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FAI lift lid on agony of teen footballers with Premier League teams

THE reality facing young Irish players in the English Premier League is very different from their dreams of success, according to a new report.

A document published today reveals Irish teenagers regularly experience problems such as bullying and homesickness as they attempt to establish themselves across the water.

Of the on average 50 young Irish footballers contracted to play with British clubs each year, 85pc are subsequently released by their clubs.

The FAI's player welfare officer Terry Conroy is charged with helping the youngsters through some of their more difficult problems.

Mr Conroy, whose salary is paid by the Department of Foreign Affairs, dealt with 17 separate welfare cases between December 2008 and March 2010, according to details published in a newspaper today.

The figure accounted for one in five of the 80 young Irish players he met during this period.

Mr Conroy said the "stigma of failure" is a terrible burden for them at such a young age.

However, with the welfare officer due to retire at the end of October, it is far from clear whether a replacement will be funded by the department.

Mr Conroy's appointment in November 2008 followed growing concern at the plight of young players who don't succeed in the professional ranks.

Mr Conroy, a former Stoke City player, made his senior Republic of Ireland debut against Czechoslovakia in 1969 and won the last of his 27 full caps against Poland in 1977.

In his role, he ensures the welfare needs of young Irish footballers are met by providing guidance and support.

Mr Conroy has helped inform clubs about problems with bullying, homesickness and players with family issues.

He is also charged with explaining to parents what lies ahead for their sons before they travel to England to join clubs.

In March, Mr Conroy was critically ill in hospital after suffering a suspected vascular aneurysm.

The 64-year-old Dubliner s still highly regarded at Stoke where he spent 12 years as a player.

comurphy@herald.ie