Kenny Cunningham: We're in a "better position" in developing young Irish footballers

Ex-Ireland defender picks out some of the positives he sees

BY Raf Diallo 20:11 Tuesday 23 May 2017, 20:11 23 May 2017

©INPHO/James Crombie

Another Premier League season has come and gone and it's been a mixed campaign for Irish players in that division.

But other aspects to note is the fact that few of the Irish players in the Premier League at present are under the age of 25.

And perhaps, it's no surprise given how difficult it is for Irish - and even English players - to progress through the academy system.

In Ireland, there are a number of pathways, either through the Dublin Schoolboy Leagues for those in the capital and then the under-15 and under-17 leagues affiliated to the League of Ireland.

The pathways for Irish players both on this side of the Irish Sea and for those who go to England was up for discussion on Off The Ball this week with ex-Ireland defender Kenny Cunningham on hand to give his take.

He noted some positives that he is seeing as he spoke with the Irish Times' football correspondent Emmet Malone about a subject he has been looking into.

"It's about what's the right environment for the players themselves," said Cunningham, before touching on the schoolboy league and LOI underage structures that provide options for younger players now.

"You've mentioned a couple of the clubs there like St Kevin's Boys and St Joseph's, and for some players that might be the best environment for them in terms of the quality of coaching, facilities and even the fact that maybe it's five minutes down the road from the house or that they've got one or two friends there.

"For another player, maybe not, it's maybe about getting themselves down to Rovers, Cork, Sligo in their under-15, under-17 league. Again, good environment, quality of coaching as well. That could be the right environment for them, so for me we're in a better position now than we were 10 years ago. I like the template that's put in place.

"Culturally, there are going to be certain problems there, a bit of internal politics but at the centre of it must be the player, not about what's best for the club. It's all about player development.

"This feels better for me, this template has been put in place by the FAI and for me it makes sense."

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