Mick Cooke calls out the enduring disdain towards League of Ireland

Ex-Drogheda United and Monaghan United boss returned to Team 33 ahead of the new season

BY Raf Diallo 14:27 Wednesday 22 February 2017, 14:27 22 Feb 2017

Mick Cooke ©INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

The 2016 season showed what League of Ireland clubs can achieve.

Dundalk led that charge by almost reaching the Champions League group stages but then making a good impression in the Europa League.

The Ireland squad that traveled to Euro 2016 also had a contingent of players that started out in the League of Ireland, while then-Dundalk duo Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle got call ups in November.

The 2017 season starts on Friday and ahead of that, former Drogheda United manager Mick Cooke joined us on Newstalk's Team 33 to discuss the state of play in Irish soccer. 

One thing he touched on with us is the enduring snobbery and disdain towards the League from some quarters in spite of achievements. 

"Certainly looking at Wycombe and Portsmouth a couple of weeks ago, I'd have no fear about putting Dundalk or Cork out against either of them," he said of a recent trip to the UK when he took in a game.

"But there again, it's a recognition thing. I remember many, many years ago, the then manager of Sligo was buying players from Telford in the Second and Third Division for €250,000 and yet League of Ireland players go for €10,000.

You can listen to the full chat with Mick on the podcast player or on iTunes

"And yet that's the disdain they had. They thought non-league football in England was better than League of Ireland. Yet when you think what League of Ireland has achieved in the last few years in Europe and the players that we've produced that are on our national team."

Those Ireland players with League of Ireland backgrounds include Seamus Coleman (Sligo Rovers), James McClean (Derry City) and Wes Hoolahan (Shelbourne).

"My main gripe is that these people - I think there's eight or nine ex-League of Ireland players in the squad - no one takes notice of them [until they go abroad]," said Cooke.

"But why do people have to go from the top of the clubs here for years... Shelbourne when they were winning the league, Bohs when they were winning the League, Dundalk are doing it now... and yet you have people from [English] First and Second Division clubs in the Irish squad - which is the old Third and Fourth Division - and our top players playing for league-winning teams, playing in Europe couldn't get in the squad." 

Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny has earned plaudits for his exploits with Dundalk and has impressed Cooke with the way he has carried out his job. Potentially in a few years if things continue as they are, he could be in the frame to manage Ireland. 

"I think he might have to go across the water because we have this thing [in Ireland] that unless you manage in England, why should you manage Ireland?" said Cooke on that theme of disdain towards the League of Ireland.

"But a few years ago I think we proved that with Brian Kerr. On the previous [Team 33] programme, I praised Brian for what he did and it's a shame - absolute crying shame - that Brian Kerr is not involved in the Irish setup in some form or manner. To achieve what he did do and not be recognised by the FAI I find unbelievable."

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