herald

Sunday 23 April 2017

Preston can trawl Dublin for top teens

FAI Technical Director Ruud Dokter. Pic: Sportsfile
FAI Technical Director Ruud Dokter. Pic: Sportsfile

Preston North End were in town at the weekend. They held trials for Under-15s in Dublin following on from a similar exercise in Cork last year.

Throughout the year, English, Scottish and who knows, Welsh clubs too, send over teams of coaches to conduct trials.

Manchester United do it, Chelsea do it, Celtic do it and many, many others too. Over the years, they have formed bonds with schoolboy clubs across Ireland

Under the FAI's development plan, League of Ireland and top schoolboy clubs must form the same close ties but this blending is not working and is still mired in acrimony.

The Dublin nurseries have strong connections with English clubs and there is no doubt that they intend to pursue and improve their contacts across the water and further afield in Europe.

As they would see it, access to the FAI National Under-age Leagues has been blocked so they have no choice. Forge a new path or wither away.

Militant gossip within the schoolboy family speaks of forming binding arrangements with English or Scottish clubs and taking the LOI out of the picture completely.

FAI Technical Director Ruud Dokter's plan will succeed or fail depending on the amount of effort and cash the LOI is prepared to invest in development at underage level.

Under Dokter's plan, there has been a huge transfer of talent to the League of Ireland and already, some of these players have been sold on to England, so, a wealth transfer as well.

If this new revenue stream is not used properly, development will grind to a halt. Put your house on it, it will not be used properly and then we are in big trouble.

The gutting of Ireland's top schoolboy teams continues. Most of them have abandoned Under-17 and two clubs, Malahide United and Cherry Orchard, have disbanded their Under-16 teams.

Others are struggling to find players and will cease functioning soon.

Once the FAI National Under-15 league gets under way, expect the same thing to happen to Under-15 teams and so on until the clubs which have supplied the vast majority of international players at all levels have been completely emasculated. If the LOI fails in its duty in the development process, there will be no safety net.

Already, the schoolboy pyramid is collapsing and many now believe that forging direct links with English clubs is the only way they can survive and maintain playing standards.

From the English club's point of view, doing business with an Irish nursery within a legal framework is bound to be cheaper than buying from a LOI club.

Obviously, that doesn't sit comfortably within the FAI Development plan but there are many things which happen in Irish football which shouldn't happen but do.

That Preston North End trial is one example. If the LOI clubs are the top of the pyramid in Dokter's plan, it's at odds with the FAI's objectives that an English club, albeit with great Irish connections and an interest in the talent pool here, can hold trials in Ireland.

The same goes for Celtic and United too.

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