Niall Quinn, interim deputy FAI CEO(Image: ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne)

Stuart Byrne column: Niall Quinn is not the League of Ireland's Messiah but will be an asset

The image of the league needs to be improved and Quinn can help in that regard


Some people will never be happy, will they?

You could actually transform the League of Ireland into the ‘#GreatestLeagueintheWorld’ - as the hashtag goes - and there would still be whinging.

Folk cribbing that they miss the authenticity of small crowds in dilapidated grounds where no-nonsense weeds take pride of place alongside spectators. You know the types.

So I can only laugh at the finger pointing and widespread suspicion of Niall Quinn’s motives for his involvement with the FAI.

It seems pretty clear to me that he is now the new face of the League of Ireland as Fran Gavin is nowhere to be seen.

Quinn fronted the official league launch last week and is the person that clubs are meeting to iron out the various gripes doing the rounds at the moment.

He is being accused of ‘talking a good game’. Well christ almighty. That’s exactly what we need!

We have been the masters of our own destruction for years, because we talk ourselves and the league down all the time.

Half the battle is changing peoples' mindset and perception of the League, and rugby is the obvious example.

I hate rugby. I’ve no time for it. But I do have great admiration for what they have done with it.

Rugby is a brand and League of Ireland football isn’t. So you have to start somewhere and first off, let’s undo all the years of negativity and resell the game.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve all been guilty of it - be it fans, the old FAI, the media and even the players and managers.
Niall Quinn will attempt to improve the league's brand image(Image: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy)

It was difficult not to be negative such was the chronic lack of funding and interest from outsiders.

Other sports got their grants because they knew exactly how to do it.  That’s one area Quinn wants to address from the outset and should be applauded because I never heard the FAI pitch that as an idea.

I've always felt that it's my personal responsibility to defend and promote the league. I know how good it can be. And I’ve also seen how bad it can be.

But it costs nothing to promote yourself and that must be a starting point.

Quinn’s ‘Visionary Group' report for the league fell flat last year and yet he, Gary Owens and Roy Barrett are suddenly the head honchos in the FAI.

I was on Quinn’s side before that document and I remain so after it. What were people expecting?  A fully mapped out, costed five-year strategic plan for the league?

It doesn’t work like that. Quinn came forward and yet people picked holes in what he was doing.

But Kieran Lucid aside, what were the alternatives? People were happy to bash them but wouldn’t take the old FAI to task. It beggars belief.

As a decorated Irish international, club chairman and businessman, Quinn knows both sides of the table. He’s smart, he has excellent contacts and he will open doors.

And yes, maybe that’s all he’ll do. But we’re already in a much better place than we have been for as long as I can remember. 

Dundalk are still in the driving seat
Dundalk manager Vinny Perth lifts the SSE Airtricity League trophy(Image: ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne)

Dundalk are once again the team to beat and deserve to be title favorites.

I like their transfer approach having brought in a more cultured type of player from abroad. Clearly, their focus is on progressing in Europe.

But Vinny Perth must be wary of that too. At Shels, we struggled to transition between the 2004 and 2005 seasons as we put so much stock in Europe.

You have to win your league to get back into the Champions League and we took our eye off the ball for two or three months. Dundalk can't lose sight of that.

It’s all well and good bringing in those cultured footballers, but they have to be able to do the physical stuff too - week in, week out.

I’d expect Shamrock Rovers to push Dundalk a lot more. They had a hell of a start last year but fell off a cliff and left themselves too much to do.

Stephen Bradley is right about how winning the FAI Cup will spur his players onto new heights.

Winning becomes a habit and all successful teams started somewhere and Rovers will be a serious proposition.

Stamina is their issue. They milked their FAI Cup celebrations and rightly so. You have to enjoy those moments.

But they won five games to get that trophy.  Let’s see what they’re made of over 36.

Time for First Division clubs to quit the whinging
A general view of Tallaght Stadium(Image: ©INPHO/Tommy Dickson)

The First Division clubs should have a word with themselves instead of uniting to spout off about Shamrock Rovers II.

I’m tired of their bleating. Clubs in this country need a leading light that they can emulate.

Right now, that’s Shamrock Rovers and good luck to them. Dundalk get the business done on the pitch, but they have a way to go off it.

The First Division teams have worked themselves into a lather but I’ve no time for any club that doesn’t want to develop their facilities.

Instead, they just whinge about everyone else in the league. It’s sink or swim time for many of them and if they don’t want to push on, then go play tiddlywinks.

If you want to be involved in the future of Irish football get your house in order now and stop the bitching.

Rovers II will probably improve the standard of the First Division. They might even win the league, although they can’t be promoted.

Is that what the First Division clubs are afraid of - being exposed as not being good enough?

One Shel of a gig

I dipped my toe in the water with a first live gig last month and, if say so myself, it went rather well.

Shels held a social night at The Workman’s Club and I was the guinea pig as the first of three acts up on the main stage.

It was an intimate, acoustic set so I hope I didn’t depress the crowd too early in the night but it was a great buzz.

My new single ‘Rules of Survival’ was released this week - so check it out at this link.

Shelbourne are back and here to stay
Shelbourne manager Ian Morris(Image: ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo)

Shelbourne have a sense of freedom on their return to the Premier and they’re on the front foot.

It’s great to see my old club back where it belongs. When they came up the last time, you sensed they had several monkeys on the back.

There were all sorts of complications and issues going on but there is a freshness about the club these days.

Ian Morris appears to be a young manager going places and there's good experience in the squad to stay up and cement their standing.