Noel McNamara believes the AIL plays a vital and crucial role in the development of young players in this country.
The Ireland U20 head coach was speaking in the aftermath of Ireland’s excellent 38-26 victory over Scotland at Musgrave Park in Cork on Friday night and he highlighted how almost every single one of this year’s squad have been playing regularly at AIL level this season.
“The AIL, without it the 20s would be in serious, serious strife,” McNamara said.
“It’s an absolutely fantastic competition for young players. You look at every single one of them out there and every one of them has played consistently for their club and not just played but performed.
“It’s challenging, playing against men and with men and it was interesting talking to Sean Lineen [Scotland U20 head coach] before the game, where they’ve introduced a Super Sixes in Scotland. So they’re actually trying to create a competition where they can bridge that gap for young players.
“We’re lucky. We have it and we have some excellent coaches and a really good level of competition so I’m hugely grateful for the competition and for what it does for young players.”
The club game in Ireland has gradually fallen by the wayside in the last 20 years due to the onset of professionalism and the establishment and growth of the four provinces; Leinster, Munster, Ulster and Connacht.
However, the games can still be of a very high standard and it offers a valuable opportunity for young players to toughen themselves up for a potential career in the professional game by playing consistently against experienced adult players.
There have been frustrations in the past, especially on behalf of clubs, who struggle with playing numbers and often see their top young talent unavailable to them due to provincial ‘A’ games or other competitions such as the much-maligned Cara Cup which took place in the US last year.
McNamara believes that communication is key between the provinces and clubs in order for the relationship to strive while the season calendar could also be reviewed to offer the best of both worlds to the provinces and clubs.
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“I think there’s a good balance. I think communication is really important and that’s something that’s improving all the time but there’s no question, for forwards, for nines, for 10s, for everybody really, it’s hugely beneficial.
“You look at someone like Luis Faria there who came on in the second half. He’s been playing consistently with Trinity over the course of the last two years. You look at Joe McCarthy, who came on and I thought had a telling impact on the game when we were probably struggling a little bit for momentum he had a huge moment that led to the score.
“Joe has played every single AIL game for Trinity so far this year, so certainly for the development of our young players, for the development of our academy players, I can’t stress enough how important the AIL is and for us it’s about continuing to improve the level of communication and the season calendar I think is the key.”