The 2022 League of Ireland calendar is in full-swing as we enter the twilight weeks of summer.
Both domestic divisions are well past their respective halfway margins, three Irish sides are proudly representing the league in European competitions, and the most recent edition of the Extra.ie FAI Cup has just begun.
The latter offered up some intriguing results throughout the opening round.
While the likes of Derry City, Shamrock Rovers, and Drogheda navigated their way through winnable ties. The shock exit of holders St. Patrick’s Athletic and Sligo Rovers gave us an early glimpse of FAI Cup magic.
The historic knockout tournament has been a staple of Irish domestic football since 1921. And even continued on throughout the height of the pandemic in 2020.
However, the EA Sports Cup wasn’t so lucky, and was officially deferred for both the 2020 and 2021 campaigns due to the widespread of Covid. And has also been brushed aside this season too.
This is despite the fact supporters have now returned through the turnstiles in their droves, and furloughed staff have thankfully been reinstated.
Even smaller competitions like the Munster Senior Cup have returned following a year hiatus. With Cork City and Cobh Ramblers set to face off in the anticipated upcoming final.
So, what should be done with the EA Sports Cup?
EA Sports Cup
There were whispers that it would make a return for 2023. Which would be the League Cups 50th anniversary. And could’ve be contested between First Division clubs, and sides in the new third-tier, which was expected to debut next year.
Unfortunately, that new divisions inaugural season has been pushed back to 2024, according to FAI CEO Jonathan Hill at the recent FAI AGM.
Whether you feel another division is a positive addition to a flawed footballing pyramid, or focus should be put on developing the Premier and First division, this may have been a sensible use of the EA Sports Cup.
Expect a proposed third-tier to be put on the long-finger going forward. As the presented concept is half baked, with no true incentive for intermediate clubs to make the jump.
The Bigger Issue
That word incentive is apropos when talking about the EA Sports Cup.
It’s common knowledge amongst the League of Ireland community that prize money is horrendous. While winning league titles and domestic cup competitions is an achievement that should never be disrespected. The prize money for doing so is an utter insult to the clubs.
This is the same with the EA Sports Cup. With the winnings adding up to about €30,000. Which is minuscule when taking in the costs of running a League of Ireland club.
Ultimately, that could be the death of this competition. It was becoming a hindrance for clubs to play in.
For sides challenging for leagues and European places it wasn’t even worth sending out a strong team.
With the final usually taking place in mid-September, and with both divisions reaching their crescendo at that point, it’s hardly going to be a top priority for aspiring teams with the peanuts on offer, no matter how good of a day out it is.
We’ve seen Shamrock Rovers, St. Patrick’s Athletic and Sligo Rovers go on lengthy European runs over the summer.
Reality is, progressing past one round of the Champions League, Europa League or Europa Conference League is far more lucrative than winning a cup or league championship.
Until the national disgrace of prize money drastically improves, it’ll be impossible to get the vast majority to care about the EA Sports Cup.
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