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Do or dole for LOI players

FROM the glamour of Lansdowne Road to the reality of the dole queue.

That's modern life for League of Ireland footballers in these difficult times, as a large batch of stars from the domestic game now find themselves out of work.

That's why they are leaving Ireland for somewhere even snowier -- Norway, to be exact -- in a bid to find work, or at least options.

A delegation from the PFAI, the players' union, left Ireland bound for Oslo today, including a 19-man squad who will take part in an indoor tournament for out of work footballers from various countries.

There's a mix of veterans (33-year-old Liam Burns, 29-year-old striker Stephen O'Flynn) and kids (teenagers Stephen McDonnell and Conor Murphy). They all have one thing in common -- they're out of contract and out of work.

"It's a real case of a reality check. On a Sunday you're at the Aviva Stadium for the cup final in front of 20,000 people, the next day you're unemployed and getting ready to sign on," says Conor Powell, a former Ireland U21 cap whose contract with Sligo Rovers has run out.

"But that's life and that's football these days, I suppose.

"This tournament this week is a great chance for us to play and show what we can do, there will be scouts and managers there from other countries so you never know what might turn up.

"It's a great idea and fair play to the PFAI for being able to arrange this and give the players a platform," added Powell, who played in the same Irish U21 team as Euro-bound players like Darren O'Dea, Andy Keogh and Darron Gibson.


He made the breakthrough with Bohemians under Gareth Farrelly and had five seasons with the club before leaving and joining Colchester United 12 months ago. He played just twice in a five-month spell at Colchester and then joined Sligo last summer.

Powell could end up staying at Sligo as he's already held early talks on a new deal, but he's keen to explore other options.

"I have spoken to Sligo and a few other clubs in Ireland have been in contact but nothing formal has been offered yet, so I want to see how Norway goes," he says.

"It's not easy for players right now, you might agree to sign for a club now but they won't start paying you until maybe February, and that's hard on players financially," he added.

The squad fly out to Norway today, train tomorrow and play a series of indoor games on Friday.

Daryl Kavanagh was the star man for the PFAI team last year, earning a contract with St Pat's, though the Waterford man is back in the squad this year to see if he can get a contract abroad.