David McWilliams: Irish soccer is the winner as Premier League loses its way

After generations of playing second fiddle to English divisions, Irish football is looking up

Gareth Bale was on the books for Spurs as the highest-paid player in the Premier League last season, earning £600,000 (€709,058) per week. Photograph: Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Gareth Bale was on the books for Spurs as the highest-paid player in the Premier League last season, earning £600,000 (€709,058) per week. Photograph: Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Tomorrow, between 30,000 and 35,000 fans are expected to be at the FAI Cup final in Dublin’s Aviva Stadium. Even without Shamrock Rovers, the league champions, it should be quite the afternoon of soccer in the city, in a league where the standard of the game is increasing dramatically, as are crowds, and so too is the possibility of regular European soccer.

This is happening at a time when the national team is showing promise and schoolboy football has made the transition to a national league, with teenagers travelling all around the country every weekend for competitive games. There has even been a Brexit dividend as talented Irish lads no longer head straight to England but play in the League of Ireland until they are far more mature before heading across to try their luck.

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