Is Irish Soccer Struggling to Produce Good Players?

When we think about Irish soccer, there aren’t many names that come to mind except for the immortal George Best and Roy Keane or Liam Brady. These immensely gifted players have shaped Irish football but we are left wondering what is left of the heritage of these heroes of the field. 

Granted, Ireland is not a nation of football for a vast array of reasons, but it could be. However, it is not true that Irish players are inherently bad at the game: they just didn’t have the space and opportunity to grow over the course of the last decades.

Who’s to blame, except for the rainy weather that doesn’t allow for competitive training on the field? Some might say that the FAI is underfunded, and some might say that the best players are exactly where they should be, meaning playing for UK clubs.

There is still some hope that Ireland could produce world-class players, and to be fair, it already does. Let’s dive analyse how Ireland could do better the better and what are the main limitations to giving this country the momentum they deserve.

Geographical Factors Explaining a Small Football Scene

Did we ever mention that our beloved island is a relatively small country?  With approximately five million citizens in the Republic, Ireland isn’t up to date with its European counterparts that benefit from strong immigration and simply, a bigger population. The centuries-old divide between the North and the Republic is also an issue here, as Northern Irish players are considered British by default when it comes to this sport.

One would say that Ireland isn’t a nation of football by definition and that the country enjoys putting some emphasis on other sports such as GAA, Gaelic football or even rugby. When it comes to football, there are a few really good teams that make the Irish soccer scene worthy of attention. Think about Dundalk FC which has always managed to stay in the top three of the Irish League for a decade. These guys can eventually appeal to their fans in their own country, but it’s a different affair when playing international games. Even Bohemians FC, top of the Irish League, is definitely struggling to make it big on the international scene.

Irish Casinos and Sports Betting

Ireland always had a strong penchant for gambling and looking at the best online casinos Ireland has, it is normal that punters also enjoy betting on football. However, most Irish sports fans will admit that the UK Premier League offers way more sensations and betting opportunities than the Irish League.

The Long and Hard Road to Become a Pro

In order to produce better players, there should be a dramatic shift in the way the national league (FAI) trains its players, and the incentive that players would get when embracing a football career. Unfortunately, a very good Irish player generally goes to England to play in the Premier League. He might as well play for Ireland at times, but the real consecration for a football player is to play for Everton or Tottenham. 

Take for example the career of Seamus Coleman, regarded as one of the best Everton players ever was. While his legacy remains intact for the Premier League audience, the Donegal county native remembers the struggles of being of young Irish talent in a scene where youth training was underfunded. Players like him will always feel that their home country didn’t give them the recognition they deserve, and that is where the problem lies.

Lack of Funding is The Main Culprit

It is nobody’s surprise that even the best clubs in Ireland are struggling to make ends meet, and many observers have pointed their fingers at one man, John Delaney, who is deemed responsible for the poor performances of Irish football on a global scale. As the powerful man entered the treasury of the FAI in 2004, his salary shocked the football world as he was receiving 430 000 € a yearly salary, whereas the best players couldn’t get more than 300 000 € a year.

His controversial personality and his dubious management of Irish football is now behind us, as Delaney left the function in 2019. Still, years of scandals have shaped Irish football as it is, and it is difficult to come back on track after what has been done to the elite clubs.

Patience as Best is Yet to Come

We know that in our cheerful country, everything ends with a song, and there’s still a lot of hope that Ireland can produce magnificent players. However, they are not going to stop having careers in England anytime soon. Until we see significant changes in the ways that training centres are funded and managed properly, there will only be a handful of players making it on the international scene.