I WAS fortunate enough to have had a career as a professional player but I still wish Cork City and Cobh Ramblers had underage teams when I was growing up.
An issue has recently arisen regarding both clubs' recruitment of U14s from schoolboys clubs and in particular the timing of it, given the U14 League of Ireland doesn't start until July. The Cork Schoolboys League secretary wrote to City and Cobh blasting their actions.
The argument was that City and Ramblers could have allowed underage players to finish their local seasons, which run until June, which would also allow them to represent Cork in the Kennedy Cup, instead of starting their League of Ireland training programmes.
We are constantly bemoaning the lack of talent developed in our country and how it is reflected by poor international results for several seasons. Yet when the opportunity for younger players arises to develop in an environment where they will receive better coaching, play and train with the best of their peers and learn what is required to become a professional footballer, people have an issue with it.
I understand the argument isn't against underage players moving into the League of Ireland, more that they could have waited until the local season concluded.
The reality is these promising teenagers are going to develop better at City and Ramblers. A five-month build-up to the season involving friendlies against the best teams around the country will be more beneficial than local league games.
The mental side of sport is where these players are going to gain the most.
Even a simple thing like the importance of punctuality. At amateur level, it’s rare that a player will be punished for being five minutes late for training but with a professional club that isn’t acceptable. Players are expected to be at least 15 minutes early for training.
City and Ramblers didn’t sign anyone against their will. Nor did they recruit them without clubs signing the release forms for the player. Deep down, clubs will accept that going to City or Ramblers is in the best interests of the best players.
City and Ramblers want to develop these youngsters.
We have to encourage this for the betterment of the game across the board and internationally.
If that means our local sides lose their best players to League of Ireland clubs then that's the sacrifice that has to be made.