Thursday 29 September 2016

Keith Andrews brought in to mentor U15's as ex-internationals wonder why more aren't involved

John Fallon

Published 11/04/2016 | 11:40

Keith Andrews will mentor Ireland’s U-15 squad this week as the FAI comes under increasing pressure to integrate former senior internationals into their coaching set-up.

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Steven Reid is the latest ex-player to highlight the alarming shortage of home-produced players available to Martin O’Neill and the failure of the FAI to follow the lead of the English and Scottish FA by appointing those with international playing experience to work with the next generation.

Ireland skipper Robbie Keane was particularly critical of the FAI for the lack of succession planning. He cited the English FA’s appointment of the Neville brothers, Gary and Phil, onto their staff as examples of best practice.

The FAI's habit of appointing from within will be tested by the imminent filling of the vacancy generated by Paul Doolin's decision to quit the U-19 team post.

Andrews, who 35 caps for Ireland from 2008-2012, is currently working alongside manager Karl Robinson at Championship strugglers MK Dons.

He’s also hooked up with the Ireland U-15 squad for the double-header against Czech Republic in Tipperary. Colin O’Brien’s side play the first game today at Clonmel Celtic FC (3pm) and on Wednesday at Cahir Park (12 noon).

The FAI operated similar ad-hoc projects over the last two seasons with Kenny Cunningham and Mark Kinsella, whereby the former internationals would spend the week in camp with the underage squads. Damien Duff also popped in for a pep-talk with this group earlier this season.

While it still falls short of a defined holistic strategy from the governing body, youngsters will undoubtedly benefit from the advice imparted by the former Blackburn Rovers, West Bromwich Albion and Fulham midfielder.

Many of the players in this Ireland squad have already agreed deals to join Premier League clubs at 16 years of age, with Belvedere's Sean Brennan one of those highly sought-after by leading cross-channel suitors.

“Damien Duff spoke to the players in October and Kenny Cunningham was with the group in Kerry last year,” said O’Brien. 

“It’s great for the players to hear a former international speak to them about their journey from schoolboy footballer to professional footballer. It’s great to have that knowledge around the group, we can all pick their brains and I can see it only being a benefit to the young players to talk to somebody who has made that journey.

“I came to know Keith through when he was studying his UEFA A licence with the FAI so it’s great to see him in for a couple of days showing a real interest in the development of young Irish players.

“He’s obviously got his role with MK Dons as first team coach so it’s great just to have him involved at this level.”

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