Back in the 1970s and early 80s, there were only two football results that mattered to me, those of Drogheda United and Drogheda United B. Each week, we would see the B division’s results and table listed in the paper and you would wonder how a player coming back from injury was faring in the B team or if some youngster in 6th year was scoring freely for them and might make the senior squad.
A quick look at Wikipedia tells me that the ten founding members of the B division in 1964–65 included Home Farm, Bray Wanderers, Athlone Town, Shamrock Rovers B plus the reserve teams of Shelbourne, Bohemians, St Patrick’s Athletic, Dundalk, Drumcondra and Drogheda. The league expanded to include non-LOI reserve teams like Dalkey United, Belgrove, UCD etc with the Blackthorn Cider (the 16 year old’s beverage of choice in the 80s) Trophy for the winners. It was only in 2000 that it was replaced by the League of Ireland U21 Division.
I mention the above because I read with interest Stephen Bradley’s dismay at Shamrock Rovers II not getting a place in the LOI First Division and his hopes for the development of a Third Division in the league which would have reserve teams and new entities. I have sympathy for his position because Rovers have a terrific academy under Shane Robinson and Rovers II were a joy to watch last year, particularly Brandon Kavanagh who will prove to be the signing of the season in the FD – hats off to Mssrs Cronin and O’Driscoll at Bray! I applaud Stephen’s idea of a Third Division, but I do believe you have to retain the integrity of the FD – I would not have any B teams in the FD, ever. They can’t be promoted and therefore it brings into question the integrity of the whole competition. A situation of a 10 team league with Rovers II and Dundalk B winning it every year and not being promoted will not work.
Personally, I would be looking at scrapping the U19 league and making that the B division and also have that as a route into LOI football for non LOI clubs – Back to the Future. Either way, a Third tier is a progressive idea and I think would gain significant support across the league.Follow @conh