LONGSTANDING Kildare and District Underage League secretary Pat McNally is set to stand down at the league’s Annual General Meeting tonight (Thursday 21 September) in the League’s Headquarters in Tougher Park at 7.30om.
After 18 years at the helm McNally will stand down and will be replaced by the current chairman, Mark Donegan.
“I have been secretary for 18 years and it is now time for somebody new to take over and to bring the league forward to another level,” said McNally.
“I am proud of my achievements in the league. When I took over we had 64 teams in the league and no home. I am leaving a league with in excess of 260 teams and a fine site in Tougher Park. The job is being handed over to Mark Donegan, who has been chairman for the last two years.”
Over the course of almost 20 years, there have been plenty of highs for the league but securing their own premises at Tougher Park stands out.
“Obviously when we received our current facility in Tougher Park from Tommy Tougher, it was a huge boost for us. Football wise, the Kennedy Cup has proven to be a high point over the years and our recent link up with Shamrock Rovers has given the players in Kildare a pathway to professional football.”
McNally’s aim during his tenure has always been to strengthen soccer in Kildare but often the hardest thing has been to keep players, and sometimes clubs, playing in their own county. He is at a loss to explain why some would prefer to travel long distances to play in Dublin when the proof is that huge opportunities lie here in Kildare.
“Why anybody would want to move to play soccer in Dublin is beyond me – I have seen players, good players, leaving their local club to go and play in Dublin and then fall away as they find the travelling and lack of comradery a huge obstacle. I was at an Under 15 National League last Friday night where there were seven players that came through the Academy involved between the two teams. The National League is the highest standard of soccer in Ireland at present and to have seven players involved on Friday night is testament to the work of the Academy in Kildare.
“Clubs in Dublin keep telling parents that players need to go to Dublin to be seen – that is a myth – the cream always rises to the top. I am not aware of players who have not been involved in the Academy and who have made it through to professional football but I am aware of plenty of daddies reliving their dream through their son’s ability, only to see them out of football by 18 years of age,” said McNally.
McNally feels that the development of young players in Kildare has not been aided by the FAI.
“Long term I believe the FAI should try and copy the GAA. In my opinion all clubs in Kildare should be playing in Kildare and there should be no movement of teams or players. There should only be one body for soccer in Kildare, run by a committee of people involved in junior football, underage Football and schools football. There are far too many indians and not enough chiefs. There have some low points in my time as secretary and most of those involve decisions of the bodies within the FAI, some of those decisions have been baffling,” said McNally.
One of his biggest regrets was that Kildare County, Kildare’s League of Ireland club, wasn’t able to prosper.
“I think we were probably ten years too soon, if there was a Kildare County around now I think it would be great for the young players coming through but then again I do not think the FAI helped things by their inaction at the time,” he said.
Although stepping down as secretary, McNally won’t be leaving the league altogether.
“I hope to stay involved in some capacity and be of some assistance to Mark and assist him in any way that I can,” he said.