Of course memory can play tricks and there is always a danger of nostalgia colouring what we remember of past games and glory. Photos of historical football League of Ireland games show packed terraces which are no longer the case these days. Of course, those were different days without live football on television and easy and cheap access to English league games.
However, while putting together data for a journal article submission I noticed that maybe there was something to claims of glory days in the League of Ireland. The chart below shows the average number of goals per game in the League of Ireland Premier Division since 1953 (or Division A before 1986).
This is somewhat surprising given that the League switched to awarding 3 points for a win and 1 for a draw in 1994 and this should have incentivised more attacking play. Of course it could be that the quality of attackers has deteriorated and/or the quality of defending has improved.
From an economic perspective it's always interesting to look for changes in incentives and structural breaks. In 1977 the league switched from using average goals to using goal difference as the second criteria (after points) for deciding league position. It's interesting to note that since the 1977 season there has only been one season that has a higher average goals per game than in 1977. This was in 1982 which happens to be the year in which the league experimented with awarding 4 points for an away win, 3 for a home win, 2 for an away draw and 1 for a home draw. The goals per game that year was only marginally higher than the 1977 figure.