EXCLUSIVE: Damien Duff one of four ex-internationals to land FAI coaching role
THE FAI have announced that Kenny Cunningham will join Damien Duff Stephen McPhail, Keith Andrews and Mark Kinsella in taking roles on the backroom staff of Ireland's underage sides.
High Performance Director Ruud Dokter has moved to add former internationals to the Ireland set-up by inviting the quintet to come on board in coaching positions.
As revealed in this morning's Irish Independent, Duff will work with the U-15 team with McPhail offering his services at U-16 level, Andrews joining the U-17 side and Kinsella helping out Noel King's U-21 group. Cunningham will work with Tom Mohan's U-19 side after a deal was finalised today.
They will take up their posts from next season with the new age group in each category and the arrangement will last for a year before a review which Dokter hopes will lead to the extension of their involvement.
The absence of ex-internationals from the fold has been a talking point in recent months, but Dokter insists that it was always his intention to address that area.
"They will be coaches, they are full members of the backroom team," Dokter told the Irish Independent. "We're delighted they will work with us. They bring great experience.
"You are going to say that it was in the media and now we've done it but we did it last year already. Mark Kinsella was with the U-16s, Kenny Cunningham was with the U-15 side. They were interim roles but it was already in my mind."
Duff and McPhail are helping out with the youths at Shamrock Rovers and held productive discussions with Dokter which led to this outcome.
"We had a fantastic and very open chat," said the Dutchman. "They are both very committed, very driven. Keith and Mark are the same. They want to be involved and we have to facilitate that - that's an obligation on the FAI as well, to facilitate coaches who want to have a career and have had great success as players and done lot for the country.
"I want to extend this process, and it has to work for both sides. It's not a contract. We'll review it after a year and if everybody is happy, we will continue. It's a long-term commitment from my side. It's not a closed window. They will be working in conjunction with the good coaches and managers that are there and they don't have a problem."
"Dokter is keen for the U-15 and U-16 groups to meet up more regularly...."
Dokter is keen for the U-15 and U-16 groups to meet up more regularly because it's such a vital age group with so many players on the verge of moving away and he feels that Duff and McPhail can help by offering guidance.
"Damien is a full member of staff, he's here in Ireland. The teams have assessment days and trial days and camps. They will be involved in that and possibly scouting activities as well but we haven't discussed that. Stephen is still playing at Shamrock Rovers so it's a little bit more complicated but we'll work around that
"We are looking to do more with the U-15s and U-16s, to increase training programmes and it's important to play against the best teams. From 15 to 16, a top country would have 12-18 games a year. Obviously the more international games you play, the more experience you gain and the better you are. It has to be realistic because there's a big cost but the emphasis is absolutely to increase these programmes. We can do a lot with 15s and 16s but once we go to England we are depending on them (English clubs)."
The FAI are in the process of finding a new manager for the U-17 team after Tom Mohan stepped up to replace Paul Doolin in the U19 hotseat. Doolin also oversaw the U-18 side as part of his role but Dokter has split it up and will be looking for an U-18 boss as well with a view to extra activity in that bracket.
He said Mohan was picked from a field of internal and external candidates because he has become a 'real expert' in the field after nine years with the association. The FAI have also designated 24 scouts to monitor developments in the League of Ireland.
Dokter's contract was recently extended to 2020 and he intends to 'achieve many things' within that timeframe with the age profile of Martin O'Neill's squad an ongoing concern. "It shows commitment and trust from both sides," he said of his new deal, "In my world you need continuity."