With the appointment of Stephen Kenny as U21 manager of Ireland with a view to taking over from Mick McCarthy in two years time, the spotlight has shifted somewhat on to the football structures in Ireland at underage level.
Ireland currently have a dearth of top level talent in their senior team and Damien Duff believes the amount of time young footballers spend playing the game is partly to blame.
Duff spoke passionately about the subject on RTE's coverage of the Champions League this evening, citing his experience coaching underage with Ireland and Shamrock Rovers:
What's always been my problem with kids and I think the kids have to take some responsibility too and coaches at the clubs. Kids don't touch a ball enough and that will never change.
I get slaughtered for it in this country for training my lads five times a week, training half six in the morning doing double sessions and your back at half six at night. I get slaughtered.
That's dinosaur mentality. You have to train five times a week. We went to play Chelsea during the season, they train seven times a week. But most teams train twice or three times a week, so that's a problem already.
The former Ireland international went on to argue that young players in Ireland need to up the amount of time training significantly, stating that it could be the difference between a good player and a great player:
Do we play enough games? Absolutely not. We had our first game on March the 25th ended on the end of October. Six months of football. For me there should be another four months on top of that.
They do not touch a ball enough, and that's an absolute fact.
There's good players coming through but the difference between good and great players is 11 months a year, training seven days a week.
‘I get slaughtered for training lads five times a week’ – Damien Duff says young players in Ireland simply don’t play enough football pic.twitter.com/9tU8YbrQj1
— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) November 27, 2018
Didi Hamann also commented on the current state of underage football, claiming he was flabbergasted by what Duff told him:
Damien told me how often they play and train and I was flabbergasted.
The most crucial time is 6 to 15 that's when you mould players and the more you play there the more you bring your talent out and the better you will get.