Some of the last entries below concern the future of Irish soccer talent development. In short, I argue that focus should be placed on developing our U13 to U19 divisions with the aim of continually exporting our best to a variety of leagues (not just those in England). The league of Ireland senior level should play a secondary role. This type of structure would be in the tradition of European counterparts that are ranked similarly to us.
Below are some stats that give an insight to the ability of other European countries to retain talent in their national league structure and subsequently draw only a few domestic players at a senior level.
I sampled a selection of countries relatively similar to Ireland (population and coefficients), many of which were cited in the original entry below. The table shows estimates for the percentage of players in an underage national squad that are attached to a domestic club. Again, it’s pretty clear to see a trend for all nations except Ireland. Players from other countries generally fly the nest later. Most Irish players have left these shores by the time they are eligible to play U17 (assuming they are trained here to begin with). At present, the temptation to move to the UK at a young age is as strong as ever.
The aim should be to retain this talent domestically for a longer developmental period prior to exporting. Of course, this would require investment and the appropriate structures. Achieving this retention should be a primary goal for the national league. Albeit difficult to emulate the facilities, standards and the potential monetary rewards offered by UK clubs, policy should focus on providing a strong developmental process domestically that would at least give players a difficult choice regarding whether to move now or wait.