Football League of Ireland

Football League of Ireland

Infobox sports league
logo=Eircomleague.jpg
pixels=80
sport=Football
founded=1921
revamped=2006
teams=21 (2006)
country=Flag|Republic of Ireland
NIR (one team)
champion=Shelbourne
folded=2006
The Football League of Ireland, usually known simply as the League of Ireland or later the eircom League (from the league's sponsorship by Irish telecommunications company eircom), was the old league of football clubs in Ireland that existed from 1921 until 2006. Beginning in the 2007 season, it was succeeded by the FAI League of Ireland.

Naming and participation

The "Football League of Ireland" should not be confused with the Irish Football League, which was the league in Northern Ireland, until its replacement by the Irish Premier League. Though primarily based in the Republic of Ireland [The name of the state is officially "Ireland", in this case Republic of Ireland is being used for disambiguation purposes. (See Names of the Irish state).] , the Football League of Ireland did include one club from Northern Ireland. Derry City left the Irish Football League following the 1972-73 season because of safety concerns, and joined the League of Ireland in 1985 after a special dispensation from the Irish Football Association and UEFA. No teams from the Republic of Ireland play in the Irish Football League.

History

Formed in 1921, the league originally contained 8 teams, all of which were from Dublin, and was first won by St Jame's Gate FC. Over the next forty years the league grew to eventually twenty-two clubs, and spread right across the country, with the introduction of 6 teams in 1985, when a first division was introduced. The new Premier Division contained 12 teams and the First Division, 10. Clubs were promoted and relegated between the Premier and First divisions at the end of each season. Also, the club which finished bottom of the First had to reapply for league membership.

League of Ireland football was well attended up to late 1960s when spectator numbers started to dwindle. The exposure to far bigger football leagues in England and Scotland saw most Irish football fans pick a British side to follow rather than their local team. Reflecting this, local media steadily started to focus more and more on the foreign leagues and it wasn't until 1997 that a League of Ireland game was shown live on television. In the late 1990s, as teams sought to become fully professional, crowds started to come back. Recent excellent European runs by Bohemians, Cork City, Shelbourne and Derry City sparked an increase in media attention and consequently, attendances are improving.

The all-time leading goalscorer of the Football League of Ireland is Brendan Bradley with 235 goals. He played for Finn Harps during the 1970's.

The league's most successful team is Shamrock Rovers. The achieved winning the league 15 times in their history.

Until recently the league followed the pattern of the other leagues in the western Europe of starting their league campaigns towards the end of Summer and playing through the Winter until late Spring and playing no league games during the height of Summer. Citing a need to improve the European results and to a lesser extent the more favourable climate, the league switched to playing Summer football (like the leagues in Scandinavia, the Baltic States and Russia).

However, professionalism has cost some clubs. Former greats Shamrock Rovers, without a home ground since the sale of Glenmalure Park in 1987, were put into administration in 2005 and subsequently taken over by a fans' group, the 400 Club now known as the SRFC Members Club. Rovers suffered their first ever relegation by losing a two-legged play-off 3-2 to Dublin City at the end of the 2005 season. The Hoops went on to win the 2006 First Division Title.

However in the emergence and re-emergence of clubs such as Bohemians, Cork City, Derry City, Drogheda United and Shelbourne, among others, have helped improve the fortunes of the league in the past several seasons.

Dublin City (formerly Home Farm F.C.) resigned their league membership on 19 July 2006 after the Company which owned the club ceased trading. Games the club had played in the Premier Division during the season were expunged from the record, with the league table recalculated.

The FAI and the League of Ireland merged for the 2007 season to create a new FAI National League - a continuation of the old league. The composition of the new league's tiers was decided by an Independent Assessment Group (IAG). The selection of teams was based on the 2006 league results, the previous 5 years performance, infrastructure, strategic planning, licensing and population densities [ [http://www.ireland.com/sports/soccer/league-proposals.pdf FAI / eircomLeague Implementation Committee Proposals on the strategic direction of the National League 2007-2012] (PDF: 217K)] .

List of Winners of the League

Former members

ee also

*Football League of Ireland Cup
*FAI Cup
*Professional Footballers Association of Ireland
* - past and present

References

External links

* [http://www.eircomloi.ie/ Football League of Ireland Website]
* [http://www.geocities.com/footballspreadsheets League of Ireland spreadsheet] — computes standings from scores; includes historical results.
* [http://www.walkthechalk.com/ WalkTheChalk.com] - Stats & Opinion on Irish Football
* [http://rsssf.com/tablesi/ieralltime.html RSSSF.com - History of standings]
* [http://rsssf.com/tablesi/iertops.html RSSSF.com - History of top scorers]


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