ROY KEANE (right) has admitted that any League of Ireland star with international ambitions will have to move to a club in England.
Speaking at a public interview for the Barretstown Talks series in Dublin last night, Keane paid tribute to the League of Ireland and the grounding it provided for him. "The year I had in the league was massive benefit to me," Keane said of his season with Cobh Ramblers. "The fitness side of it, playing against mature men, lads who had been around the block. I was 17-18 at Cobh, I was small for my age and that year taught me a lot."
But home-based stars cannot expect a call-up any time soon. "League of Ireland players have made the Irish senior squad but it's very difficult," Keane said.
"The League of Ireland is not at the highest level if you compare it to the Championship or League One. I have seen Cork City more than anybody, I saw the boy Brian Lenihan who went to England and that's probably the next step.
"I don't want to shut the door on anybody but that's the reality. The League of Ireland, in general, gets criticised quite a bit which is shocking because these players are playing at the highest level in their country. I played in the League of Ireland and it was brilliant for me.
"Is it difficult for a League of Ireland player to get into the Irish senior squad at the moment? It probably is.
"The next step for League of Ireland players is to get to England, which has happened over the last few years with the likes of Seamus Coleman and these boys.
"The players here should not lose heart but it is difficult," Keane added.