KDUL Head Coach Mike Geoghegan has a track record of producing talented young players. He was manager when Newbridge Town won the Leinster Senior League Senior Division for the only time back in 1998/99. During that season he introduced the likes of Philly Gorman, Damian Coogan and JP McDonagh to senior football and all three went on to play in the League of Ireland. Since getting involved with the KDUL less than a year ago, he has been working with even younger players.
“I come from a background of senior soccer and having done these sort of sessions with senior players you are a little wary of how the kids will adapt to the same kind of sessions but we’re doing with 13 and 14 year olds what I did in the Leinster Senior League with Newbridge Town and they are lapping it up. They are well able for it so it shows to me that a lot of coaches coach too much within the kids’ ability. If you stretch them a bit they are well able to take it on board.”
Unfortunately developing young players is not always a straight forward process and Geoghegan feels that the FAI could do a lot more to help leagues like the KDUL as they attempt to put proper structures in place.
“I think the support doesn’t reach from the top down into schoolboys’ football. We do have an elitist approach. We assume that the best kids are in certain areas with certain clubs. I don’t agree with that, there are gems in places like the KDUL. If you look at it in terms of quality, we’ll still get the same level of funding even though we are trying to put structures in place.
“Who is asking what are Kildare doing? Are they doing the right thing? Do we recognise them for doing the right thing? Are we even interested that they are doing the right thing? That’s what you would like to see, that there would be more of a connection between our approach and the official governing authority. We would like to get a bit more recognition for trying to do the right things,” he said.
While Geoghegan and the rest of the management and coaching teams within the KDUL are busy preparing for another Kennedy Cup, Geoghegan has strong views that the competition puts too much pressure on players at too young an age. He would prefer to see the competition held at under-15 rather than under-14, or better still to have a second major competition at under-16 where players who develop a little later would have a better chance to shine.
“My first experience of the Kennedy Cup was last year and I thought the build-up to the Kennedy Cup and the week of the Kennedy Cup were superb but what struck me was when the last match was played and the kids were packing their bags it was like an anti-climax. It was sort of: Where do we go next? We knew some of the kids weren’t coming back to the KDUL squads and it was almost like family leaving home and you’re thinking they are only 13, maybe just gone 14.
“Some say they are going to try their luck with a Dublin club because they think they have more chance of getting an international cap or getting to England. You’re looking at these kids thinking you really aren’t going to make it to England. Where is the whole part of developing your football between that critical age between 14 and 17? That’s the part we are badly missing. Whether it means the introduction of another cup competition at 16 to keep the kids engaged or more of an relationship between education and football but there is some part that we need to do as people involved in the game to stop that vacuum and stop people drifting away at 13 or 14 and becoming disillusioned. If you feel your best years are behind you at that age, that can’t be right. We are asking these kids to show their ability before they have developed as young adults. That is wrong and it doesn’t happen in any other walk of life, that suddenly at 13 or 14 you are expected to show your best. You don’t, and we need to recognise that, football can’t displace the laws of development. Let the kids develop, let them grow, let them love the game, let them enjoy the game and then at 15 or 16 let them decide if they want to push on into the game.”