'We saw some good players develop' - Brian Kerr excited for 2020 after emergence of Irish youngsters
Brian Kerr has pointed to the emergence of Ireland’s young guns within the Premier League as holding the key to a brighter future for Irish football.
With 2019 dominated by off-field issues as the FAI lurched from crisis to crisis following the end of John Delaney’s tenure as CEO, the graduation of Brighton’s Aaron Connolly to a regular starting berth and the promise shown by Southampton’s Michael Obafemi and Tottenham’s Troy Parrott provided some positivity for Ireland’s supporters.
And 2020 has now started with a bang for a fourth up-and-coming striker after Cork-born Adam Idah's stunning hat-trick in Norwich City's FA Cup win over Preston coming only days after he made his Premier League debut.
It's that promise that Kerr hopes will help matters along the long road to recovery for the debt-ridden association.
"This last week (of 2019) has been a very poor one obviously and a continuation really of what’s gone on since March," Kerr said as he looked back on the previous 12 months.
"But on the field there’s been plenty of good stuff. We saw some good young players develop in the U21s and the U19s this year.
"It now appears we might have some players playing (regularly) in the Premier League in the next few seasons. Some of the clubs they’re at are doing quite well.
"The League of Ireland last year was competitive. We saw Rovers give Dundalk a good run for their money and won the cup themselves.
"And we saw good players emerging like Jack Byrne coming through and getting some time on the pitch with the senior international team."
Kerr also singled out the success of Sheffield United since their promotion as a boon due to the strong Irish contingent at the club with Enda Stevens, John Egan and David McGoldrick all vital components in the Steel City side’s ascension to the top flight.
That trio were then joined by Callum Robinson during the summer and all four have been regulars as the Yorkshire outfit have stunned pundits with their progression to currently sit only seven points outside the Champions League spots.
"You look at the four lads playing at Sheffield United," Kerr finished.
"Bar Jeff Hendrick and Robbie Brady playing at Burnley, and Seamus Coleman who’s probably been our most high profile player, we haven’t really had players up at that level.
"Over the next while it’s looking like, if they get the breaks and get managers who believe in them, that some more of them will get into the first teams at better clubs. And that gives us a bit of hope."