Thursday April 2, 2020

Emmet Ryan: 'The dread mixed with hope for League of Ireland fans'

If you let the hope hurt you, it's your own fault

Emmet Ryan

Technology Correspondent

@emmetjryan
17th February, 2017
2
Bray Wanderers v St Patrick's Athletic Pic: ©INPHO
Bray Wanderers v St Patrick's Athletic Pic: INPHO

It must be nice to support a club that wins things. Clubs that win things don't tend to have that many on-the-field worries. The ones they do have are the type fans of most other teams would kill for. Will we win a trophy this year? Maybe we'll get to Europe? Ooh, the league's there for the taking if we play our cards right.

Those are nice problems, downright lovely. Either you are going to be great or just very good. Obviously every team has its share of disappointment, Shamrock Rovers were relegated in 2005 before winning the first of back to back titles in 2010 and recorded a famous win over Partizan Belgrade a year later.

Reigning champions Dundalk were in the First Division in 2008 before beginning their current three-in-a-row run of titles. Even Cork City spent two seasons in the lower flight at the start of this decade before their current run of success.

Of course, all of those clubs ended up suffering off the pitch because of major issues away from it. Serious work was required to get them back in working order but, in all three cases, normal service was resumed and all three are doing consistently better in the league now than at most other points in their recent history.

Clubs that don't endure that level of off-field drama don't know that kind of pain. No, ours is different. We know every year that the side we root for isn't likely to win a trophy, get to Europe, or even the Scottish Challenge Cup which is now apparently a goal to qualify for. The prospect of travelling to Arbroath in mid-November probably only appeals to me - and that's because I've got a friend there. I've no idea what Sligo and Bray fans are expecting but at least they've got that.

When you are used to mediocrity, such rampant displays of emotion feel scary

So, mediocrity, it's what the bulk of fans live with and learn to become comfortable with. Actually, we learn to depend on it. Fly too close to the sun and we start to feel like Icarus. The brief moments of success we do get are worth it, don't get me wrong, but losing one's voice over a pre-season friendly, while telling the King of Spain that your boys took one hell of a beating isn't rational. Nor is praying to a portrait of Adrian Carton de Wiart, while following a game that's on in Luxembourg via Twitter. When you are used to mediocrity, such rampant displays of emotion feel scary. Where did that come from? What is this winning thing?

No, that's just not right for some of us. We know better clubs will take the best players from the team we love, resulting in bizarre longevity to seemingly achievable clubs records. It requires a quirky series of events even for them to even come under threat, like a former player coming back from a year abroad in Australia for a few games and start banging them in. Even then Dave McMillan was well short of the record before he moved to Dundalk and went on to win everything.

You really do develop those odd attachments. Former players don't get seen in a negative light by and large, you just want to see them be the ones that make the teams they go to better. Robbie Benson's role in Dundalk's campaign was as appreciated around the UCD Bowl as it was Oriel Park. Even though he is very much a Dundalk player, UCD fans just really like him because he was a hero at the Bowl.

It'll be the same when Maxi Kougoun and so many other obviously talented but still really young players eventually move on. Kougoun is just silly good, there's no way he will stay at UCD for many more seasons. Well, he'll probably finish his degree first so there's that.

Every mediocre club ends up with players like Benson, Kougoun, and so many more for a few good years. With a bit of luck, there are a handful of players of that level there at the same time and you even start to think the side has potential. Then they go somewhere better because of course they do and the cycle begins again. If you let the hope hurt you, it's your own fault. Enjoy the talent why you can, it's a gift just to see that level of skill when your greatest fear is that the team you love will be unwatchable.

Besides, the Leinster Senior Cup begins tonight. Nobody cares about that, so UCD might actually have a chance of winning it.

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