Ireland is a third-world country when it comes to soccer and the players deserve much more

Ireland is a third-world country when it comes to soccer and the players deserve much more
Cobh manager Stephen Henderson is passionate about Irish soccer. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

THE last couple of weeks have seen debates on the future direction of Irish very much to the forefront.

One man that is very passionate about domestic football in Ireland is Cobh Ramblers manager Stephen Henderson.

Lots of discussions are being had right now about what the future holds for Irish football. 

With that in mind, the appointment of former Dundalk boss Stephen Kenny into the Irish international setup has been seen as a positive mood, as the FAI look to filter the work being done at underage international level into the senior squad.

But the current Cobh Ramblers manager feels that the League Of Ireland has to be central to the development of the game in this country.

“It is not where it needs to be,” said Henderson on the current health of the league.

“We have no football industry in this country but 400,000 people play football every weekend. We don’t have a sustainable professional football industry, where these players can go from their development models into the League Of Ireland.

“I am not happy with where the League Of Ireland is. The fact that people have been allowed to get away with the league not progressing, we can all have our little moans about things. But it is getting us nowhere.

“We need action and we need people to stand up a be counted to start saying right, there is the potential here for a proper professional league. These models such as the Emerging Talent programmes and FAI player pathway programmes, all this stuff, let's keep doing that.

“But let's get it to League Of Ireland clubs so that you can earn a good living, a good professional living, where we have proper stadiums for people to come to sit down and enjoy the game.

“Until we reach that standard, we are nowhere. We are a third world football country until that is identified and when we sit down to talk about development models, that the League Of Ireland is the priority of it.

“Facilities-wise we are miles behind and that is just neglect. There is no other way of looking at that. The fact that we seem happy enough just to play in stadiums that are falling down, that is our fault.

“The sooner we stop moaning on social media, myself included, and start going out and making real change, start challenging the people that will make a difference.

“Until that happens we remain complicit of holding Irish football back. Let's get proper stadiums, let's get proper backing, proper prize money and a league where all the teams are professional.

“I do believe that the League Of Ireland can get to English Championship level at least in terms of quality. But we need the facilities to do that, we need the training facilities to do that and the pitches to do that. More importantly, the backing to do that.

“There are very good Irish players coming through all of these development models that we are going to start losing. The most important thing about these development models should be professional football in Ireland and it is not here.

“That is the standard that these players deserve,” stated Henderson.

These are indeed interesting times for football in Ireland. Now could provide a massive opportunity to develop the game here and raise it to another level.

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