Former North Armagh Board Secretary Pat McGleenon, who was instrumental in launching the first underage development squads in the county back in the mid-nineties, believes the Football Academies currently in vogue under the modern centralisation regime are in someway losing the ethos required to bring bigger numbers of players to a better standard.
Pat, who first mooted the North Armagh under 14 development squad idea back in 1995, oversaw a well organised system which spread to other parts of the county and indeed throughout the province. The former North Armagh official said, “I had a lot of help from John Moley from the county board as well as people like Sean Gallagher, Tom Rodgers, Martin Kavanagh, Shane McConville and of course Gerry Cunningham who were all on board in the early stages.
“But while I believe centralisation has been good in some ways, I would be wondering if the elitist idea is the proper way to move forward.”
Pat supplied the reasoning behind the initial idea back in the nineties.
“The objective was primarily to improve skills of players in as many clubs as possible and to enable players at an early age to mix and play with, rather than against, neighbouring clubs, as well as to improve coaching skills amongst team mentors.”
“The present Academy seems to me to have a different emphasis,” added Pat.
“There now seems to be squads at many different levels from 14 through to 18 and there seems to be selection to elite groups from early on. Divisional groups are also transformed into county squads at an early stage.
“I have strong reservations about the mechanics of it all; if squads are being reduced at an early stage, this means a large number are being rejected. That is a bad policy for such young lads. Squads should be coached for the benefit of local clubs so that a strong core is retained in all of them.”
“In order to develop players to their fullest potential, I think there should be three squads in each of the Divisions at u14, u16 and u18 only.
“No player at 14 or 16 should be rejected. All should feel as much a part of the Division as part of the club.”