Ireland legend John Giles believes it’s going to continue to be hard for Irish footballers to progress to the top level due to the changing nature of the global game.
Just ten Irish players have played in the Premier League in England this year – nine if Declan Rice chooses to throw his lot in with his country of birth – and that number is declining.
Giles was part of a cohort of Irish players who came through in England in the 1960s when British-born players were their only competition.
The Ormond Square native is a graduate of Stella Maris – which boasts Eamon Dunphy, Ronnie Whelan and, more recently, Keith Andrews as its illustrious graduates.
Giles is now honorary president of the club and was on hand to unveil the club’s new partnership with the Dublin Port Authority at the club’s grounds in Drumcondra.
The Port Authority will sponsor their Waterfall Avenue stadium for the next five years, which will enable them to continue upgrades to the iconic schoolboy football location.
Recent Irish international Andrews was also present at the launch, which will help the club continue its history of producing young players for the national team.
“It’s harder for Irish players to get into the Premier League, but it’s harder for English players because there’s so many what we’d regard as foreign players now,” said Giles.
“56% [of players in the Premier League are] foreign players, and it’s the same complaint in England – where are the English players?
“The world has changed in many ways.
“The Premiership came in, there was more money attracting players from different parts of world, and that’s why they call it the best league in the world.
“The homegrown players – we call them homegrown whether they’re English, Irish, Scottish or Welsh – are bound to suffer.”
Giles spoke amid a testing period for Martin O’Neill’s international side following the 4-1 UEFA Nations League defeat to Wales in Cardiff.
The national team restored some pride with a 1-1 draw away to Poland, but it was telling that goalscorer Aiden O’Brien was born and raised in England.
The League of Ireland has had some success in recent months with players signing big contracts in the UK, and nine of the most recent international squad came through the domestic league.
Shamrock Rovers – the club Giles managed in the 80s – saw Graham Burke capped and scoring for Ireland before joining Preston North End.
The Tallaght club will also see 16-year-old keeper Gavin Bazunu join Manchester City next year for a fee believed to be up to half a million euro up front.
Nevertheless, the national team will need to continue to score far and wide for talent, and the recent departures of Rice and Harry Arter for different reasons are concering.
Rice is reportedly mulling over whether to continue to represent Ireland or switch to England, while Arter pulled out of the squad following an argument with assistant boss Roy Keane.
“If Arter has said he doesn’t want to be picked because of the clash he had with Roy Keane, that can’t be good.
“This is a player that could be valuable for us, and you don’t want any player pulling out because of controversial circumstances.
“That wasn’t a football matter, that was Roy having a go on medical matters, and from what I understand the players have to obey the medical team.”
On Rice, he added: “The young fella is only 19. He’s entitled to do what he is doing and what is best for his future.
“Of course, we are not happy here as Irish people when he is turning us down but if you or I had a son in his position, then you would have to take everything into consideration.
“I don’t blame him. I hope, like everybody else, that he comes and plays for us because he’s a terrific player.
“But if he decides to do something else then you have to go with it. It’s his future and his life and that’s the decision that he has to make.”