by Brendan White
Both Divisions of the League of Ireland this season have seen exciting finishes with neither league decided heading into the final weeks of the season. This is a huge positive for the league as a whole as interest is kept. Fans will continue to go to games as they look to see who will end up as league champions.
Shamrock Rovers, Sligo Rovers and Derry City have competed in the final weeks of the Premier Division season while the First Division sees Cork City, Monaghan United, Limerick and Shelbourne all fight for the league trophy and play-off positions that are on offer too.
But with all focus still on the pitch for the remainder of the season, the usual off-season madness is just around the corner. What will the make-up of the leagues be? How many teams will be in each division?
The ten team premier Division looks set to increase by two to twelve, leaving just nine teams in the first Division. But with teams still looking over their shoulder to find a financial way to remain in the league, will we still have 21 teams come the start of the new season in March?
The highest profile club in some difficulty is Bohemians. Manager Pat Fenlon has described the position of the club as “very precarious”. Financial problems at the beginning of the season were solved at the time but again the club sees itself in trouble. Fenlon said it would be a ‘disaster’ if Bohs were not around for the beginning of next season.
In the Premier Division alone, there are other teams that may have difficult off-seasons. Galway United’s financial problems are very well known from earlier in the season and their participation in next season’s league is surely under threat. Drogheda United are another team that have had their problems earlier in the season and again they may find the next four months a difficult time.
Finn Harps chairman Joey O’Leary recently warned of his concern with approximately €50,000 needed over the next three months to pay the bills for the season about to finish ahead needed for the club to secure a license to continue in existence next season.
Wexford Youths are another club that mystery surrounds. The huge financial difficulties for Mick Wallace may severely hamper any planned progress at Ferrycarrig Park. Despite being a mostly amateur non-paid squad, the costs of running the club may prove too much for Wallace. Lastly it is unknown whether Salthill Devon will again participate in the league. With just two wins so far this season from 28 games and 11 points collected, they may see their immediate future back in junior league football.
Whatever happens in the off-season, it should prove once again make headlines for all the wrong reasons.