THE inclusion of six former Cork City players in the Republic of Ireland squad is further proof of the League of Ireland’s developmental quality, according to City manager John Caulfield.
Kevin Long, David Meyler, Alan Browne, Daryl Horgan, Shane Long and Seán Maguire have all been included by Martin O’Neill for the friendly against Turkey in Antalya on March 23.
John Egan, Colin Doyle and Conor Hourihane are included too, while Séamus Coleman, Enda Stevens and James McClean are also League of Ireland alumni. Caulfield feels that the large contingent of former domestic players is indicative of how the league is the best players for players to learn their trade.
“You look at the guys involved,” he says, “some of them were in the first team, some were youth-team players, it shows that there is a pathway through.
“People can see now that it’s possible to stay at home, do the Leaving Cert and come through in a strong set-up, with massive opportunities available after that.
“In the old days, you had players running across to England at 14 or 16, the feeling was that if you hadn’t done it by then you had no hope, but the breakthrough for those guys is so little.
“You see it in the wider squad too, a lot have come through the League of Ireland. It’s great to see that there is a route for them.”
City play Dundalk at Oriel Park tonight in the Premier Division (8pm), with many of the otp players in the league on show. While the notion of the ‘magic plane’ still exists in that top players aren’t considered until they have left Ireland, it’s not something Caulfield is unduly bothered by.
“It’s the way that the marquee players, like Daryl Horgan and Seán Maguire, are going to be targets for English clubs,” he says, “at the moment we can’t compete with the financial rewards they can offer.
“In saying that, with Seáni was called up, everyone know that he had been a City player six or seven weeks previously. The gap has definitely narrowed and you’d always be optimistic that it can be narrowed further but we all need to do a bit more to make the league stronger, to have better European performances and to help teams compete financially.”