[br]NoBy David KennedySince Dundalk’s European adventure began attracting attention from all quarters after the win over BATE Borisov in August, there have been cynics aplenty amongst both fans and media regarding its wider benefits for Irish football. However, with interest in the League of Ireland remaining low over the past decade, the Dundalk fairy-tale has put domestic football in this country back on the table. League of Ireland football has remained at the forefront of the sporting consciousness of an impassioned minority but, in general, the English game is more closely followed and talked about.In terms of attendance, the reality is that the Louth side’s recent mass exposure cannot make the numbers any worse. The Premier Division average crowd for 2016 was 1,471 people, according to extratime.ie. Next season, should Dundalk keep their prized assets, the draw of players like Daryl Horgan and Ciarán Kilduff may well boost attendances at grounds around the country, while Oriel Park could also see more people through the gates off the back of this season’s results.The theory then follows that Dundalk’s televised European games, as well as those broadcast as part of the title run-in, have shown that while interest in domestic football has dwindled, Ireland has a competitive top flight with some decent footballers.In the end, seven points separated the Lilywhites from runners-up Cork City, but it took a 2-1 win for the hosts when the sides met at Oriel Park in the closing weeks of the season to swing the tide in Dundalk’s favour.Most of the discussion surrounding Dundalk’s Champions League and subsequent Europa League campaigns has naturally focused on the prize money they have earned to date due to the extent that it dwarfs the sums awarded domestically. Alas, expectations of the minimum €6m being splurged on a brand-new team are probably wildly unrealistic.Martin Connolly, the club’s general manager, recently told the Dundalk Democrat that around half of the money earned will end up being spent on the increased expenses that come with the rigors of European football, such as travel and accommodation costs for trips to Russia and Israel.Add in the extra bonuses due to players and staff and suddenly the seemingly massive windfall is a fraction of the figures widely quoted in the press.That said, Dundalk will still end the season as the league’s richest club. The noises coming out of the club suggest that the money will be invested strategically. The Oriel Park situation, where former owner Gerry Matthews still holds the lease, makes improving one of the league’s least equipped grounds impossible for the moment. Attention will likely turn to the club’s training facilities, while there is a desire to ensure the longevity of the club’s success by investing in the youth setup.On a recent Second Captains podcast, Lilywhites fitness coach Graham Byrne spoke of his desire to implement the same rehabilitation programmes and nutrition habits at all levels of the club should he be given free reign of the club’s money.An improvement of facilities will make Dundalk the benchmark for League of Ireland clubs when it comes to infrastructure. Successfully enhancing training and fitness amenities within the confines of the budget will provide a blueprint to other clubs in the league. Should the likes of Cork, Derry City or even in-form Bray Wanderers bludgeon their way through the European qualifiers over the coming years, a precedent will have been set: even when bonuses and travel expenses have been factored in, a portion of the budget can be used to make sustainable improvements to facilities and provide a more stable source of expenditure than wages or transfer fees.Fears of Dundalk splashing their riches in the transfer market are probably misplaced. With the work to be done elsewhere in the club, the reality is that massive sums of money probably won’t be binged on new players. However, should the likes of Horgan be tempted by the bright lights of the English game, just as Richie Towell was lured to Brighton at the end of last season, Stephen Kenny will probably shop local for a replacement. Christy Fagan of St Pat’s, for example, has been suggested as an ideal candidate should Horgan move on. While a League of Ireland club would be losing an asset in terms of the transferred player, any prospective transfer fee received would probably go further in the league’s current climate.Overall, Dundalk playing in the Europa League has put domestic football in Ireland back on the map. People are talking about the future of the domestic game, conversations that were not taking place in the mainstream media this time last year. With money coming into the League of Ireland from an external source, this could perhaps be the beginning of a stronger league and ultimately a stronger pool of players for the national team.