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Jamie McGrath Provides Perfect Career Template For The Modern Irish Player

Jamie McGrath Provides Perfect Career Template For The Modern Irish Player
By Gary Connaughton
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It's set to be a big week for Jamie McGrath. Having starred for St Mirren in Scotland this season, he is now in line to make his Ireland debut against Andorra or Hungary after receiving a first call-up to Stephen Kenny's squad.

It has been quite the journey for the Meath native. Having taken his first steps into senior football with St Pat's and then Dundalk, he provides the type of template more Irish players should be looking to follow in the coming years.

Far too often do our brightest prospects move across the water in their teens, only to be chewed up and spit out by the cutthroat world of English academies. It is a route that is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate, meaning a major rethink is needed on how we develop our top young talents.

McGrath did not leave Irish football until he was 23-years old, earning a massive amount of experience in the game up to that point.

Speaking to the media ahead from Ireland's training camp in Spain, he said it was something that was the making of him. When he did decide to move on, he also chose the club that was the best fit instead of simply the biggest name.

I was fortunate enough to experience the League of Ireland.

I got my chance there at a young age under Liam Buckley (former St Pat's manager). I'm forever thankful to him because I was playing men's football from 17, 18 years of age.

A lot of people my age at that time might have been playing academy football or under-23 football. I think that is very, very important. I can't stress how thankful I am to Liam for giving me the opportunity back then. You get to learn things off experience that you might not in academies...

There were a few teams down south and from speaking to the managers (interested when he left Dundalk). I wasn't getting a good vibe off any of them, to be honest. I wasn't sure if I'd play regularly.

If was as if they were kind of taking a chance on me as I was free. Speaking with the gaffer at St Mirren [Goodwin], he really sold it to me. He really wanted me there.

He basically told me, 'I hope you are only here for a few months or a season or two and use it as a stepping stone'. Thankfully it has worked out for me so far. I'm really enjoying it.


Not only does the League of Ireland offer a more viable route to first team football, but playing week in and week out against fully developed opposition players can only benefit a youngster's development.

It is something the FAI are trying to encourage more of, with the National Development League providing a high level alternative for footballers open to staying in this country.


The very best prospects will likely still go to England or elsewhere, but this would seem to be a much better option for the vast majority of players. Stay at home, get your education, all while playing in a real high pressure environment. It seems like a winning formula.

Speaking recently on The Buildup podcast, Kevin Doyle said this is a change that is necessary for the future of Irish football.

You can start higher up (in the League of Ireland) rather than a system which is like a field of cattle. There are hundreds of cattle and every year one or two of them are picked out, the rest are sent to slaughter. That is what the youth system is like in England.

It is very, very difficult for young players mentally and physically to be able to do that. It's not a nice environment. As much as they say they get educated and that, it's not normal and it's not natural.

We must be the only country in the world that does what we do in sending all these players to a different country. Nobody else does it

With Jamie McGrath now in the Ireland squad, and with fellow League of Ireland alumni Daniel Mandroiu and Chiedozie Ogbene also receiving first call-ups, this line of thinking is becoming all the more credible.


SEE ALSO: Here's The Experimental Ireland Team We Want To See Against Andorra

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