Shamrock Rovers' 16-year-old goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu this week sealed a deal with Manchester City, with the Premier League behemoths parting with €400,000 for the League of Ireland's best player last month.
Away from the figures and the size of the club he is joining, there is another element of the deal which greatly encourages former Irish international Niall Quinn. "Nobody has picked up on it but I think it is a defining moment. This is the first club that has paid a lot of money for a kid then allowed him to stay in Ireland to complete his education".
Rovers and City reached an agreement whereby Bazunu will stay in Ireland and complete his Leaving Cert, which he will sit next June. He will then move to Manchester and start the first year of a four-year contract with the Premier League champions.
That City were willing to allow Bazunu develop for a further year away from the club, Quinn says, is a major vote of confidence in the Irish youth system.
I remember talking to [Man City's Managing Director] Brian Marwood who had a fear a couple of years ago at Man City that they were getting the Irish kids too late, but yet this one they have gone and paid for and then allowed him to stay and do his Leaving Cert, so when you have ability clubs will bend over the accommodate you.
This is the first club that has paid a lot of money for a kid and then allowed him to stay in Ireland to complete his education. That’s a huge shift from getting the boat over or from a few years ago, when Brian was complaining that they didn’t get the kids early enough: they were just a little unsure with Irish kids. 'We get then at 16 but if had them at 12..', and I remember saying to him that you can’t take kids out of their home environment at 12, but a couple of young kids went over, left Cherry Orchard and went over .
But obviously I think the fact now they have let this lad stay and get his education, I think that’s huge. But we have to get an emerging talent programme that the clubs can trust; that’s the big one. It’s no good us talking here about emerging talent and how we can do this or we can do that.
It’s no use us saying it, it needs those clubs to say it. But if you can build up a form of development so that English clubs can say: okay, he’s come through that, that’s grand, we now know what we have then you get to the stage where they get their education and to develop as a human being then your failure rate, that horrific failure rate of Irish kids going over, then you’ve got a chance.
But I’m as excited about that goalkeeper signing for a top club, Man City, and them allowing him to stay and do his Leaving Cert, that just shows you, if the kid has talent then the club will do this.
We should really seize this moment and not go back to sending them over at 14, 15 on the boat.
It only works if the clubs trust what we have in place here. But I set great store by the kid not going straight over.
Under the direction of Ruud Dokter, the FAI have revamped their Emerging Talent Programme with the express aim of keeping Ireland's talented youngsters at good Irish academies for longer, so as to give them a better chance of succeeding in foreign leagues when they get their opportunity. While the true results of this change will take years to gauge, this might be a good start.
Niall Quinn was speaking at the launch of Virgin Media Sport, for whom he will be working as a pundit across their coverage of the Champions League, Europa League, and UEFA Nations League. For more details, visit virginmedia.ie.