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Hunty's Column: Irish Football

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Hunty pays tribute to Derry City Captain Ryan McBride while looking at football across the Irish Sea.

Ireland Training and Press Conference - Group C: UEFA EURO 2012

First of all, I'd like to offer my condolences to the family and friends of Derry City Captain Ryan McBride who yesterday died suddenly at the age of 27.

That happened just hours after I'd finished penning this column, a look at how some of Ireland's brightest footballers have been getting on for Reading and others over the years, plus giving a bit of insight into the fortunes of the League of Ireland.

It also came on the weekend that one of our former Irishman revealed he'd nearly been swapped for Gareth Bale! Who'd have thought?!

This Friday Mr Bale & his mate Mr Gunter take on our current Captain Paul McShane's homeland in a World Cup Qualifier (let's not mention the egg chasing at the weekend I'm trying to avoid everyone over here cause of the result!) It should be a cracking game and I predict a 2-2 draw.

We also had brilliant news that the very talented Liam Kelly has been called up for the ROI squad as well.

Domestically here the new season for the League of Ireland has just commenced. It's a league that's given Reading FC the likes of Kevin Doyle & Shane Long and a long time ago Joe Gamble. Whilst ex-Royals Karl Shepherd & Alan Bennett still play here on a regular basis. Dundalk's outstanding performances in this seasons Europa League didn't go unnoticed either, with Daryl Horgan now producing the goods for Preston North End. Ex-Royal Pierce Sweeney was signed from my local club Bray Wanderers & is now plying his trade at Exeter alongside other ex royal Jake Taylor & loanee Jack Stacey doing a great job as a right back.

Bray have struggled for a few years with a lack of finance & poor management decisions being made on and off the pitch. Thankfully the club is now heading in the right direction and have made a good start to the season.

Compared to other national leagues like Australia's A League, it just doesn't get the TV coverage over in the UK or elsewhere like the Gaelic games that Sky are now showing on a regular basis. Our local mainstream channel will show the odd game live with a weekly highlights show but it doesn't generate big revenue. The crowds are passionate but attendances are very low and sadly any talented young player will understandably go and try their luck elsewhere if the opportunity arises. Hopefully things will pick up in the future but sadly, I can't see it anytime soon.

Sticking with the Irish theme, well it was St Patrick's Day on Friday. That evening on The Late Late Show (no not the American one with the very annoying James Corden), the Irish version, a very humble legend of the game Paul McGrath was interviewed about his battles with alcoholism & injuries but also some very funny stories particularly about Italia 90 .He is brutally honest and an inspiration to us all, so if you get a chance take a look a look at the interview here or read his autobiography.

Finally I did have a chuckle at Paul McShane getting his team mates to pronounce some of the Irish names welcome to my world it's so bloody difficult!

So enjoy the International break, spend time with your loved ones before they lose you to the end of season stresses & strains urzzzzz!