13.4 C
New York
Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Ireland U17s powered by League of Ireland academies punching above their weight – but help’s needed to sustain success

EARLY last year, the FAI invited an English academy expert to take a look at their facilities and give them an outsider’s view.

They were shown the different set-ups at League of Ireland clubs in the Dublin area.

Luke Kehir celebrates with Daniel Babb, Mason Melia, Daniel McGrath and Najemedine Razi after scoring their fourth goal versus Hungary


Luke Kehir celebrates with Daniel Babb, Mason Melia, Daniel McGrath and Najemedine Razi after scoring their fourth goal versus Hungary

From Shamrock Rovers’ Roadstone ground to Bohemians link with DCU, Shelbourne’s rental of the AUL, and St Patrick’s Athletic’s rental of several facilities.

The point of the visit was the FAI reckoned a one size fits all approach to academies was not going to work, but wanted to hear a different perspective.

That academy system is why Colin O’Brien was not being humble last Tuesday evening when he declared his Ireland Under-17s should not be one game from a World Cup.

He said: “We are in the last eight in Europe now, if you look at our metrics in comparison to every other country in Europe and football development, we shouldn’t be here.

St Patrick's Athletic ace Sam Curtis receives praise from teammate Tom Grivosti
Bohs ace Twardek loves being at club after a tough time in Slovakia and Poland

“But we are. There is a lot of knowledge in our country and knowledge is power.”

Anyone who watched Tuesday’s win over Hungary saw that this Ireland team is talented, well-nurtured by their clubs, and well-coached.

But UEFA’s own benchmarking reports also show that Ireland are punching above their weight.

Irish academies average fewer than one full-time person per club and have fewer hours on the training pitch than most rivals.

But UEFA’s figures are an average across all clubs, and there are big variances when you go club to club.


And it is perhaps no surprise that, while 18 of O’Brien’s 20-man squad are in the League of Ireland, 14 are at clubs that have a full-time infrastructure in place.

In the case of the five Shamrock Rovers men, all are effectively full-time footballers with 30 academy players training in the mornings and getting their education arranged by the club.

Currently 21 are in a transition year run at Roadstone while nine are doing their Leaving Cert cycle.

Several of those 21 – including Ireland Under-17 skipper Freddie Turley – will go into Ashfield College next year as they combine full-time training with completing the Leaving Cert.

At St Patrick’s Athletic, they do not have a formal arrangement with one school but work with many so that players can get full-time training and an education.

And Bohemians also do the same, with highly-rated James McManus training with the first team in the morning and completing his Leaving in St Declan’s in Cabra.

Around the league, there are several similar cases as clubs do what works best for them, the individual players, and what finances dictate.

How many make the grade is the great unknown as not every promising rookie will make it to the very top.

Rovers’ first three Ashfield scholarships were Gavin Bazunu, Aaron Bolger, and Dean Dillon, with Bazunu an Ireland man, Bolger at Cork City, and Dillon now playing in the US.

But O’Brien was right to use the platform that quarterfinal qualification afforded him to make the point that it is far from perfect, with investment needed.

The seaside town that's 'Irish Brighton' in A-list films with great views & food
Vogue mortified after hubby Spencer's awkward encounter with Cillian Murphy

That has been echoed repeatedly this week by coaches, pundits and press – but fewer politicians and it feels a bit like an echo chamber.

Maybe a win over Spain and a World Cup in November can tip the balance.

Source link

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Stay Connected

- Advertisement -spot_img

Latest Articles