Reserve teams are not a feature of Irish football. It is enough of a struggle to keep one team on the road than trying for two and it will be interesting to see how the experiment works for the club and for the League. Many of the League of Ireland clubs have teams in the National Under-19 league, which has worked as a back-up for smaller squads, but this is the first time that a club will have competitive football for squad players who fail to feature for the Premier Division team.
Other countries also allow reserve teams to operate within the same 'pyramid' league structure as first teams, most notably in Spain where Real Madrid and Barcelona second teams compete in the Segunda Division (second tier). Similarly to those countries, Shamrock Rovers have conditions attached to their reserve team playing in the First Division. The club cannot be promoted, it cannot enter the FAI Cup and the reserve team can only feature up to three outfield players and a goalkeeper from the first team squad. An interesting issue that I cannot find addressed anywhere is whether this move actually serves to prevent Shamrock Rovers from being relegated from the Premier Division.
According to media reports the idea was suggested by Shamrock Rovers, which suggests the club sees a benefit in having a reserve team operating at a relatively high competitive level. It has been suggested that this gives Rovers an unfair advantage by allowing them to keep fringe players match-fit and allowing them to bring players back from injury. This undoubtedly comes at a cost to the club. Playing in the First Division imposes a significant financial burden, particularly in travel costs. The league has 7 other clubs, only one (Shelbourne) is based in Dublin, the others are very dispersed from Cobh Ramblers on the South Coast to Finn Harps in Donegal in the North and Galway in the West and Waterford United in the South-East. There is also likely to be a very low attendance at these games which is unlikely to fund the reserve team's travel and expenses.
However, the 'elephant in the room' in this discussion is that the league needs to admit a reserve team at all, since it highlights that there are no clubs willing to make the step up from the non-league ranks to the League of Ireland. It demonstrates the lack of a pyramid structure in Irish football which threatens to maintain the First Division in the vicious cycle in which it currently operates,