In the last decade, a number of League of Ireland graduates have become an integral part of the senior Irish set-up.
Much more talent is being unearthed from the League of Ireland with the likes of Seamus Coleman and James McClean just two examples of players making the grade in the Premier League and internationally.
The improvement of the league and its quality of exports has been greatly welcomed given the lack of opportunities young Irish players are afforded at Premier League sides in the present day. Scouting networks extend beyond Ireland to the detriment to Irish youngsters.
However, the current national team has a good balance between academy graduates and ex-League of Ireland stars. We have compiled two teams from players involved currently with Ireland to measure which side would prevail.
British Academy System XI
This is a strong side that includes a number of British-born players. The likes of Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick are some of the most recent examples of young Irish players to come through academy sides and forge a career for themselves in England. Brady had to leave Manchester United but has been a Premier League regular of late while Hendrick progressed from the Championship with Derby to high-flying Burnley.
Jon Walters had to leave Blackburn as a 20-year-old as did Harry Arter, who left Charlton. Both are now Premier League players. James McCarthy and Aiden McGeady came through the Scottish system while Ciaran Clark, Shane Duffy and Greg Cunningham all made Premier League debuts with Aston Villa, Everton and Manchester City respectively.
League Of Ireland XI
On the flip side, a number of players had to come through from a more local level to gain international recognition, with this team certainly capable of putting it up to the academy side. David Forde is included in this side by virtue he is the last ex-League of Ireland keeper to be capped by Ireland.
James McClean and Seamus Coleman are in some people’s mind’s Ireland’s two best players at present. Stephen Ward, David Meyler, Wes Hoolahan and Shane Long are all regulars with Andy Boyle, Kevin Long and Daryl Horgan all on the periphery.
Damien Delaney is excluded given the mystery around his retirement while Daryl Murphy, who has scored three international goals, misses out to the younger front two of Shane Long and Sean Maguire. Matt Doherty of Wolves and Ryan Manning of QPR also deserve honourable mentions.
In the final Mixer football podcast of 2017, we select our favourite goals, matches and performances of the year as well as our usual roundup of the latest League of Ireland news.
Nick Menezes, Pundit Arena