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"I would encourage it" | Breen on Irish players looking to Europe

Former Republic of Ireland defender Gary Breen said that he would encourage any young Irish playe...

Former Republic of Ireland defender Gary Breen said that he would encourage any young Irish player to consider a move to Europe to progress their career.

Earlier in the week, Irish international Josh Cullen secured a permanent move to Anderlecht from West Ham United.

"There was no pathway to the first-team at West Ham so that move to Anderlecht is a brilliant one for him and I would encourage all Irish players to look at that," Breen said on OTB Football Saturday.  

In terms of developing young players, Breen also still feels that clubs in Europe are ahead of their counterparts in England.

"I’ve had the pleasure of commentating on the Eredivisie for the last few seasons so I’ve got an insight into the education that players get there," he said.

"I know the clubs over in England are catching up but if I had a son, I would be doing everything that I could to get him over to the Eredivisie because of the learning and the level of coaching."

Breen also remembered back to when David Connolly signed for Feyenoord as an 18-year-old.

"David was my roommate for all those years with Ireland. In 1996, he signed for Feyenoord and he came back to the Irish squad doing things that we’d never seen before," he said.

"I also remember when John O’Shea went over to Belgium and he had a great learning curve there so I would definitely encourage it."

Johnny Ward and Dan McDonnell also joined Breen on OTB Football Saturday and pointed to Connor Ronan and Jack Byrne as two other examples of Irish players who have had loan spells on the continent in recent memory.

Byrne is perhaps a good example of how some Irish players may be better suited to playing in the European leagues rather than toiling in the English lower leagues.

"Jack is a very, very talented and capable player. I don't think anybody doubts that for a second," McDonnell said.

"He was 18 or 19 when he was in the Dutch top flight with Cambuur on loan and he was very comfortable."

After that great spell in the Netherlands, Byrne had stints at Blackburn, Wigan and Oldham that were far less successful.

"He’s one of these players that not quite needs a team built around him but he needs a team that plays in a particular way for him to really shine," McDonnell said.

"The further he went down the level in England, he was playing in teams where the style didn’t suit him at all."


Ward pointed out that Irish players looking to Europe instead of Britain may be even more relevant in the coming years due to the ramifications of Brexit.

"Once Brexit happens, no minors will be able to leave Ireland to go to Britain like they have done for years and years," Ward said. 

"Culturally it’s going to be interesting as well, are we going to be more European in our outlook as Irish people?

"Will the cultural link with England be quite as strong?

"I would definitely like to see more Irish players play in countries other than England and Scotland."

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Breen Dan Mcdonnell Gary Breen Ireland Jack Byrne Johnny Ward Josh Cullen Republic Of Ireland Stephen Kenny