Inside League of Ireland: Irish football far behind the GAA

The furore whipped up over the selling of TV rights has dominated airwaves and column inches but it demonstrates how far behind Irish football is

This week, the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) community was up in arms due to the fact that their governing body had sold telvision rights of 14 Championship games to Sky Sports for exclusive broadcast on the subscription service.

Minister of State for Sport Michael Ring was also involved in the backlash, criticising the decision to sell matches to a non free-to-air channel.

Much has been written about the GAA's decision, but from a domestic football perspective, it only further highlights the divide between the two codes.

Both RTE and Setanta Sports do a good job showing League of Ireland and Setanta Sports Cup games on their channels broadcasting 70 games in the last two seasons, but both regularly come in for criticism due to their scheduling of games.

For example, the semi final first leg tie between Sligo Rovers and St Patrick's Athletic was competing with the English Premier League's Manchester derby, while RTE has already moved three games this season, with Derry City's home clash against Cork City played in front of a half-empty Brandywell due to the fact it was played on a Sunday at the same time as the county's Gaelic Football clash with Dublin.

Channels should be encouraged to show more League of Ireland, but moving matches to earlier kickoffs at 19.05 makes it difficult for away fans to attend games, while changing the dates of matches at short notice has a major impact on any advance plans made by supporters.

The Sky Sports TV deal is the kind of thing the FAI and the League of Ireland should be aiming for, helping promote the game outside these shores, but without demand for the broadcast of these games, the GAA will continue to flourish overseas, further increasing the gulf between Gaelic games and Irish soccer.


Friday night's top-of-the-table clash between Cork City and Shamrock Rovers is already whetting fans' appetites, as it could go a long way to deciding the eventual winner of the 2014 SSE Airtricity Premier Division title. The Hoops have looked extremely impressive in their early season fixtures, and the form of striker Ciaran Kilduff has seen him linked with a possible call-up to the Republic of Ireland international team.

John Caulfield has already worked wonders at Cork City, combining young and old to great effect in his first four league games in charge of the club, and should be bolstered in the coming weeks by the return of Danny Morrissey and Anthony Elding to provide extra firepower up front.

The opening game at Turner's Cross drew a massive crowd, but Friday's game should be an even better encounter as two teams in full-form meet. Should the hosts take all three points, they must be considered genuine title contenders, while a win for the Hoops can see them really take control of the table this early in the season.


Republic of Ireland legend Damien Duff once again spoke of his desire to end his career in the League of Ireland, and a move to these shores would be beneficial for both parties. Duff could shine in the SSE Airtricity League, becoming a key player in the top division, while a possible move would help promote the league and attract new fans.

More than that, Duff's move to Ireland would also pave the way for other names to follow suit. The re-signing of Keith Fahey is a huge coup for St Patrick's Athletic, but it has been decades since a player of Duff's calibre has played domestic football in Ireland. The 100-time Ireland international is one of the best wingers to have played in the Premier League, and his association with the League of Ireland would greatly increase its credibility as a place for similar veterans to come and play.