Wednesday 23 October 2019

FAI's League of Ireland U-15 overhaul could spark a revolt in the schoolboy ranks

The FAI HQ in Abbotstown
The FAI HQ in Abbotstown

John Fallon

The FAI have refused to explain the rationale for their League of Ireland U-15 overhaul which is threatening another revolt from the schoolboys’ sector.

As a consequence of the association making it compulsory for half the squads to be comprised of U-14 players from next season, the future of the prestigious Kennedy Cup is in jeopardy.

That annual week-long tournament at Limerick University features the best 640 players representing their local leagues.

Roy Keane, Damien Duff, Robbie Brady and, most recently, Troy Parrott, are among its past performers over a decorated 43-year history.

Under this plan, the best talent will be snapped up for the U-15 national league before the event kicks off in June.

With finances at the FAI increasingly tight, they have been unable to introduce an U-14 league to bridge the gap between U-13 and U-15.

Rather than scrap the U-13 league after one season, the powers-that-be have decreed a new hybrid model which participating clubs only learnt of last week.

The FAI have yet to publicise the overhaul.

An additional element is the requirement to have four U-14 players on the pitch at all times.

How this will work in practice, and who regulates it, will be one to watch.

That’s if it gets there at all.

The powerful schoolboys sector almost brought down the FAI’s governance reform proposals, only agreeing to back the changes at an EGM in July after being guaranteed a seat for their sector on the new board.

Another uprising could be inevitable.

Cork and Tipperary have been most critical in the last two days, asking aloud how this development squares with the FAI’s promise to arise from their recent crises as a more open and transparent organisation.

The North Dublin League, second in size only to the Dublin and District League, also hit out.

“Once again, the FAI have made the mistake of disrespecting their largest affiliate,” said secretary Tony Gains. “So much for the new FAI. This will not be tolerated.”

The Schoolboys FAI, the umbrella affiliate for the 32 underage leagues, will meet next week to discuss their next move.

Reaction among League of Ireland clubs has been mixed.

Waterford Under-13 manager Mike Geoghegan branded it at a “bad call”, claiming the FAI’s stated player pathway is obsolete as he’ll have to discard half of his squad for the younger intake next year.

Former Ireland international Gareth Farrelly has also rowed in, labelling the venture as “exclusionary”.

When contacted by independent.ie, the FAI said they had no comment to make.

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