My Peers need better deal
Sligo veteran says FAI must act on out-of-contract players' struggle
FINGLAS boy Gavin Peers will become something of a rarity in League of Ireland football next season, a long-serving one-club man in a world of quick moves and short-termism.
With a contract with Sligo Rovers for the 2014 season already secure, that will be the ninth successive season at the Showgrounds club for Peers, but the 27-year-old knows that he is fortunate to have a deal for next season already in the bag, as the vast majority of his fellow pros face into a period of instability and uncertainty.
Even his team-mates at Sligo could find themselves playing in front of a big crowd at Lansdowne Road on Sunday, but then be effectively unemployed on Monday, as LOI players try to bridge the financial gap between the seasons by either signing on the dole or else taking up other work.
But Peers, who could get to lift the trophy on Sunday should Sligo win, as he's vice-captain and there's no guarantee that club skipper Danny Ventre will start the game, feels that the people in charge of Sunday's game should be doing more for the players who will line out on the Lansdowne turf.
"We are focused on the game on Sunday and trying to win it, we're very serious about that," Peers told the Herald.
"But the contract issue is a concern for the other players. It's not a worry for me as I have a contract for next season, but the majority of the lads are out of contract. They have bills and mortgages to pay, a lot of the players have kids and being out of contract and out of work is a big issue.
"I think it's up to the FAI to make the league stronger, they need to invest more, put more prize money into it. It's up to the FAI to take the lead on it, whether that means restructuring it, getting an All-Ireland league, but something has to be done.
"Look at the money that's flowing into the GAA, the FAI need to learn from that, look at how GAA can be so successful in places like Kilkenny and Galway, where they don't have team in the League of Ireland Premier Division at the minute," says Peers, who had spells in England with Blackburn Rovers and Mansfield Town before joining Sligo in 2006.
"I think players need to have 52-week contracts, it's not at all ideal to have someone play in a cup final on a Sunday for a professional team, but then go on the dole on a Monday, or try to find a job outside of football. In the off-season, you should be having a rest after a hard season and then starting to work on your strength and conditioning, but players can't do that if they have to work.
"It also comes back to the underage structure, clubs should have a feeder system all the way up from Under-12, Sligo Rovers don't have that, but they should.
"That would benefit Irish football overall, with a strong league that is fed by young players coming up through the clubs, it could help improve the national team, it all needs to be looked at as the international team isn't in a great shape at the moment," he adds.
That's the long-term view, but in the short term, it's all about Sunday and Drogheda. The FAI Cup wins in 2010 and 2011 gave Peers his first major medals as a Sligo player before last season's league title win.
"We have been here before, an FAI Cup final, so we just have to go out and do the business," says Peers, a Cup veteran with Sligo now, having played in three Cup finals.
"The first one, losing to Sporting Fingal in 2009, was hard to take," he reflects.
"To concede two goals in the last five minutes is hard to swallow, but that's football. And I think that defeat gave us the hunger to go on and succeed more, we won the Cup twice after that and won the league as well.
"People say that you need to experience defeat to really enjoy a win and I think that was the case for us, the Cup wins in 2010 and 2011 were so enjoyable because we had lost the final in 2009."
Sligo have a cup pedigree, but so do their opponents. "Drogheda have been to two cup finals already this season, so they have that experience behind them and our games with Drogheda this season have been very tight, not much between the two teams," says Peers.
"It could go either way, look at Manchester City in the FA Cup final last year, they were hot favourites and that didn't go to plan, so we have to be very wary of Drogheda on Sunday."
If Sligo do win, it's not yet certain who will collect the trophy, as Peers is a definite starter, but Ventre is not so sure of his place.
"In terms what happens if we win the Cup, we haven't really talked about what will happen. Danny Ventre is club captain, I am vice-captain, but I have probably played more games than Danny this season. Who lifts it isn't important, as long as we win it, that's the main thing.
"Our form is good and I'm happy with my own form, but I am due a goal. I have scored four goals this season, but I usually get at least five in a season, so maybe I can nick one on Sunday."