In a very thought-provoking piece, Eoin Carrigan argues that the Irish economic downturn of 2008 onwards could have a positive impact on the future of Irish football.
Why is it that for the past decade there have been very few glimpses of exciting footballing talent emerging from these shores? Ireland’s population is larger than Uruguay’s, so why is it that the thought of us producing a Luis Suarez or an Edinson Cavani seems so far fetched?
There is a clear answer; we have three almost equally popular sports (GAA, rugby and football) whereas in Uruguay, football dominates. The distribution of talent among these sports, particularly between rugby and football, is never equal but directly corresponds to the socioeconomic situation in the country.
With this in mind, there is reason to believe that a consequence of the recent economic crisis will be a new generation of footballing talent. The basis of this claim is simple. During the Celtic Tiger there was a vast increase in income for the traditional working class, particularly those involved in the construction industry.
This led to an unprecedented ability among the working class to send their children to private schools. Rugby dominates the sporting agenda of these private schools.
This is understandable as there is a clear link between success in schools rugby and success in attracting the ‘right’ type of students with the ‘right’ type of parents who will give the ‘right’ type of donations. It follows from this that during the Celtic Tiger, a large pool of young athletes who traditionally would have played football were being funneled towards rugby instead.
The golden generation of rugby players of the last ten years did not come about through mere coincidence. In the same period of time, the quality of football players being produced here has noticeably dropped.
If the pattern which appears to be in place whereby participation in certain sports in Ireland corresponds directly to the socio-economic landscape of the period in question, there is reason for Irish football fans to be positive about the future. Due to the recession, the tides have turned with more and more youths being sent to public schools.
This should have a noticeable effect on the fortunes of the Irish football team as the standard of the schools’ football leagues should increase with the larger pool of kids playing football instead of rugby. The silver lining of the recent downturn could be an upturn in the fortunes of our national football team.
With this in mind, there is reason to believe that in four years, at the World Cup in Russia, we will get our chance to turn Red Square green.
Eoin Carrigan, Pundit Arena.