Jason O'Connor looks at the player pathway in Limerick
As the league of Ireland season draws to a close it is important to look at the emergence of talent from the FAI programme re designed by National co-ordinator Niall Harrison in 2014.
The FAI Emerging Talent programme has twelve centres across the country catering for our most promising young players from the age of 12 to 15.
The programmes redesign saw the players introduced to a professional approach to the game at the best possible stage in their development.
There are windows of opportunity for development & between 12 & 15 is absolutely crucial for players.
Looking at the FAI Centre locally, it caters for elite players identified by Football development officers from across the region.
The FAI North Munster academy incorporates the Limerick District, Limerick County, North Tipperary, Limerick Desmond & Clare Schoolboy leagues & works with players who show technical ability & the right attitude to learning & player development.
The sessions are designed by the FAI staff who are responsible for each league, Jason O'Connor (Limerick) James Scott (North Tipperary) & Denis Hynes (Clare) & are structured to improve the players, technical, tactical & aerobic focus of the game.
Diet, Nutrition & strength & conditioning are all touched on by the staff who work with the players in three day blocks during gaps in their school year, Halloween, Christmas, Easter & during the summer holidays.
The programme nationwide has been a huge success with players like Robbie Brady & Jeff Hendrick the most high profile graduates, who are now regular senior international players & playing in the English Premiership each week, but locally the success of the North Munster academy has been just as rewarding for the staff & players involved.
Two graduates William Fitzgerlad & Colm Walsh O Loughlin have made senior debuts for Limerick FC this season both at the age of 18.
Fifteen players from last years programme of 25 players born in 2003 have been signed by National league clubs for their u15 squads which is a phenomenal return from any programme.
The fact what National league clubs are trying to achieve is in line with the coaching the players receive from FAI staff in the programme makes the transition from local club football to national league football seamless.
When you hear the chairman of senior league of Ireland clubs saying they want to have a local team on the pitch representing their city it is very much achievable through the FAI Emerging talent programme & also through the underage national leagues at u15, u17 & u19.