• Home
  • /
  • Football
  • /
  • Opinion: 'Token Gesture' Jibe Is Unfair On Martin O'Neill's LOI Attitude

Opinion: 'Token Gesture' Jibe Is Unfair On Martin O'Neill's LOI Attitude

Opinion: 'Token Gesture' Jibe Is Unfair On Martin O'Neill's LOI Attitude
By Maurice Brosnan
Share this article

One can only imagine how Roy Keane felt when he was designated the task of attending Cork City vs Dundalk to watch Kieran Sadlier last month, only to discover he wasn’t starting the game. Instead, he bore witness to an unbecoming 1-0 dominated by defensive solidity rather than Sadlier’s attacking sensory.

Keane was there because, as Martin O’Neill recently revealed, the Irish management team are considering including domestic league players in the squad for the upcoming Scott Brown testimonial in Glasgow. Sadlier and Shamrock Rovers Graham Burke were name-checked as possible inclusions.

O’Neill and Keane represent a significant departure from their predecessor, who famously declared "In Ireland there is no league,” a quote that still instigates outrage to this day. the pair do attend games, with O’Neill at Shamrock Rovers v Cork City last week. Nevertheless, the muted call-ups have been criticised in places as tokenism. O’Neill actually touched on this, and that sentiment expressed by Trappatoni in 2013, in a recent interview with the Greatest League in the World podcast.

I do attend the games. I'm aware some people might think it is a bit of tokenism and stuff but sometimes you do go to a game and hope you might see something, that some young player coming through has a chance of making it. There is the world of difference, I think this is what Trapattoni was saying, between players. Some people have accused me, for instance, of picking the player after they have left the League of Ireland, that might be true. You always feel the championship players, a league below the Premier League which is pretty strong, would be better than the Airtricity League at the minute. From that viewpoint, I can understand it.

There is a harsh reality in what O’Neill expressed. The idea that the League of Ireland will become the panacea of Irish football destined to lead us into the technically proficient future is probably far-fetched. However, in its current form, the league could be an infinitely more valuable asset should the hierarchy desire so.

The recent investment of an extra €250,000 into youth development for the oncoming year and the creation of the underage league competitions for the domestic league are a late but welcomed step in the right direction.


The perfect example of the benefit of this is Warren O'Hara. O’Hara recently signed for Brighton in the Premier League. He started his development at St Kevins Boys, before playing for Bohemian FC’s U17s and then U19s. Last year he graduated to the senior side and made the move abroad after an impressive season in the League of Ireland.


The FAI, Bohemians and particularly St Kevin’s can all take immense pride in the development of that particular talent. Finally, the Irish game has taken steps to develop their own players and not rely on English clubs to do so. This year is once again a testament to that. The number of young, highly promising talents has been a key feature of this season. Aaron Bolger, Rory Hale, Dylan Watts, Danny Grant have all impressed in recent weeks.

The inclusion of Burke, or Sadlier, could certainly only serve as a token gesture. Yet it would also serve as a reminder of the technically gifted players within the league. In front of O'Neill, Burke pulled off what is becoming a regular trick, a sensational wondergoal. Not only is he attracting O'Neill's interest but undoubtedly English clubs are starting to pay heed to the former Aston Villa man.

When speaking on that podcast O'Neill referenced the case of Richie Towell, who enjoyed a phenomenal season with Dundalk before moving to Brighton where he failed to make the breakthrough. When quizzed on Sean Maguire, O'Neill said he had attended Cork City games and Maguire had not played well. "Wee Seani is now showing that he can score goals, he's got a bit of something. Which I have said to him, he's got something. He is still a long way away. To change the fortunes at international level, it is putting a lot of undue pressure on young players."


If management are unconvinced by domestic performances, the step to bridging that gap is their inclusion for games such as this. Should Burke prove himself in Glasgow, an inclusion in the squad is the next logical step.

It would be a step up for the players involved, but a step in the right direction for Irish football.

SEE ALSO: Seven League Of Ireland Players Capable Of Making It In The UK

Join The Monday Club Have a tip or something brilliant you wanted to share on? We're looking for loyal Balls readers free-to-join members club where top tipsters can win prizes and Balls merchandise

Processing your request...

You are subscribed now!

Share this article

Copyright © 2023. All rights reserved. Developed by Square1 and powered by PublisherPlus.com