 View Post
    Interestingly, both Kildare and CK United are moving up to the U19s for 2023, but as Legendz says, Kerry needed a few seasons at that level before making a senior move:

    Good to see Dundalk moving up the WNL ranks, I find it a crying shame such a football mad town doesn't have a senior womens side, especially with all the Euro money in recent years.
    BetweenTheStripes.net - Home of Between the Stripes LOI podcast.

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    2025 would appear to be the earliest that CK and Kildare would join the League of Ireland based on their current trajectory. Nearing time for a decision. Will they be invited to apply for the First Division or will a third tier be formed?
    A Championship: 4 years - 8 first teams - 0 financially ruined. First Division '14: 7 first teams.
    Opportunity seems lost somewhere in between for new clubs/regions to become part of LoI family.

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    Im still not fully convinced that these 'county franchise' teams should be the uniform approach in expanding the LOI. Just because it might work for Kerry, doesnt mean it should be the only option across the country. For example, 'Klub Kildare' maybe a worse option than a Newbridge Town or Maynooth.

    I also hope there are resources available to teams like Athlone, Cobh and Wexford for being able to grow as clubs. No point in Kerry coming into the league, if another disappears. A bigger fight should have been made to keep Kildare County and Kilkenny City in the League. It takes more resources to bring clubs back into that area than it would have to keep them.

    Also, I feel like it comes down to funds for facilities for a lot of would-be teams- which is just not available.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kiki Balboa View Post
    Im still not fully convinced that these 'county franchise' teams should be the uniform approach in expanding the LOI. Just because it might work for Kerry, doesnt mean it should be the only option across the country. For example, 'Klub Kildare' maybe a worse option than a Newbridge Town or Maynooth.

    I also hope there are resources available to teams like Athlone, Cobh and Wexford for being able to grow as clubs. No point in Kerry coming into the league, if another disappears. A bigger fight should have been made to keep Kildare County and Kilkenny City in the League. It takes more resources to bring clubs back into that area than it would have to keep them.

    Also, I feel like it comes down to funds for facilities for a lot of would-be teams- which is just not available.
    Agreed, there is no one size fits all. Kerry League have represented Kerry in the youth leagues. Kerry FC is a natural evolution from there. Kerry are the first club to work their way up through the youth leagues, earning their stripes. The main blueprint to follow is that interested entities build up through the youth leagues.
    A Championship: 4 years - 8 first teams - 0 financially ruined. First Division '14: 7 first teams.
    Opportunity seems lost somewhere in between for new clubs/regions to become part of LoI family.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kiki Balboa View Post
    Im still not fully convinced that these 'county franchise' teams should be the uniform approach in expanding the LOI. Just because it might work for Kerry, doesnt mean it should be the only option across the country. For example, 'Klub Kildare' maybe a worse option than a Newbridge Town or Maynooth.

    I also hope there are resources available to teams like Athlone, Cobh and Wexford for being able to grow as clubs. No point in Kerry coming into the league, if another disappears. A bigger fight should have been made to keep Kildare County and Kilkenny City in the League. It takes more resources to bring clubs back into that area than it would have to keep them.

    Also, I feel like it comes down to funds for facilities for a lot of would-be teams- which is just not available.

    You think a team with an underage structure from 14-19 with a 10 year history by the time they play senior football is going to be worse than a random team from one town randomly changing their name to the county and expecting people to support it?

    Do you think many people from Naas supported what they viewed as a Newbridge team with a different crest?

    This new model of LOI expansion hasn't been tried before. It's 10 years of groundwork in the county before playing senior football. It's not a Sporting Fingal.

    Towns in Ireland on their own are broadly too small to support a LOI team and need support from nearby towns and the broader county so you cannot alienate support from rival towns.

    The expansion to 22 LOI teams will probably come from Kerry, Mayo FC and Klub Kildare (maybe CK United) and they'll be a lot more successful than any of the teams that came and went over the last 20 years.

    I would like to see how Monaghan would be getting on nowadays too if they had the youth structures that Cavan-Monaghan have now. If there is a solid flow of youth players coming up from the area would you get much more support as opposed to a team based largely of Dubs? I'd guess so. Even if it was just friends and family of locals going to the games. Maybe one or two a season would become permanent fans.

    The issue is keeping the teams in the league. Are Cobh and Athlone viable long term? Wexford may have periods where they have a good manager but their stadium is miles out of the town so it's hard to see them ever getting consistent support. I think the FAI will really need to help thes clubs strategically if we do want them to continue to have a professional game with a good geographical spread.
    Last edited by David BOHie; 07/12/2022 at 3:04 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by David BOHie View Post
    I would like to see how Monaghan would be getting on nowadays too if they had the youth structures that Cavan-Monaghan have now. If there is a solid flow of youth players coming up from the area would you get much more support as opposed to a team based largely of Dubs? I'd guess so. Even if it was just friends and family of locals going to the games. Maybe one or two a season would become permanent fans.

    The issue is keeping the teams in the league. Are Cobh and Athlone viable long term? Wexford may have periods where they have a good manager but their stadium is miles out of the town so it's hard to see them ever getting consistent support. I think the FAI will really need to help thes clubs strategically if we do want them to continue to have a professional game with a good geographical spread.
    A Harps supporter sees Monaghan United as a more long-term prospect than Cavan Monaghan.
    The First Division will feature amateur status for the foreseeable future. As long as clubs are providing a pathway for the best youth in their area, it is a positive. If the Premier Division progressed to all clubs having a long-term viable full-time setup, that will be great progress.
    A Championship: 4 years - 8 first teams - 0 financially ruined. First Division '14: 7 first teams.
    Opportunity seems lost somewhere in between for new clubs/regions to become part of LoI family.

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    Seasoned Pro EalingGreen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David BOHie View Post
    Towns in Ireland on their own are broadly too small to support a LOI team and need support from nearby towns and the broader county so you cannot alienate support from rival towns.
    Finn Harps manage somehow to survive in a town(s) of 5k people, Longford in 10k, Cobh in 13k and Sligo and Wexford in 20k. While in NI, Coleraine are pulling in 2.5k crowds in a town of 20k, and Larne (population 19k) get 1.8k crowds. Glenavon manage in Lurgan (25k), Portadown (22k) now supports 2 senior clubs, while Dungannon (14k), Ballyclare (10k) and Warrenpoint (9k) all manage ok, at one level or another. Even Ballinamalllard, a village of 1.5k people, gets by.

    Meanwhile, to facilitate expansion in the LOI, an all-Ireland league has been proven to be a mirage, new "franchise" clubs have been tried and failed, adding Reserve teams was also considered, but rejected, and now elevating youth/county teams is being tried with Kerry. But even assuming Kerry succeed, and another couple more after them, what then? You'd still be stuck with 22 or 24 senior clubs and that's it.

    Seems to me that this is all trying to "square a circle", when it is the circle itself (i.e. present model) which is not fit for purpose. Far better to do what virtually every other country does, including comparable ones like eg Scotland, Denmark and NI, and develop a pyramid. And you don't build a pyramid from the top down, you do it from the bottom up. Which means starting with Junior football clubs and structures and then developing Intermediate football likewise, so as to provide viable clubs which can eventually progress to Senior level.

    Of course, this all takes considerable time, commitment and resources etc. But that is only an argument for starting now, rather than scratching around instead for a "silver bullet" which only ever turns out to be a "sticking plaster" (if I may mix my metaphors).

    Quote Originally Posted by David BOHie View Post
    The issue is keeping the teams in the league. Are Cobh and Athlone viable long term? Wexford may have periods where they have a good manager but their stadium is miles out of the town so it's hard to see them ever getting consistent support. I think the FAI will really need to help thes clubs strategically if we do want them to continue to have a professional game with a good geographical spread.
    In the end, you can't go on keeping clubs on "life support". or worse still, keep resurrecting them after they'e gone bust, you have to recognise that clubs which aren't being run properly should be let go*. But that need not be a problem if you have a pyramid beneath them. For as well as providing somewhere for struggling clubs to go while they address their problems, a pyramid will also provide replacements clubs as well.


    * - We saw that in NI eg when Newry (population 27k) went under - nearby Warrenpoint (10k) were able to take their place. And by the time a few years later when Warrenpoint got relegated, Newry had sorted their problems and risen back up the pyramid to got promoted back to the Premiership in their place.
    Last edited by EalingGreen; 08/12/2022 at 6:16 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EalingGreen View Post
    In the end, you can't go on keeping clubs on "life support". or worse still, keep resurrecting them after they'e gone bust, you have to recognise that clubs which aren't being run properly should be let go*.
    On life support for clubs, clubs have to cut their cloth. If their current circumstances dictate amateur status, that's what it has got to be.
    The pyramid has been discussed enough. The first step is linking district leagues to regional leagues. The appetite doesn't seem to be there for it.
    For it to be a possibility, a number of district league committees would have to have a shared committee for the provincial league or the provincial association would take a more active role in working with the district leagues.
    A Championship: 4 years - 8 first teams - 0 financially ruined. First Division '14: 7 first teams.
    Opportunity seems lost somewhere in between for new clubs/regions to become part of LoI family.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EalingGreen View Post
    Finn Harps manage somehow to survive in a town(s) of 5k people, Longford in 10k, Cobh in 13k and Sligo and Wexford in 20k. While in NI, Coleraine are pulling in 2.5k crowds in a town of 20k, and Larne (population 19k) get 1.8k crowds. Glenavon manage in Lurgan (25k), Portadown (22k) now supports 2 senior clubs, while Dungannon (14k), Ballyclare (10k) and Warrenpoint (9k) all manage ok, at one level or another. Even Ballinamalllard, a village of 1.5k people, gets by.
    Would a lot of those towns perhaps have no competition from Hurling and Gaelic? Newry likely had population split up there with GAA and contributed to their demise?

    Quote Originally Posted by EalingGreen View Post
    Meanwhile, to facilitate expansion in the LOI, an all-Ireland league has been proven to be a mirage, new "franchise" clubs have been tried and failed, adding Reserve teams was also considered, but rejected, and now elevating youth/county teams is being tried with Kerry. But even assuming Kerry succeed, and another couple more after them, what then? You'd still be stuck with 22 or 24 senior clubs and that's it.
    To facilitate LOI expansion? It was a third party who proposed it and you know that. It wasn't part of any devious master plan!

    An all-Ireland league has been proven to be a mirage? It was rejected by the IFA and 3 IL clubs before it was given a chance. The proposal was sound and had broad support in NI to continue to the next stage. I think all LOI clubs and nearly 20 other IL clubs wanted to press forward with it to the next stage at the time. IFA put the foot down and prevented them for doing so.

    Hopefully Kerry succeed yes, would be great to have another successful franchise as Wexford have turned out to be, spreading LOI football to another corner of the island.

    I'm perfectly happy with 20+ LOI tbh, never have been a believer in the pyramid as a must have - its more a nice to have. League is growing at the moment without it. There's examples all over the world of leagues which dont have promotion and relegation all the way down to pub leagues.
    Last edited by Buller; 09/12/2022 at 10:35 AM.

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    Biased against YOUR club pineapple stu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Buller View Post
    I'm perfectly happy with 20+ LOI tbh, never have been a believer in the pyramid as a must had - there's examples all over the world of leagues which dont have promotion and relegation all the way down to pub leagues.
    Is there an example of one which is as badly run as ours though, and has such a struggle for senior teams?

    The pyramid setup is used throughout Europe and most of the world for a reason - it works.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pineapple stu View Post
    Is there an example of one which is as badly run as ours though, and has such a struggle for senior teams?

    The pyramid setup is used throughout Europe and most of the world for a reason - it works.
    I just cant see how, for example, admitting Salthill Devon and Mervue back into the league via promotion from a regional league, will be of any benefit. They'll spend a ton of money travelling - still have no fans - and potentially eat into Galway Uniteds small pie.

    I actually think it would be a bad thing in that scenario.

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    Biased against YOUR club pineapple stu's Avatar
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    If there was a pyramid, they'd have gotten relegated out of the LoI in their first season, and probably wouldn't have gotten into it in the first place.

    Done properly, it encourages clubs to push themselves to higher levels, it means you're more likely to naturally find sustainable clubs with a bit of a fanbase rather than nut-cases like Dublin City/Sporting Fingal/etc, and means clubs come into the LoI on a promotion high, and not scrambling around for players and even a ground last-minute a la Cabinteely, who had 1k at early games but had the wind taken out of their sails by a poor start to the season.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pineapple stu View Post
    Is there an example of one which is as badly run as ours though, and has such a struggle for senior teams?
    Is there an example of one with a small population where domestic football is only the fourth most popular spectator sport ? Otherwise you're not comparing like wiht like.

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    Biased against YOUR club pineapple stu's Avatar
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    Fourth most popular spectator sport? You're hardly counting rugby (effectively two teams playing 10 home games a season) in that? Or hurling, a game (sadly) not really watched in most of the country? I've been at Wicklow hurling games with smaller crowds than a UCD match. Dual counties are rare and really the two main GAA sports should count as one.

    But every country in Europe has a pyramid, even Lithuania (a small population where basketball is the number one sport), Finland (a small population where ice hockey is the number one sport) and Wales (a small population where rugby is arguably the number one sport)

    Most countries in Europe have an equivalent of rugby here - a popular non-football sport where a pro league is supported - and it doesn't stop them having a proper football pyramid.

    And you've not even tried to show why your point is even relevant

    So let's not go using that as an excuse.
    Last edited by pineapple stu; 09/12/2022 at 3:02 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Buller View Post
    Would a lot of those towns perhaps have no competition from Hurling and Gaelic?
    Hurling is very much a niche/minority sport in NI, outside of a few villages in rural Antrim or Derry etc, so no real competition there.

    It's very different with Gaelic football however. Lurgan is a clear majority Nationalist town and even Portadown is 1/3rd(?) Nationalist. Dungannon is majority Nationalist and is notably strong in GAA, also has a big rugby tradition, while Tyrone is strong GAA territory generally. Warrenpoint and Newry are both heavily Nationalist majority, while South Down is a GAA stronghold. And even Ballinamallard, Unionist though the village is, is in (rural) Fermanagh, which is very mixed. (The county town of Enniskillen, whose 15k population is evenly mixed, has one GAA club, but 6 football clubs!).

    As for rugby, it is broadly as popular in Ulster/NI as it is in Leinster or Munster and much more so than in Connacht, while there's probably also at least as much hockey and cricket played in NI as there is in ROI, niche sports though they may be.

    Quote Originally Posted by Buller View Post
    Newry likely had population split up there with GAA and contributed to their demise?
    I don't know exactly what happened at Newry Town, but I gather that the club owners/board screwed up badly. However, the Showgrounds remained in the hands of the supporters, thank goodness, and they built a new Phoenix club', which has risen nicely from the ashes. The point being that Newry is what I call a "proper" football town, like eg its neighbour Dundalk, which is why it has produced such footballing greats as Pat Jennings, Peter McParland and, er, Coilin Clarke!

    More generally, it is a notable strength of IL football that nearly all the clubs own their own stadium, which gives some measure of financial security. I suspect that it may be a relative weakness in LOI football that many clubs do not?


    Quote Originally Posted by Buller View Post
    To facilitate LOI expansion? It was a third party who proposed it and you know that. It wasn't part of any devious master plan!

    An all-Ireland league has been proven to be a mirage? It was rejected by the IFA and 3 IL clubs before it was given a chance. The proposal was sound and had broad support in NI to continue to the next stage. I think all LOI clubs and nearly 20 other IL clubs wanted to press forward with it to the next stage at the time. IFA put the foot down and prevented them for doing so.
    I'm not going to go into the whys and wherefores of the failure of any an all-Ireland league to emerge (sighs of relief all round!), I merely used the term "mirage" to denote that it isn't going to happen, at least not any time soon.

    Quote Originally Posted by Buller View Post
    I'm perfectly happy with 20+ LOI tbh, never have been a believer in the pyramid as a must have - its more a nice to have. League is growing at the moment without it. There's examples all over the world of leagues which dont have promotion and relegation all the way down to pub leagues.
    I'll leave it to better qualified posters like Pineapple Stu and others to analyse the applicability (or otherwise) of a pyramid system to football in ROI.

    But NI, with a population which is only 40% of that in ROI - and a somewhat less wealthy one at that - manages to support 24 Senior teams in its top two divisions, fed and supported by an Intenediate and Junior pyramid, with (relatively) new clubs like Warrenpoint, Ballinamallard and Annagh emerging to replace formerly successful senior clubs like Newry, Bangor and Distillery who may have fallen on hard times for one reason or another. So I have no doubt at all that whatever one thinks of the state of football in NI generally, without a pyramid, we would be considerably worse off without it.

    P.S. The above situation has developed despite the (sad) loss of a major club, Derry City, from our second city a generation ago. Were eg Cork City to transfer out of the LOI to somewhere else, how weakened would LOI football be by that?
    Last edited by EalingGreen; 09/12/2022 at 4:09 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pineapple stu View Post
    If there was a pyramid, they'd have gotten relegated out of the LoI in their first season, and probably wouldn't have gotten into it in the first place.

    Done properly, it encourages clubs to push themselves to higher levels, it means you're more likely to naturally find sustainable clubs with a bit of a fanbase rather than nut-cases like Dublin City/Sporting Fingal/etc, and means clubs come into the LoI on a promotion high, and not scrambling around for players and even a ground last-minute a la Cabinteely, who had 1k at early games but had the wind taken out of their sails by a poor start to the season.
    How can you create a pyramid if the structures beneath the top 2 divisions appear largely disinterested/unwilling?

    How would a pyramid work if a lot of clubs just aren't interested in promotion (therefore making it a bit of a farce at times) ?

    Discuss.

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    Biased against YOUR club pineapple stu's Avatar
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    Those are the problems at present of course. They're for the FAI to overcome, and to incentivise clubs to get over themselves. (And the FAI exacerbated this problem by the daft idea of splitting out different seasons between LoI and non-league)

    But the evidence from all over Europe is that pyramid systems encourage clubs to push themselves, provide new blood and healthy competition, whereas our model of sticking a pin in a map or taking the first club to raise their hand has failed repeatedly.

    And the fact that some people go to watch rugby games has literally nothing to do with any of that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Buller View Post
    I'm perfectly happy with 20+ LOI tbh, never have been a believer in the pyramid as a must have - its more a nice to have. League is growing at the moment without it.
    Just on this - last year, with 19 clubs, the LoI was the smallest it's been since two divisions were introduced.

    Hard to argue we have 20+ clubs or that the league is growing in that case?
    Last edited by pineapple stu; 09/12/2022 at 4:36 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EalingGreen View Post
    But NI, with a population which is only 40% of that in ROI - and a somewhat less wealthy one at that - manages to support 24 Senior teams in its top two divisions, fed and supported by an Intenediate and Junior pyramid, with (relatively) new clubs like Warrenpoint, Ballinamallard and Annagh emerging to replace formerly successful senior clubs like Newry, Bangor and Distillery who may have fallen on hard times for one reason or another. So I have no doubt at all that whatever one thinks of the state of football in NI generally, without a pyramid, we would be considerably worse off without it.
    There are 2 very key difference between NI and ROI. Firstly - NI is a much more urbanised society, and football is primarily an urban sport. The Republic has half the popualtion density of the north, and GAA is much more of a rural sport. So those 2 factors provide some of the explanation for what goes on IMO - both north and south.

    The other is religion. If you look at the top 3 divisions of the Irish League pyramid, the clubs in it are overwhelmingly from what would be considered unionist towns. Some with very high protestant populations/catchments, especially in the top tier (e.g. Ballymena, Portadown, Crusaders, Coleraine, Glentoran, Carickfergus, Larne). This trend continues in the lower tiers (e.g. Loughall, Ballyclare, Dundela, Annagh, Dollingstown, Ballymacash etc), such that there are very few teams in the top 3 tiers from a nationalist area or with a fanbase that is not clearly unionist (I make it just Cliftonville, Newry and Warrenpoint from genuinely 'nationalist' towns (?), with Queens and PSNI arguably 'neutral' ?). And this is despite the demography of NI being roughly half and half between protestants and catholics. This is all key because it suggests strongly that Irish League football largely has the protestant population in-play to appeal to, but struggles to tap into the other half of the population and the areas where it lives. There are probably multiple reasons for why that is so - with competition from gaelic games certainly being a factor in at least some places (as well as the fact that outside of cities, most of the bigger towns in NI are very protestant - and again, football is primarily an urban sport).

    The north therefore provides a useful 'control' for the argument that gaelic games provide genuine competition for football in the south. And it would suggest strongly that they do - as most of the interest and participation in senior domestic football comes from the unionist half of the population (with other factors no doubt contributing to that too).

    Quote Originally Posted by EalingGreen View Post
    P.S. The above situation has developed despite the (sad) loss of a major club, Derry City, from our second city a generation ago. Were eg Cork City to transfer out of the LOI to somewhere else, how weakened would LOI football be by that?
    That kind of happened when Cork got demoted to the First Division though. In reality it had little impact on the Premier Division, which if anything has flourished in the last couple of years in their absence (though obviously not because of that absence). Other clubs just stepped into their shoes as the main non-Dublin competitiors (e.g. Derry).

    And let's remember that the Irish League didn't "lose" Derry. It essentially pushed the club out, refused to let them back in, and gave its blessing to them going off to what at the time was a much weaker LOI thinking that would get a pesky problem off their back. Fast-forward 40yrs and the Candystripes are the best supported club in NI, the LOI is tronger than the IL, and the northern league is (still) massively dominated by Belfast clubs*. It's all rather backfired spectacularly for the Irish League you could say.

    *(You have to go back over a quarter of a century to the last time a club outside of Belfast won the Irish League (Portadown, 1996). They also won it in 1990/1 and 1989/90. Prior to that you have to go back to Coleraine in 1973/4 (a team that was apparently full of ex Derry City players), and before that Derry City in 1964/5. So only 4 of the last 50 league titles in NI have been won by non-Belfast clubs, with only 2 different clubs involved in that).
    Last edited by EatYerGreens; 09/12/2022 at 4:57 PM.

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