I think It is very sad that whilst we are in the midst of a global pandemic which has and continues to affect so many people in so many different negative ways, a five-letter word is causing such consternation amongst the underage football fraternity of our small country. Instead of using lockdown to reflect and improve relations with all levels of the game it feels the barriers have gotten higher and the gap widened which is a terribly sad reflection on how football as a whole is administered in this country.

In Ireland the word Elite seems to have been Trademarked by our governing body and is used in such a provocative way it is easy to see why so many clubs around the country feel isolated and to some degree, insulted.

So, what does ELITE mean? One description is (a select group that is superior in terms of ability or qualities to the rest of the group or society). This particular description is quite a basic overview but it does reflect what most peoples understanding of what the word means. There is no question that players have different levels of ability but the question is at what stage have players “earned” the right to be categorised as Elite and what if any, specific Syllabus are we working to in order to establish elite status for players? There is of course some copy and paste documents out there under the disguise of development planning, the problem being very little if any of these documents have been influenced by grass root coaches working at the cold face for many years.

This alone is provocative and highly insulting to the clubs within the various schools’ leagues around the country who are doing incredible work in relation to development models for players through infrastructural improvements, Coach Education, Physical development and Wellbeing workshops.  

From the outside it appears the argument is, the only pre-requisite, for a player to achieve Elite status in this country is signing for a LoI club! This argument holds some weight as I don’t believe the LoI clubs have all the best players in the country playing at the farcically staggered age groups. This means we are missing the serious amounts of talent because of the closed shop mentality promoted by our High-Performance leaders.    

My own opinion is we do not have elite 14-year-old footballers in this or any other country for that matter, and to label them as such is negligent. Without question we have very talented 14-year-old players and that is exactly what they are, “talented” and as such should be allowed enhance and grow that talent in an environment that is suited and sympathetic to their Physical and Psychological needs, not thrust into the toxic football political sphere that will invariably see us lose these players to different sports or indeed away from sports all together.        

For this reason alone, we must reconsider what our interpretation of Elite means and widen the scope of who and what encompasses the true meaning of the word within a football context while providing as many young footballers as possible the opportunity to earn the status of Elite, at their own pace, at their own club, within their own community whilst not been labelled not good enough because of the league his or her club participates in.

Further reading

What about defending?

I want to be very clear from the start of this piece I am personally in the Pro Stephen Kenny group and a big supporter of what he is trying to achieve. Irish football, root, and branch is currently at an all-time low for many different well...