7 July ~ At the end of this month up to 51,000 spectators will walk through the doors of a state of the art arena to see the home side take on the best that their neighbours have to offer. And that home side will be lucky if a hundred of those people actually came to support them. On the last weekend in July barstools across Dublin will breathe a great sigh of relief, as curious football supporters rise up and make their way to Lansdowne Road for the grand debut of a tournament that has attracted Inter, Manchester City and Celtic.
Taking place over one weekend, the Dublin Super Cup takes a similar format to London's Emirates Cup, with two games played on each day. Completing the line-up, alongside the Italian, English and Scottish giants, are the hometown heroes and domestic game's representatives – the Airtricity League XI. A selection of the best players from the League of Ireland, their last outing came at the opening of the Aviva Stadium a year ago, when they lost 7-1 to Manchester United.
For many potential supporters, burned by the shambolic performance of the under-prepared representative side last year, the prospect of paying up to €90 (£80) to sit among fellow Irishmen cheering for foreign sides is too much to even consider. A large swathe of fans are also unhappy that the event was scheduled during the busiest time of year for top Irish sides. Bohemians, St Patrick's Athletic and Shamrock Rovers could all be occupied by European competition, while Sligo Rovers will certainly be in action either side of the tournament. Despite these possible clashes, manager Damien Richardson opted to select players from all of these sides (with the exception of Sligo) – something that can easily be viewed as a lack of faith in the ability of these clubs to progress through the rounds.
Promotion for the event is in full swing – not that the League of Ireland representative side are afforded much respect there either. Amazingly, the initial run of adverts referred to the teams as an "Irish League XI", despite the Irish League being the primary domestic competition of the IFA, just over the border in Northern Ireland.
However, despite initial appearances, the Dublin Super Cup does hold some potential for the Republic of Ireland's domestic game. Irish clubs have long battled for support from a populace accustomed to looking across the water for their football fix and it would be a shame if the FAI wasted a great opportunity to market the League of Ireland to a captive audience. Ticket promotions, such as linking the Super Cup tickets to free or discounted entry to a league game, for example, could help bring some much-appreciated new faces through the doors. To date, though, we're still waiting to hear what, if anything, the association's marketing department have up their sleeves.
For the players themselves there is the chance to test themselves against top opposition. Last year's squad was dogged by insurance issues and a lack of familiarity but, with a week to prepare, hopes are at least a bit higher that they might do themselves justice this time around. And for the supporters? Well, it's a nice mid-season break and a chance to get some of the shopping done and go for a walk. Or, for the hopelessly addicted among us, it's a few hours spent on home soil, but behind enemy lines, hoping against hope for respectability. Aidan Bonner