Peeling back the wrapper to discover a treat shrouded with confusion, chaos and hot take opinions – there is more to the simple Tunnocks caramel wafer than what you will read on Twitter, writes Bohemians fan Jamie Whelan on the latest League of Ireland furore.
Being a Bohs fan who was not old enough to order a pint during our European campaigns in the previous decade, the last few seasons of mid-table mediocrity, near relegation and late surges have left us gasping for summer adventure. The opportunity to play in last year’s Irn Bru Cup was very much welcomed by fans and the club, but alas like this year – we had seemed to open a can of worms.
With eager eyes we watched the draw unfold, Peterhead (A) “Where the f*ck is that?”. Unable to plan with certainty, the club waited in the dark for word from the FAI regarding the fulfillment of this fixture with a first team squad. Lying in wait was a cup quarter-final with Derry, a draw which suited them favourably having players called up to both the Ireland and Northern Ireland squads – the tie of the round surely, played on a blustery Wednesday night. The FAI super computer failed to account for U21’s call ups – you’d swear it was a blue moon to see LOI players in international squads.
We’d a week to plan a 700km trip to Peterhead costing nearly €300. In the space of 36 hours we’d seen Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen and Edinburgh. 500 miles? Completed it mate. A 1-0 win for the 60-strong Bohemians that travelled. Some reasonable hospitality from Peterhead who accepted my blag as a board member in return for meat pies and scotch broth. Followed by a celebration night out in the granite City, it was worth the wait and confusion. Not quite Bratislava or Budapest, but it would suffice for our current position. Then a home win against non-league Sutton Utd on penalties and the East Fife farce that followed.
For those unaware, both sides were happy to rearrange the fixture, Fife travelled well to Dublin and we anticipated a semi-final in Dingwall to follow. Needless to say a cold weekend in February was not ideal and a frozen pitch to boot left us in disarray. The referee had no option but to call the game off. However alternatives were offered, Fife were having none of it. We withdrew from the cup amidst more confusion, Finn Harps on the opening night was now the priority.
A tainted experience to say the least and I don’t think anyone wanted to partake again. It was laboured, it was embarrassing but any regrets? No, I had a good laugh.
A year on we enter the newly named cup and an away trip again to Airdrie is presented to Bohemians. Shock horror the same dates as last year, who’d have thought the U21’s would also be playing again on the same weekend too? Another year of fixture calamity overseen by the FAI who never once learned from their mistakes. Although there has certainly been more clarity regarding this years Challenge cup fixtures – the outcry has been quite simply embarrassing from LOI managers.
Vinny Perth’s interview in the Mirror outlined that the FAI Cup is being disrespected by fixtures being postponed in order to play this competition. Not a dig at Bohemians or Waterford but the FAI allowing it. The same FAI that allowed Dundalk to postpone countless fixtures this year to allow them to compete in Europe.
A 20+ professional squad were given red carpet treatment to pick and choose their games which led to teams missing out on vital Friday night home gates and also struggling to travel on Monday/Tuesday nights once again.
At least Perth accounted for the U21’s in his interview, but his sheer arrogance was slightly shaded by Stephen Bradley’s ignorance of being unable to name the cup competition and also failing to account for the fixtures they had rescheduled for Europe this year. I suppose the big boys look like toddlers when they throw their toys out of the pram.
To avoid future mishaps the FAI fixture schedule needs adjusting and more accountability. Our future commitment to the Tunnocks Caramel Wafer Cup may need consideration, but while we are taking part we should always read the wrapper in case we have allergies.