The inclusion of Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle in the 28-man squad for the Ireland Austria qualifier is a big boost for the reputation of Dundalk and the League of Ireland. Although this is not the first time domestically based talent has been called up the senior squad, LOI call-ups are few and far between in recent times.
It’s plain to see that the dynamics of Irish international football have shifted substantially over the past twenty-five years. This is maybe best seen in the changing career paths and career trajectories of our international footballers. No longer are our internationals contracted to a variety of elite Premier League teams such as Manchester United, Liverpool or Tottenham for a significant period. The historical 'straightforward' career path of Irish players, which saw them transferred to an elite club and spend the lion's share of their career there, seems to be a thing of the past.
It’s not too difficult to make comparisons to the operation of other labour market operations in general in light of globalisation processes. With an internationalised Premier League, competition has never been as intense. No longer will it suffice to be the best striker in the British Isles to play for Manchester United or Liverpool.
Different models seem to be opening up outside of the traditional ‘move and make it’ ideal associated with the likes of Roy Keane, Niall Quinn, Kevin Moran, Ronnie Whelan etc. By scanning the current squad, most Irish born and raised players seem to follow one of the following career paths outside of the older model. Their careers usually have at least one of the following four features.
- They move to Britain and take multiple loan moves, usually to lower league clubs.
- They move to an elite British club and then drop divisions or move to a traditionally lower ranked Premier League club at an early stage in their career.
- They enter a lower league and remain in lower leagues for their career (often making multiple moves).
- They make the international squad from the LOI.
Horgan and Boyle are two of very few players that have made the international setup solely from playing LOI football. Another interesting pathway also may also be expanding. There seems to be growth in players coming back to play in the League of Ireland and then having another shot at British Leagues later in their career (after failure at a young age in Britain). Recent examples of players reigniting a career in England from the LOI include Daryl Murphy and Richie Towell. Rumours of a return to England for Cork’s Sean Maguire are also surfacing.
What will be the implications of the alternative career paths and different routes to the senior international setup? In particular, will our squad become older, if Irish based talent is returning to Britain later in their careers or breaking through at a later stage after much perseverance? Time will tell.