Soccer heading in right direction

The recent second Genesis report from the FAI has recommended a number of changes to the national soccer leagues. By 2009 it is recommended that there should be a four tier structure. This would entail a ten-team Premiership, a Division 1, then a regionalised A Championship plus an Under 20 League. The recommendations of this Genesis 2 report have significant imp

The Kerryman’s soccer correspondent Jim O’Gorman picks the brains of the Kerry District League secretary John O’Regan of recent developments in the KDL

The recent second Genesis report from the FAI has recommended a number of changes to the national soccer leagues.

By 2009 it is recommended that there should be a four tier structure. This would entail a ten-team Premiership, a Division 1, then a regionalised ‘A’ Championship plus an Under 20 League.

The recommendations of this Genesis 2 report have significant implications for Kerry soccer.

Currently the Eircom League lies outside the orbit of the FAI. But in two weeks the League will probably make a decision to come under the aegis of the FAI.

The Kerryman spoke to League Secretary John O’Regan to understand the implications of this new national structure for Kerry soccer.

John O’Regan (JOR): Joe Delaney (Current FAI CEO John Delaney’s father) wanted a new structure when he was in charge of the FAI back in the early 1990s. But the biggest obstacle at that stage was obviously the costs and travel. Even than he looked for a regional division of the Premiership into a north and south section. At that stage the League of Ireland was not under the auspices of the FAI but now that is likely to change.

The FAI want to expand soccer to all counties. What’s being proposed is a 10 team Premiership, probably a 12 team Division 1 then a National A Championship which will be regionalised.

The exact geography needs to be negotiated but it’s probable that the furthest north will be Galway, across then to south Dublin. There will be promotion and relegation through the whole structure.

Jim O’Gorman (JOG): Why the Under 20 League then?

JOR: Well the Under 21 League is only seven years in existence. It only really took off when Kerry and Mayo joined it but the FAI Youth is Under 17 and the gap between that and Under 21 is felt to be too great. So the suggestion is to bring it back one year, i.e. Under 20.

The League of Ireland clubs will probably still want to play their overage players because it gives them the chance to get injured players fit but others, including ourselves, would want to keep it strictly as an Under 20s League.

In my opinion it would benefit us greatly. We have talented youngsters such as Luke Burgess, Stephen McCarthy, John Dineen for whom the transition to Under 21 might have been too much but with the Under 20 League the gap won’t be as great.

You’ve got to work on your sport to make progress. When I was playing hurling there were at least 14 top teams in the county. Stacks and Killarney had sides.

We started with just eight teams in the early 1970s. Now there are 58 senior teams with at least three or four more joining the league next year.

JOG: So are Kerry going to take part?

JOR: The first thing is to have proper facilities, grounds with no overheads, debts, etc. The Kerry District League (KDL) will seriously consider, with the approval of our clubs, submitting an entry for the Eircom Under 20 and the ‘A’ Championship. Kerry would also submit a side for the FAI Youth competition which is under 18.

For this to happen we need more commitment . . . young players would need to stay in the county.

JOG: But the reason they go to Dublin is to be spotted by both League of Ireland and cross-channel clubs.

That’s where the Billy Dennehys (Shelbourne), Diarmuid O’Carrolls (Home Farm) and Brendan Moloneys (Belvedere) got noticed.

JOR: I don’t agree. Billy got spotted playing for Kerry Under 21 as did the likes of Shane Guthrie and Seán Kelly (Arsenal). Darren Dennehy didn’t need to go to Dublin. If we get the structure right here there will be a pathway for Kerry players in this county.

The structure would start from the Kennedy Cup, I give the Schoolboys League great praise for their work but if we scrapped the Under 15 county team we would then have an Under 14, Under 16, county teams and then an Under 18 FAI Youth team and a side to compete in the Under 20 League.

JOG: Would you pay them then?

JOR: We have had that debate in the GAA and even though they are earning much greater sums from sponsorship, yet they are not going down the pay for play road. So how could we pay them, where’s the money to come from?

People who believe that there are significant sponsorship sums out there aren’t living in the real world. We are delighted with the sponsor that we have but it’s hard work to raise money.

JOG: So where will the stadium be?

JOR: Last Friday three consultants from the FAI came down to audit the facilites at Mounthawk Park. They want to put a regional sub-centre somewhere and we want to be one of the eight regional centres.

To do that we have to bring it into line with their expectations. We are requesting sub-centre approval. We are building two more dressing rooms, that’s six in all. These will have individual showers, anticipating the growth of ladies soccer.

The main pitch will be a FIFA-approved all-weather surface which will cost approximately ?750,0000. The top pitch will be brought up to League of Ireland standard but we will need another grass pitch and will be talking to both Tralee Dynamos and Park FC about their potential inclusion in the project. This too will have to be floodlit and the surface League of Ireland standard.

We will also be required to build a sports hall for the fast growing indoor soccer Futsal game. The lights on the main pitch need upgrading for television and we hope to extend the current stands.

It’s not just going to be for League of Ireland players. It’s going to be a hub for all soccer-indoor, schoolboys and girls.

JOG: Where’s the money coming from?

JOR: Some of it will be from the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism, another source of funding will be the special projects budget of the FAI. But they will both expect us the raise 20/30 per cent from local fund-raising. The total cost will be somewhere between 2.5 and 3 million euro.

Access will be improved. Kerry County Council and Tralee Urban District Council have already done much in improving local roads, the new ring-road will give better access.

We have 600 car parking spaces. Don’t forget that when we hosted Tralee Dynamos FAI Youth Final in 1998 over 3,000 attended the final.

JOG: So who’s going to manage it?

JOR: It will need to be completely separate from Kerry District League. In my opinion we have to put structures in place.

We have got good people but the management of this has to be separate from KDL. We have thought this through and believe that it needs a committee of at least seven. Firstly we need a chairman who has to have had experience at Eircom level, then you need marketing expertise because fund raising will be crucial.

Thirdly you need a secretary free of all other duties. Fourthly you need a treasurer and lastly a PRO. These would be the five outsiders. In addition there would be two appointments from KDL.

JOG: Where are the players to come from. Are they going to be solely from Kerry or will we go down the Kilkenny City route and recruit from Dublin?

JOR: Kerry people like to see their own players in action. We have good players here (they have just beaten Kilkenny City and lost narrowly to Eircom Division 1 leaders Limerick FC in the Eircom League Cup) but we would also have to trawl outside.

The likes of Shane Guthrie for example at Cork, Billy Dennehy, Seán Kelly and Derek O’Brien (Galway United) would be the kind of player that the Kerry public would love to see back in action here.

Leon McEvoy heads a fantastic goal for Kerry under-21s in an Eircom League U-21 tie against Waterford in 2004 at Mounthawk Park. Under new plans Kerry would compete in an under-20 league while Mounthawk Park would get a facelift to bring it up to League of Ireland standard, possibly paving the way for a Kerry team. Photo by Valerie O'Sullivan