Monday 22 July 2019

'It's not a good model' - Plight of early leavers concerns Kenny

Stephen Kenny
Stephen Kenny
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Stephen Kenny hopes that his first week on the training ground with an Ireland U-21 squad was informative for both players and management.

But it also left him with food for thought about the Irish model of exporting players to England.

Kenny assembled a squad of home-based players for Wednesday's friendly win over the Irish amateurs.

He was looking to narrow down his options ahead of his first full U-21 squad announcement in March.

However, the gathering also allowed the Dubliner to look at the differing backgrounds of his League of Ireland options.

And he was struck by how players who were left behind in their teens have actually caught up with the contingent that have already been to England and back.

That worries Kenny as the early developers went away at a cost.

Kenny's get-together was a reunion for ex-St Kevin's Boys colleagues Darragh Leahy, Ross Treacy, Trevor Clarke, Robbie McCourt and Danny Mandroiu.

Ex-Malahide United player Zach Elbouzedi has also spent time across the water and come back.

"It's not a good model because they have dropped out of education," said Kenny. "It's not a criticism of anything, of a club, it's just an observation.

"Are they any more advanced than the players that didn't go? No, they are not. And yet they were better in the first place.

"It is interesting. I can understand if they didn't make it, went down the leagues and came back at 21, 22. But coming back before they are 19? That is quite stark, I think."

As it happens, one of the main beneficiaries of Kenny's first week on the training ground could be a player who has come through an unorthodox route.

UCD winger Neil Farrugia was born in Paris to an Irish mother and French father and moved to Dublin in his youth. He is eligible to play for Ireland, France, Spain and Malta

He went to St Andrew's College in Booterstown, which is more traditionally associated with rugby and hockey.

But the former Belvedere player has shone in the football field, and impressed Kenny last term while making an injury-interrupted contribution to the students' promotion.

He's now in contention for a full U-21 call-up. "He's had an approach from Malta but he wants to play for Ireland," said Kenny. "He's a very exciting player."

The ex-Dundalk boss is mapping out a scouting plan to assess all of his options, noting that Wolves player Connor Ronan is now on loan in Slovakia and Norwich's Simon Power is in Holland.

Hibs midfielder Stephen Mallon is spending time with Central Coast Mariners in the A League but he will be watched from afar.

Another aspect of Kenny's preparations will be speaking with the other underage managers about their needs. Spurs starlet Troy Parrott is the man of the moment, and promoting him is not out of the question.

But Tom Mohan's U-19 side face elite phase qualifiers in March so that presents a dilemma. Kenny indicated that a player would only be fast-tracked if he was certain to play.

Irish Independent

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