January's children hit heights on pitch
Ambitious parents who would like to see their son or daughter play for the Irish football team when teenagers have been told to plan the birth of their child for the start of the year.
Researchers at University College Cork found young footballers born in the early part of the year are more likely to be selected to play at an elite level.
They uncovered a bias towards those born earlier in a selection year within organised football.
"We have found that those born from January to March of any given calendar year have the added physical, cognitive and social advantages over their younger peers when assembled collectively," said brothers David and Robbie Butler of the Department of Economics.
"The implications of the research can be considered both from a public health perspective when considering dropout rates from organised football and furthermore in attempts to unearth increasingly talented footballers to improve performance," they added.
They based their findings on a study conducted on the monthly birth distribution of European U-21, U-19 and U-17 footballers from 2007-2009.
They said the findings questioned the opportunities open to children born at different times in the calendar year and may go some way to explaining drop-out rates in football, which tend to start from the age of 11.
They suggested "a reframing of the environment" in which children play underage football to limit the advantages of physique at this level.
"Education of coaches and mentors is essential. Underage football should concentrate on the development of children.
"The short-term goal of winning should not come before player development," they said.