League of Ireland set for a poignant weekend

‘I think Ryan’s passing affects players from all over the country’, says Gary Rogers

It has been a strange and sad week for those most closely associated with the League of Ireland with players from all over the country joining officials and local supporters in Derry on Thursday to pay their respects to Ryan McBride; one of their own.

Derry City’s game against Galway City this weekend is off as a mark of respect to the 27 year-old captain of his hometown team but the rest of the league programme goes ahead with managers and players having to “get on with it” in the wake of a tragedy that everyone knows puts the importance of club rivalries and the game itself in stark perspective.

"It's desperately sad," says Dundalk goalkeeper Gary Rogers who says he did not know McBride especially well but attended the funeral in his capacity as PFAI Chairman with other representatives and quite a few people from Dundalk with stronger direct connections.

"It's the nature of the League of Ireland, it's a very close knit community and there are lads in every squad would have played with and known Ryan. We have Patrick McEleney, Michael Duffy, Ruaidhrí Higgins is on the coaching staff...Stephen Kenny and Stephen O'Donnell were there as were Conor McCormack and Stephen Dooley and other lads from Cork; I think Ryan's passing affects players from all over the country."


In the circumstances, Rogers believes Saturday afternoon’s game will be an opportunity for everyone to put this week’s events out of their minds for at least a little while. McBride seems to have made the sort of impression on those who knew him that will endure for a very long time to come the same love of the game he had will, in its way, help others to get to grips with the loss and move forward.

“I think that you go on the pitch, it’s an opportunity to set aside anything that is going on in your personal life and focus completely on doing what you do best. A lot of the lads knew Ryan very well and will have been very badly affected by the tragedy but I think everyone involved will be of that mindset when they go out to play this weekend.”

The game at Turner's Cross is comfortably the biggest of the day with Dundalk finding themselves in the unfamiliar position of playing catch up on John Caulfield's side who lead the table due in no small part due to the goals of Sean Maguire who got little enough of a look in during his time at Oriel Park.

“Yeah, Seani has really come on since he’s gone to Cork,” says Rogers of the 22 year-old. “I knew him from Sligo and even then it was obvious that he was a really good player but I think he probably needed to be playing every week and John has put that confidence in him; he’s put him in playing week in week out and Seani has repaid his trust.

"It's been great for him. He's had a great couple of season at Cork and obviously he's a big threat but look, each game brings its threats. Last week it was Christy Fagan, this week it's Seani, but our lads are very experienced and we'll look to keep it very solid, curtail him to the best of our ability and look to the likes of Patrick McEleney, (Ciaran) Kilduff, Michael Duffy to pose a threat of our own because we have great scoring options all over the park."

Given the stakes, even at this early of the season, it promises to be quite a game although the Dundalk goalkeeper dismisses any suggestion that the visitors will be under that bit more pressure now that are, for once, trailing their rivals in the table.

“They’ve been knocking on the door for the last few years so they are certainly serious opposition,” he says. “But it’s only five games in. There is so much football to be played. I think we might actually have had a better start this year than last year [actually, it’s much the same, four wins out of five with Cork having beaten the eventual champions early on last year] so we’re still in good shape. It’s a great rivalry and I think in the league games we’ve had the better of it over the last few seasons. Right now, we’re three points behind bit there’s a long road to go yet.”

Rogers, meanwhile, is in the almost unique position amongst the league players of having been involved with the senior international squad and so, perhaps, open to being a little disappointed not to have been brought in this time?

“No, I’ve been injured up until last week so I knew I certainly wouldn’t be in the running this time around,” he says, “but hopefully if I can string a few good performances together and Dundalk are going well as a team then maybe that door might be open again.

“There are still opportunities to get back in there, that’s the way you have to look at it. I have to go out and play well week in, week out and I know that lads will be keeping an eye out. It’s been great to be involved, the fact that I’ve been in there a few times, it certainly means that I aspire to being back in, it’s just a question of putting in the performances and hoping that when they are naming the squad you are in with a chance of being in it.”


Premier Division: Cork City v Dundalk (3.0), St Patrick's Athletic v Shamrock Rovers (5.0), Drogheda United v Shamrock Rovers v Bohemians (5.30), Bray Wanderers v Limerick (7.30), Finn Harps v Sligo Rovers (7.45).

First Division: Waterford v Wexford (6.0), Athlone Town v Shelbourne (7.45), Cabinteely v Cobh Ramblers (7.45), UCD v Longford Town (7.45).

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times