Brexit is here but what does that mean for Irish soccer?
Well we don’t know yet, as far as the Premier League is concerned, the free movement of people is a pretty crucial aspect of the modern game in Europe. The English FA have proposed that the non-homegrown players be reduced from 17 to 13.
Making matters more interesting, leaving the EU means that clubs in the UK will subsequently find it much more difficult to recruit European players under the age of 18 for their academy, and this is where my interests lie in the future of Irish soccer.
We have all been on the sideline of a youth match to see amazing prospects be tipped for England.
From this local journeyman’s own Kilkenny perspective, I’ve seen amazing players like Seanie Maguire, Garry Breen, Mikey Drennan and Gavan Holohan all jetting off to England to kickstart their professional career, the past few years.
It’s interesting to imagine if the UK teams were restricted from snapping these guys up at the age of 16, 17, 18.
How much would their development of been impeded or enhanced? I mean, all have went on to have full professional careers in football, most having to come back to Ireland – but what if they never left?
If Seanie didn’t leave Waterford to go to West Ham, would he be an Ireland international now? One would like to think he would and that staying in Ireland can be a more viable option for players.
However, are these personal experiences that can only happen in England more important; such as Garry Breen captaining the FA Youth Cup champions Manchester City, or Mikey Drennan leading the line for Aston Villa in the Next Gen series? Can these life events be recreated on our isle, in our competitions?
Some would say the FAI are too reliant on English soccer to develop our players – not just the actual people actively involved at grass roots, but the organisation as a whole. Looking at Stephen Kenny’s promising u-21 squad, most ply their trade across the Irish Sea.
I mean, it took a move back to England to allow Maguire to gain an international cap having made his Ireland debut in the World Cup qualifier against Moldova late last year. Maguire was the first Kilkenny native since Matt O’Mahony of Mullinavat played for Ireland in the 1930’s.
If we take England as the default option away could we start to see the dawn of our youth prospects, travelling within the European Union? Italy, Germany, Holland or Spain may start being viable alternatives. Would that ultimately help our international team, learning how to play in different cultures and environments?
At the age of 16, Christian Pulisic deviated from the norm in American soccer, to join Borussia Dortmund. On January 2, 2019, Pulisic signed with Premier League club Chelsea for an estimated £58 million transfer fee becoming the most expensive American player ever at the age of 21.
It will be an interesting time for Irish soccer, and from a local aspect we have a lot to look forward to with the emergence of Carlow Kilkenny FC.
For now, as we ponder for the future, let’s remember the past.
Put on your Sunderland Reddy No.31 jersey (unless you have a highly sought after Grimsby Reddy No.9) and enjoy the goals of our own Graignamanagh man, Michael Reddy.