By Brendan White
Matches against Russian side FC Rubin Kazan, Greek side PAOK and intriguing games against Tottenham Hotspur mean that huge interest has been drawn onto the League of Ireland as Shamrock Rovers begin their Europa League campaign journey into the unknown.
Shamrock Rovers automatically net €1million from taking their place in the group stages. With more money on offer for winning and drawing matches in the group, that figure can increase dramatically depending on results.
With the last number of years having seen financial problems within the league, the added interest from the success of Shamrock Rovers is a huge plus for the league. Attracting more business people could attract further investment, not just to Shamrock Rovers. But for the Tallaght side, this could see them becoming the dominant force in League of Ireland football for many years to come.
This may in its own way create more problems if it isn’t managed closely. With clubs trying to remain competitive with Shamrock Rovers, they may start to make more problems for themselves. The board of Shamrock Rovers have huge responsibility with how they watch their cash. With a new significant cash injection, it should now bring them to a completely new and unforeseen level, but only with responsible investment.
Having already been inundated with calls about tickets, the added fan base is sure to be a huge bonus to Shamrock Rovers. With the capacity now pushed above the 8,000 mark, Tallaght Stadium is sure to have a thrilling atmosphere for the remaining two home games.
The down side of the success of Rovers is now for opposing clubs to gauge. Clubs now need to find a way to keep up, and emulate, the success of Rovers. Derry City and Sligo Rovers look like the two clubs who will push Rovers all the way for the Premier Division crown this season. Derry and Sligo will look at the success of Rovers in Europe and have similar ambition for years to come.
Firstly though, they must find a way to take their league crown away from them, but do it without financially damaging their clubs. Derry have had their problems in the last number of years but have regrouped to be challenging at the right of Irish football. Paul Cook has Sligo Rovers going in the right direction and will look to push all the way to the end.
But if these teams fail to keep up, this could possibly create a huge gap between Rovers and the others teams. These teams must not spend over the top in their attempt for glory or again the league may see more problems. Added success means added attention to the league. Positive press coverage is essential to the progress of the league, and the clubs that play in it. Clubs must now try plan to try to keep up and compete, otherwise we could be about to see Shamrock Rovers dominate Irish football for the foreseeable future.