Calls for FAI to dismantle U13 National League

The schoolboys’ clubs responsible for nurturing exciting starlets like Troy Parrott and Aaron Connolly want the FAI to ditch the U13 National League after just one season.

Calls for FAI to dismantle U13 National League

The schoolboys’ clubs responsible for nurturing exciting starlets like Troy Parrott and Aaron Connolly want the FAI to ditch the U13 National League after just one season.

A number of underage clubs have formed a new group to convey their concerns and sent their plea to each of the FAI’s board members.

Specifically, the group from across the country argue that the national league is having a detrimental effect on player development and dismantling the very system producing the new waves of gems.

The FAI applied the same selection criteria for entry to their inaugural U13 league as for the U15 and U17 versions — that only League of Ireland clubs or counties without one could participate.

Kildare, Cavan/Monaghan, Mayo, and Kerry representative squads were added to the 20 league clubs to complete the league structure.

Reservations about this venture being too much, too early have spiked since the first season concluded in September.

Worried clubs converged on Athlone two weeks ago to discuss the issue and from an initial study of 100 adults discovered major structural flaws.

Over 80% of respondents felt the experiment had failed.

Child welfare issues such as long distances travelling to training matches, limited game-time for a large portion, and the disappointment of being released at the age of 13 were uppermost in the feedback.

A deputation from the group are due to meet with the Schoolboys Football Association of Ireland (SFAI) tomorrow and the Oireachtas committee for Sport next week but they ultimately want the new broom of the FAI to act.

Amongst the clubs leading the campaign are Parrott’s former nursery Belvedere and Mervue United, where Connolly first came to prominence.

Both of the teenage Ireland senior internationals have made their Premier League debuts this season while Adam Idah, whose former club Corinthians are also actively involved, has come close by featuring on the bench for Norwich City.

“The FAI has embarked on a policy where the children must match the structure rather than the structure matching the needs of the children,” said Ollie Daniels of famous Galway club Salthill Devon.

“We need a structure that is child-centric, where children and young people who devote their heart and soul to football deserve responsible and knowledgeable leadership.

Children are not the property of coaches, clubs or leagues and should not be subjected to selection, deselection, being discarded and discriminated against at such a young age.

“National League clubs are recruiting children at 12 years, using, in the most part, trials to decide whether kids are good enough to make a squad of 20.

“Late developers get discriminated against.

“We’ve seen how the likes of Robbie Keane and Roy Keane only maximised their potential after they became physically stronger in their late teens.

“The vast majority of the 480 players recruited are released at the end of the season.

“The transition from U13 to U15 is all but impossible.

“A schoolboy club losing three to five players from a team impacts the remaining players, often creating disillusionment.

“That leads to the loss of players to other sports.”

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