A chara, – Malachy Clerkin tells us that “any Ireland side in the 27th game of a manager’s reign should be in or around Scotland’s level. If that’s not a particularly scientific view of things, it’s the reality of the gig” (“The likes of Scotland are a perfect yardstick for Stephen Kenny’s boys”, Sport, September 24th).
I agree with him, but perhaps some of the science should be looked at to see if there is any basis to this being the “reality of the gig”. In Sports Participation in Scotland: Trends and Future Prospects, participation rates in sports in Scotland for the year 2017 are set out. It is stated that 21 per cent of 16 to 24 year olds and 14 per cent of 25 to 34 year olds participate in soccer. In a similar type of report (Irish Sports Monitor, Annual Report 2019), we get a figure of 7 per cent of those aged under 35 participating in soccer in this country. It is probable that Gaelic football and hurling are responsible for the marked difference in participation levels.
In addition to the participation gap, Scotland has a fully professional soccer league that is a world away from the League of Ireland. They have two massive soccer clubs in particular that participate regularly in European competitions.
Of course, the average Scottish soccer supporter is less likely than the Irish equivalent to support English soccer clubs and this must also be a factor.
It seems to me that it is the Manchester United and Liverpool supporters here that “demand results” who are the ones that have unrealistic notions of our standing in the international game. Perhaps we would fare better if Irish money stopped going to English soccer clubs and their academies.
We really should not be expecting our team of lower league players to beat the likes of Scotland away from home. The fact that they were unlucky not to do so is a testament to the character and desire of the entire squad and their management team. – Yours, etc,