“For a young player to be offered a chance to fulfil their dreams, it’s hard to turn down at 16 years of age.”
The above are the sage words of this year’s successful Leinster Schoolboys Under 18 interprovincial champions Fintan Sheridan.
The Clondalkin-based secondary school teacher is an experienced hand within the Leinster Schoolboys setup, this year being his fifth year of involvement in the management team.
He believes that a combination of PE becoming an examination subject at Leaving Certificate level and the ever-improving standard of the under-17s and under-19s National League augurs well for keeping pupils involved in secondary education.
As alluded to by the PFAI’s Stephen McGuinness in another article, there is now a clear pathway for students to stay in school, improving their footballing skills by playing at a high standard while affording students who are involved in sports the opportunity to be rewarded with points in their Leaving Certificate.
Sheridan is actively involved, along with Ian Ryan, in the potential establishment of an academy-style approach up to Junior Cycle in the Clondalkin secondary school where both men teach.
The pilot, which is due to commence in September, has seen input from Maynooth University, FAI Schools and the FAI’s Mark Scanlon and will be similar in style to the programme in Northern Ireland which is headed by Jim Magilton.
The intention is that two training sessions a week will take place and will be built into the student timetable alongside classroom based modules such as ‘health and nutrition’ and video analysis as, according to Sheridan: “It’s important that students see that you can play football and have a career alongside it.”
Speaking about the value of the interprovincial tournament, the Dundalk native claims 'it’s a great way to get yourself noticed’ while – perhaps with a nod to recent Lilywhites Andy Boyle and Daryl Horgan who both were involved in the Irish Schoolboys – ‘a lot of those who have represented their province at Schoolboys (under-18) level have had a career in the League of Ireland.’
He ends the interview with a couple of notes of optimism by revealing that the number of participating schools and players in Leinster is increasing by the year, while young people are seeing teams in the league doing well in Europe and playing at a high level domestically.
This can only be good for the game as “success breeds success.”