The Graham Cummins column: I fear I’ve played my last League of Ireland game

The Graham Cummins column: I fear I’ve played my last League of Ireland game
Former Cork City striker Graham Cummins scoring a goal against Limerick. Picture: INPHO/Oisin Keniry

I FEAR that I have played my last game as a professional footballer.

As the days go by, it seems less likely that the League of Ireland will resume on June 19 and it might not commence again this year.

With the coronavirus pandemic and the global lockdown, nothing is certain, which is why I believe that the League of Ireland’s ambition of resuming in June is not feasible.

There are so many issues to be addressed before a ball can be kicked again and I don’t believe that two more months is enough to solve those problems.

Then, the questions become, should the leagues resume and, if so, when?

A number of scenarios could play out.

The most unlikely is that coronavirus restrictions will be lifted, everything will be back to normal, the leagues will resume on June 19, and the rearranged schedule for the campaign will be how the season concludes.

The optimist in me would love this to happen, but the realist in me thinks there is a better chance of Ireland winning the next World Cup.

Even if the season does resume and it plays out the way the FAI hopes, I’m not sure of what happens regarding contracts.

The leagues will be extended until December, but players have only made a commitment to the clubs, and vice versa, until the end of October.

Can players walk away from contracts in October and can clubs just get rid of an unwanted player then, too?

I’m sure that can be resolved quickly, but it’s another issue that needs to be dealt with before the leagues can resume.

There is also the possibility of reverting back to a winter league and beginning a new campaign again in September, and declaring the season so far null and void.

The leagues used to operate during the winter but changed to summer football in the hope of increasing attendances because the English Premier League is far more popular in Ireland than our domestic league and the two used to clash.

I’m not saying that is right or wrong, but that is the way it is.

Supporters will always want to watch football, no matter what the standard or level.

Football in Ireland over the summer allowed League of Ireland clubs to try and attract fans to games during the off-season across the water and I believe it has worked.

However, with the uncertainty now about when sport can resume, abandoning summer football will become a strong possibility in the domestic league.

Of course, a lot of issues would arise if winter football were the way forward.

Players’ contracts would be a big one.

The wording in contracts would be key to how easy or how difficult they would be to cancel.

Some players’ contracts will say they expire at the end of the season, which would make it easy for clubs to release players because the season would have finished if the current campaign was void.

However, some players will have signed a contract that has a specified termination date rather than ‘the end of the season.’

What happens to players whose contracts run until October 23 (the original end date for the season)?

Are those players entitled to stay with the club and get paid until then, even though it would be a different season and the clubs might not want them?

I’m not in favour of the return of winter football, because it means playing in colder temperatures. Ask any of my teammates: I’m not a fan of the cold.

Winter football would also mean pitches will be in poorer condition, because of the weather, which, in turn, means that the standard of games will be worse.

If the league does revert back to winter football, I would be in favour of moving games from Friday night to Sunday afternoon, as they used to be.

There has been talk of an all-Ireland league, but when would the league commence?

The League of Ireland starts in February and the Irish Premiership begins in August.

Covid-19 has given those in favour of an all-Ireland league an opportunity to resolve that problem and begin the league in September if the League of Ireland season was cancelled. That would allow the two associations to decide when the proposed all-Ireland league could begin.

The last outcome, and probably the most likely, is that the League of Ireland season is declared null and void and that the 2021 season begins next February.

I hope that this isn’t the case, because by the time that does happen, it will mean I wouldn’t have played a competitive game of football in 11 months.

I will be 33 by that time and I would worry that clubs wouldn’t be interested in someone my age who hasn’t played a game in so long.

I really do hope that isn’t the outcome, but if it is the case that I have played my last game in League of Ireland football, at least I played that last game in my favourite position: defender.

All I can do is continue my training and hope the league resumes before then.

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