FAI-ETB Course gets underway for 2019/20
The new Player Development programme promises to unearth some new gems locally as players get an opportunity to combine their academic pursuits with full-time football training.
Many have now started the programme with ambitions to follow in the footsteps of former trainees such as Republic of Ireland Internationals Matt Doherty, Enda Stevens and Kevin Long who all now ply their trade in the Premier League. Indeed, the female trainee ambitions are also well represented with current captain Katie McCabe and striker Stephanie Roche having also graduated from the FAI-ETB programme in recent years.
The programme currently takes place in ten centres in Dublin, Cork, Dundalk, Limerick, Mayo and Waterford with more venues set to be announced for 2020. Trainees have the opportunity to gain academic qualifications such as the QQI Level 5 Sport & Recreation Studies major award and the ITEC Gym Instructor’s License. FAI Coach Education Certificates can also be gained in the busy yearly schedule. The courses are free of charge and trainees also receive a substantial training allowance making the opportunity even more attractive.
However, it is the opportunity to train full time with experienced and highly-qualified professional coaches which attracts most of the young players as they look to gain an insight into what it takes to become a professional footballer. While many aspire to play in the Premier League, the SSE Airtricity League also offers an attractive outlet for their talents with almost 100 current players in the league being graduates of the prestigious programme.
People such as former Republic of Ireland U21 Assistant Manager Harry McCue, former Celtic player Mick Conroy and experienced former League of Ireland professional players such as Stuart Ashton, Jason McGuinness and Sean Byrne represent just some of the highly experienced professional coaches involved in the programme and all have a huge influence on the sporting education of the young trainees. Indeed, providing advice and mentoring from their vast stock of experience is equally as important as their excellent coaching ability as young players try to make the big step to the professional game.
Recent years have also provided additional opportunities for the youngsters to impress with games against Tom Mohan’s Republic of Ireland U-19 side serving as a precursor to Erasmus+ funded tours to the UK and Spain to play against top local academy teams and experience the opportunity of a full-time professional football training programme. The two-week tours provide an opportunity for players to immerse themselves in the local culture and experience what it takes to establish a football career in this environment.
Last year saw the FAI-ETB representative side tour London play against Fulham FC and Reading FC academies as well as Crawley Town and top semi-professional outfit Dorking Wanderers. The FAI-ETB side returned home undefeated with many players impressing local scouts. This year will see the representative team visit the Spanish city of Seville where proposed games against the academy teams of Sevilla and Real Betis will provide the test and perhaps the highlight of the tour.
Sean Byrne, the former Shamrock Rovers, Bray Wanderers and Limerick defender who coaches at the FAI-ETB Centre in Irishtown has seen many young players pass through the programme and go on to establish themselves as professional players in the League of Ireland and beyond.
“The courses provide an excellent opportunity for young players to reach their potential. If they don’t make it as a professional player, the academic qualifications gained can enable them to progress to degree courses and set them up for an alternative career in the sports industry. It’s great to see former Irishtown trainees such as Dundalk’s Daniel Kelly now hitting the headlines with important goals as Dundalk FC strive for a domestic treble this season but we’ve also other graduates who have gone on to set up their own sport and leisure businesses and that is also a fantastic result for the courses”, Byrne revealed.
No doubt, a number of this year’s intake of players will go on to realise their dreams and remember this important step in their career. The FAI-ETB programme has run for over twelve years now with thousands of young people beginning their career journey here and forging friendships in this unique personal development environment.
For more information, please visit www.fai.ie/fai-etb-courses