Mulhall seeking support at home
Ex-Hibs player recovers with Rovers as PFAI warn of plight
As one very promising young footballer from this country has just learned, the safety net which Irish football offers to the players we export depends very much on the contacts list in his mobile phone.
And the PFAI, the body responsible for the welfare of players in Ireland, says it's a "sad indictment" of the game here that there is no system in place to keep track of how Irish footballers fare once they leave these shores.
Cody Mulhall, who was much sought-after as a 16-year-old in the DDSL, has had more than his share of misfortune, as a very bright career, initially in Scotland with Hibernian, was halted by not one but two cruciate injuries.
Instead of enjoying first team football this Christmas with the Edinburgh club, the 19-year-old is back home in Kildare, working through his rehab programme and hoping to be fit to play again within three months.
Mulhall has had support along the way. His then-manager at Hibs, Pat Fenlon, brought the youngster to Shamrock Rovers to train last year when he was released by the Scottish side, though Mulhall was desperately unlucky to suffer a second cruciate while training with the Hoops. However the club and their physio, Tony McCarthy, remain supportive.
Fenlon had previously arranged for Roy Keane - who knows a lot about cruciate injuries - to make contact with Mulhall and offer him support and advice after the first injury. The lad's schoolboy club didn't abandon him and Mulhall is grateful to Derek Moore from Stella Maris.
But without the support of Fenlon, Rovers and McCarthy, he may have drifted out of the game. This week, Mulhall is part of a squad of out-of-contract players, training under the auspices of the PFAI ahead of a tournament in Norway next month and while Mulhall won't be fit to play in Oslo, he's grateful to have the facility to train and work on his rehab, the Athy lad still focused on having a career in Britain.
"I was let go by Hibs after a year and a half and if I didn't have Pat [Fenlon] then I would have come home and I'm not sure what I would have done because I don't have an agent," says Mulhall. "But thankfully I do know Pat and he's helped me back on my feet and back playing. Pat asked Roy Keane to ring and have a word and try and keep my head up. I didn't believe it was him at first but he just told me to keep my head up, keep working hard."
Mulhall was lucky to have the support of people like that, but there appears to be no formal system in place to accommodate players who find themselves in difficulty after a spell in Britain.
"That's one of the big issues we have in Ireland - there is nobody tracking players in England," says Stephen McGuinness, general secretary of the PFAI. "Nobody is reporting, nobody is checking on how they are getting on. It's sad, I think, that this is not looked at more by the federation.
"It is disappointing that there is nothing there. If you ask somebody in the FAI 'how many players do we have in England?' I'd say that they would struggle to tell. It's a sad indictment of the game here. We are talking about elite footballers, the absolute elite are the ones who normally go away,
"But nobody seems to know what is going on with them. How long is their contract? Who is tracking them? Why do we not have something when they land back here?"