Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Case for the Jacks

At the beginning of the season, a certain well-dressed and articulate football manager – who shall remain nameless – put forward the theory that teams outside the Pale are somehow discriminated against; that Dublin clubs, by the very nature of their Dublinness [Dublinity?] have certain advantages over their more colourfully-necked brethren. The main reason cited for this is that, with five clubs from the real capital, Dublin teams do not incur the huge travelling expenses that provincial clubs endure, thereby having spare cash to spend on decent strikers, better oranges at half-time, louder music etc. Like the Millennium Spire in O’Connell Street, it is a good point well made, but, like that famous fairy tale, “Goldilocks and The”, it is only half the story.

The sad fact of the matter is that Dublin teams operate at a terrible disadvantage. The likes of Waterford and Cork take the clean, wholesome air for granted – St. Pat’s training sessions, on the other hand, are frequently interrupted by Tony Bird fumbling through the smog and accidentally falling into the Camac. Take Ollie Cahill, as another example. Came up to Dublin two years ago, a fresh-faced youth with a rude complexion. Now look at him. Whiter than an Italian flag and probably in the early stages of TB. Summer soccer is killing him, because when he plays away games down the country, his eyes can’t take the sunshine.

There is also a financial downside to operating out of the capital. Insurance, for example, is far higher in the metropolis. Bobby Ryan tried to insure his good looks, but found he couldn't afford the premium. Had he stayed in Limerick, he could have afforded to insure his hair as well.

And don’t think us fans have it any easier. True we don’t pay as much in coach fare to get to away games, but there are other expenses. Fines for daring to poke a wheel into the bus lane, the cost of getting the clamping people back out, the cost of the stevedore’s chain you need to avoid getting the thing robbed by budding Michael Schumachers, the sessions at the psychiatrist after taking two hours to travel half a mile – all these things add up, and suddenly the idea of spending a couple of hours a fortnight in a nice air-conditioned coach doesn’t seem all that bad. Very often, Dublin fans need to let out their box-room to a family of Latvians in order to subsidise a post-match drinking session, the cost of Guinness being so high within the city walls. We notice it when we’re coming back from games and stopping in Monaghan or Athlone or somewhere, and we hand over a fiver for a pint and the landlord calls us back to give us change. In Dubland, he’d be holding out his hand for the rest.

Not only that, but our Dublin derby games have an extra edge. Shels, Pats, Rovers, Bohs –in games between any two of those four teams, the formbook goes out the window, down the lane and into the Spar at the bottom of the road. Home advantage counts for very little, and very often victory depends on getting fewer players sent off than your opponents. There are twelve derby games a season for each of the above clubs – for obvious reasons I’m excluding UCD – the results of which are usually a lottery. Well, a lottery without a load of numbered balls and your man from Stokes, Kennedy, Crowley anyway. Country teams don’t currently enjoy that kind of rivalry, and their success depends very much on form, tactics etc, which is how championships ought to be decided.

Clubs down the country also have the ability to turn their stadia into a “fortress”. Fortress Brandywell, for example. Not men in silly helmets firing muskets at hordes of infidels, but places where it’s hard to come away with anything, except a feeling of being ripped off. If we wanted to turn Tolka Park into a fortress, it would mean a lot of brown paper bags being handed over to our esteemed locally elected representatives.

Of course, we all know the real reason why our hillbilly cousins feel we have an unfair advantage over them. We’re better than them. Sadly, they are unable to accept their inferiority and thus invent strange reasons to account for it. In actual fact, all Dublin clubs with the exception of Pats, Rovers, Bohs and UCD should be given ten points start at the beginning of the season, to compensate for the terrible disadvantages we are obliged to endure. Only then will parity be seen to have been achieved.

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