Grassroots - The Leagues Irish Grassroots Football

Irish Soccer is on its knees…..

Was John Delaney on a holidays or was he at work?? Yes, he is entitled to go out with family and Yes he is entitled to have a drink, but why does he think drunkenness is an acceptable behaviour in public… After all, he is the CEO of the Football Association of Ireland and he should act like one or should we  just accept this because he is Irish.

Was this a personal PR mission to get the fans behind him? Answers on a post card.

Would you find Ángel María Villar the president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation acting like that? The answer is NO! In fact, I doubt you would get any president and/or CEO of any association or business letting himself down like that. Can you imagine the IRFU chief executive Philip Browne doing this sort of stuff? Exactly. Likewise, with Liam O’Neill, the GAA president. The man should have a little more composer and class.

‘Every morning we had a meeting a 9am’ JD

In today’s Irish Independent article

by Dion Fanning, John Delaney defends his drunkenness, his unquestionable achievements with grassroots football and the success of the European championships on an administration point of view. See part of the article here

We’ve come out very well out of the Euros because we’ve got to a tournament and organised – when you see the folders there of all the work that had to be done – we’ve organised a tournament that was pretty faultless administratively and that’s the key role and that’s what we’ve achieved’ JD

In Summary of Article

What annoys me most, is this article seems to portray that alot is being done for grassroots football and this is clearly not the case. This was JD way to promote all he has done for Irish soccer and if the Euros was a success on an administrative point of view, (like he says) then I guess JD has done his job.

Big money

Did someone forget that there were certain financial incentives that UEFA offered to every team:

  • million for a win
  • half a million for a draw
  • a million if we finished 3rd 
  • 2 million if we got to the quarters.

Achieving any of those to me would be an administrative success, it could have been a much needed bonus for the FAI coffers and possibly grassroots facilities etc.  To say the teams stay in Poland was a success, just glosses over the real issues in Irish soccer. Although, at least they had proper training facilities this time around.


We are moving into another year of kids football and no changes on the horizon.. Another season and still the same aul bullshit. FAI for all they stand for have achieved something, after all we have a fantastic new stadium, we have emerging talents centers all over the country that no longer discriminate against kids playing outside of Dublin and there are some excellent coaches involved with the international junior squads, for both men and women. However, they claim they have been working very closely with schoolboy football and this is a statement I have to question. For all that has been achieved, there are still some MAJOR concerns within the grassroots structure.

More Indo quotes….

Dion Fanning asks, Are the clubs able to nurture young talent?  

JD replies, ‘We have an underage age review. We’ve done an underage review, I’m working closely  with schoolboy’s football on that………When asked, about his comments on the first day of his job, about bringing the FAI “back to basics” back the development of  the game around Ireland, he says, ‘my weekends are packed with meeting clubs around the country….talking to them about the issues that exist at grassroots level’ . 

He goes on to talk about the improvement of clubs facilities, Elite structure and development officers, but for me he has missed the real issue, the issue of competitive leagues, unqualified coaches and the fact that we have zero structure and how we are not teaching the kids to play but to win (something most kids already have). He also goes on to say, ‘I’m a believer that there should be less competition and more touches’, yet the entire playing structure for kids in this country is completely the opposite and they have done nothing about it. The leagues still have complete power.

He also mentions this “underage committee” whom I have never heard of, but would love to know more about and what their mission and goals are. He talks about, ‘working through those principles for change, for further change’, what exactly are these principles, have I missed something?

Grassroots is top topic!

On positive front, any mention of grassroots development by JD is always a bonus, because it gives us a chance to question what he is saying and to highlight the real issues that JD and the FAI seem to be forgetting. I can’t really question his role as an administrator or CEO as I don’t know the ins and outs, but I can question the development of young kids playing football in Ireland, which is no better off then it was 20 years ago.

In fact 20 years ago, kids were still playing on the streets and technically far superior then kids nowadays. Its time a youth football organisation was set up with or without the FAI involvement, an organisation that controls how the game is structured and one that has a huge influence in development of kids in this country. We can’t continue to allow the leagues to decide how kids are developed in Ireland. Ideally you would want the FAI on board, after all they are meant to be the ones governing the game. This Organisation can only work with coaches involved, a selection from across Ireland, with a mixture of league reps, teachers, FAI coaches and psychologist etc.

League of Ireland

There needs to be some sort of connection between kids football and the league of Ireland. I don’t believe any team in the league of Ireland has a proper academy that feeds into the senior team. We are currently the only country in Europe that has no proper structure between kids football and the professional game. At present we are feeding clubs in England due to this lack of structure in Ireland. I think the u19s league is a positive, but we should be looking at other age groups (U15s, 16s, 17s, 18s, 19s and 21s) as this will help form proper academies at league of Ireland clubs. Another Idea would be to start a Celtic League using the concept that has been so successful with the rugby.

In summary

The fact that the FAI shows no concern for the kids development (6-12s) and seems not to care how the leagues are structuring football in Ireland, really worries me and I have a funny feeling that by the time Brazil 2014 comes around ‘ O jogo bonito’ will not be a chant coming from the Irish supporters…lets hope I’m wrong!

Euros facts: This was the joint worst performance by a competing team in the history of the euros. 


Grassroots - The Leagues Irish Grassroots Football

Losing by Large margins is not good…Everyone loses!

Parents, managers, coaches and players who end up on the wrong end of a thrashing can experience a variety of emotions such as anger, sadness, worthlessness and embarrassment.

With the season under way most teams in league would have played 2-3 games by now and some none. Looking around the tables of various age groups I can already see some mix matches and even 2 or 3 games into a season and already some teams should not be playing at certain levels. If you team is losing 5, 6, 7 or even 10 nil then you are clearly in the wrong league and you certainly need to take some action.

Losing by big margins can even result in players and their managers/coaches giving up the game and it’s pretty obvious that scoring goals virtually at will is not going to do anything for the development of the players on the winning team. And children on the receiving end of a 10-0 stuffing are only learning that they’re not as good as the other team.

Thinks kids enjoyment first

It is not good for kids at age to be losing games by large margin and if you have already lost 2 or 3 by a big score then you can be guaranteed that not much will change for the rest of the season. Its is also not good for the coaches or Mangers of the teams, as parents will most likely put the blame on you and this can lead to divisions throughout the team and friction with certain parents, particularly the competitive ones.  Also the kids will have to hear it from the parents and the journey home every weekend will not be a pleasant one

Most of us will know if our teams are good enough to compete in a league and although 6 months in a child development is a lot of time, you have to remember that the others teams will also be improving. If you feel like your team is and will be beaten by the higher single and or double scores every week, then I suggest you take action now and call the league administrators and ask them to help your team by placing them in a league where the games will be even with evenly matched teams. Everyone wins and certainly the kids will get more enjoyment out of games where the teams are of similar ability.

There is absolutely no point playing football against teams that are beating you by more then 4 or 5 goals every week. Every team can have a bad day and sometimes 2, but don’t try and cheat your team by staying in a higher division just because it looks better on paper.

If the league won’t help you then maybe the opposition can and something could be done before each game to make it a fairer contest.

What about Mercy Rules….what are they?

Some leagues in parts of the world have tried to introduce “mercy rules” or sanctions against teams that win by “too many” goals. In Canada, one league actually brought in a rule under which any team that outscored its opponent by more than five goals was declared the loser! (Could you imagine having that rule in Ireland)

But did it last long…Following an outcry from the clubs, this rule was rescinded and the league introduced a more traditional mercy rule instead. This stated that matches would be stopped once one team had a lead of eight goals. Whichever team was ahead at that time would be credited with the win and teams could then play on for “player development”.

Mercy rules like this do not meet with universal approval. Many take the view that making up rules that prevent big scores just sets children up for disappointment later on. “Life’s not fair, learn to deal with it!” is a fairly common reaction.

I don’t believe any league in Ireland any such rule…but please correct me if i’m wrong? But regardless of this, there is lot that you, as a winning coach, can do, to turn a grossly one-sided contest into a learning experience for your players.

Turn it into a development game

If your team is five or six goals up before half time, you’re going to win the match. To the best of my knowledge, no team (and I am prepared to be corrected here!) has ever come back from being 5-0 down in a league or cup match.

So the game is yours. There is really no need to score any more goals even if your league takes goal difference into account.

Instead, you can put some meaning into the remainder of the playing time by taking one or more of these actions:

Tell your players to play two touch football!

Children who are playing in a team that is considerably superior to their opponents often try to show off. They usually become reluctant to pass, (‘I want to score another goal!’) and try to dribble the ball into the back of the net. This is not going to do them any good in the long term so why not impose a maximum touches rule?

But this has to done discreetly! Shouting the instruction “two touch only!” across the field would be very embarrassing for the losing team. It could even be interpreted as making fun of them.

Require a minimum number of passes before shot can be taken

In other words, Ask your players (again, discreetly) to make six or seven passes before they can take a shot at goal.

Move your players

Your goalkeeper will be getting bored by now so get her out of goal and put him/her up front. Move your defenders into attacking positions and put your strikers into defence, everyone stands to gain!

Use your bench

This type of match is an ideal opportunity to give your subs as much playing time as possible. As soon as you see that the match is going to be one sided, take off your “star players” and give your weaker players a chance to enjoy themselves.

Allow the other team to have extra players or take some of your players off

If you’re in a winning position at half time you can have a quiet word with the opposition manager and see if he wants to put an extra player or two on the pitch in the second half. Or (and this isn’t something I would do) you can make the contest more even by taking off one or two of your players.

Personally, I think it isn’t really fair on your players to restrict their playing time in this way but it is an option.

Stop the Game and mix them up

If the match turns into a shooting session during the second half you can stop the game, balance the teams by mixing them up and play any remaining time as a friendly.

Whatever you decide to do, it is imperative that you respect the opposition and always keep Code of Conduct for grassroots coaches in mind: “Place the well-being, safety and enjoyment of each player above everything, including winning”.

So whatever you decide to do their is always a solution for the better of the kids that play, but the first and foremost think to do is make sure the kids are having enjoying playing.

Remember this is recreational football and the first element and key focus of this game is FUN!

Research: The Coach Diary & Dave Clarke

Grassroots - The Leagues Irish Grassroots Football

NDSL are doing it…parts of Ireland are doing it…Wales are doing it…Scotland are doing it and now England are doing it, Are you doing IT?

So the NDSL doing it, why haven’t the other 2 leagues in Dublin caught on yet…Its time we stopped all this competitive madness and moving CHILDREN onto 11 aside pitches before they have even mastered the skills and techniques to play the adults game…

“We need to cut the numbers of players and bring back smaller pitches and smaller balls”

This season U11s so 10 YEARS OLDS  (2001s in the new age group) will travel the country to play the SFAI cup competition….. These kids are TEN, why do 10 year olds need to play in an All Ireland cup..can someone please explain to me what will be the benefit of this????

“Last week I read in the Star paper of an u10s team who played over 50 odd games and won 2 leagues at 2 different age groups, played in 3 or 4 different cups and winning 1 of them..impressive alright…BUT these kids are TEN. Lionel Messi didn’t even play that many games this season. This is the extreme, some kids don’t get a game for 3-4 weeks and others are playing 4 games a week!! BURN OUT…”

Latest From the English FA

The Football Association has unveiled plans that could revolutionise youth football in England.

  • Under the proposals, children will NOT be allowed to play 11-a-side games until under-13 level.
  • “In 11-a-side matches there are FEWER TOUCHES for players,” said FA head of Elite Development Gareth Southgate.

“If we go to that format too young then it becomes much more of an athletic-based game. We have huge pitches that kids can’t get around.”

This and other proposals, such as games being played on smaller pitches and with smaller goals, are the result of an 18-month investigation of grassroots football.

Any changes will need to win support from 75% of the FA’s voting shareholders at a vote in September. The FA has highlighted that three of the most successful countries in recent yearsSpain, France and ItalyDO NOT ALLOW 11-a-side games until under-14 level, and Southgate said he felt there was an appetite for change in the English game. IRELAND has this appetitie for change!!!

[media id=10]

“People have seen the way that the likes of Barcelona have played this year and they’re asking: ‘Why can’t our kids play that way?’,” said the former Middlesbrough manager.

  • “We want them to play that way. We feel that what we are proposing will give them the environment to develop those skills.
  • “We have down the years produced some technically gifted players but we want to increase that pool of talent so that if our best one or two players get injured, there is a bigger talent pool to come in.”
  • RESEARCH shows that children who are slower to mature physically are being forced out of the game before they reach their potential.
  • Factors such as the pitches they play on being too big means smaller more gifted players tend to lose out in favour of more athletic players.

Southgate stated: “It benefits the physically stronger players but there’s a real danger that we lose the smaller, more technically gifted ones.

“There is a high drop-out of players in that nature.”

Why don’t we have a Gareth Southgate or who is our Gareth Southgate?

If you league is making changes this season for the better of  the kids that play..drop me an email and let me know what your up to?

Research BBC London, FA TV and Me

Grassroots - The Leagues Irish Grassroots Football

Our customers are not getting the service they deserve – Part 1

Customer comes first!

In sports the kids are the customers and the adults & administrators should meet their customers’ needs. Having elite teams at age 7,8,9 is not good customer service because we are only catering for the so called best at that time. As we look around the leagues polices today, so much of what the adults are doing truly does not serve the wants and needs of their customers – all the children involved! So, time to wake up administrators, committees, boards all these people in so called high places, who with one meeting can change the way we develop  kids in Ireland for the future. I admire you for the voluntary work you do, but really all that work is not for the better of development of the kids at play and it could so easily be!

Our leagues need to reform

The first place that reform needs to happen is at the administration level and as coaches we need to know, Who is developing and overseeing the program for children and why do we still have competitive league down at the youngest ages?

Leagues need to have more then parents, adults and dinosaurs running the game; the board for one should consist of experts about children, such as physical Educations teachers, pediatricians, psychologists and child development specialists (Coaches), not a bunch of old men that you might see down at a bowels club. Reform is needed and fast, coach power and people who really have the kids best interest at heart can push those who could give a damn out of the game for good (You have done great, but its time to let younger more experienced and trained specialist over see the future decision of the children’s game). PE teachers, psychologists understand the need of children, how children learn at different levels and in different ways, and the wide range of physical attribute and skills within each age group.

Mission Statement

I think the first order of business for any league is write a clear mission statement, a mission statement give all adults involved a reference point that set the tone and goals of the a league system. If your current league doesn’t have a mission statement already – it’s amazing how many don’t – then this is your chance to start with one.

I’m a parent, “I know whats right….”

Everyone seems to think that, “Well, I’m a parent of a kid. I know Kids” But parents have bot been kids for a long time. They’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a kid. Most parents and administrators are not trained and experienced in all aspects of development of all kinds of children. Now we see the dangers in having parents alone create and administer the systems in our game. People involved tend to look at whats already in place, whats works in the adults game and too often they create systems and rules modeled on the professional game. They seem to forget that those systems were developed for older age groups and not for the small sided game.

I’m by no means saying that parents should not be involved in the process. They should be actively involved and in fact without them organised football would not exist, but they should seek the guidance of the experts.

Quote.. “A good league measures its success by how it treats its least talented players”. In other words: If you’re involved in a club, ask yourself if your least talented player wants to come back the following year? Don’t cater to the few at the expense of many”.

The way we succeed is to commit ourselves to meeting the age-appropriate needs of all players. It means we acknowledge that five-year-olds are not miniature eight-year-olds, and that eight-year-olds are not miniature twelve-year-olds. It means we never forget that children are not miniature adults.

Where we have gone totally against what kids need and want

  • Putting 10 years on a adults pitch.
  • For 9s & 10s to be playing 11v11 is totally wrong and totally unacceptable.
  • To be playing 9v9 one week and 11v11 the next will not help with development nor does it help us the coaches.
  • Having competitive league for 7-11 years olds to thats really u7s to u12s(remember the age change is coming into effect this year)
  • Moving from 7v7 to 9v9 to 11v11 over 4years is to confusing and again has very little benefit to the kids. Also most club dont have the resources to have 3 different types of pitches. The 7v7 needs to be rolled out with structure and again must have the kids interests in mind.
  • Smaller number get kids more touches of the ball, which in turns leads to becoming better footballers. 4v4 for ages 6s, 5v5 for age 7s and 7v7 for 8s to 12s gives kids much more touches, more movement, more running and more goals.

Kids want to have fun, they want to play, they want to be moving not standing at the far side of a field freezing waiting for the ball that may not even get to them.  If their lucky they may even touch that ball more then once. Kids learn best by doing not standing around watching.

So to all the leagues out there that still run with adult rules, adult structures, its time for change, the coaches want it and most of all the kids want it!!!

Development Grassroots - The Leagues Irish Grassroots Football

What I suggest – 7v7 to u12s

4v4s to u7s, 5v5s to u8s & 7v7s from u9s until u12s. 11v11 at u13s on smaller pitches, with smaller goals and full size 11v11 at u14s. 

How would it work

  • 7v7 Modified rules
  • None competitive leagues
  • Every player must play at least half the game


  • No goal-kick outs from hands (all play from U10s)
  • Must throw/roll ball into feet or else play a pass into feet.
  • First pass is free (remove at u12s)

Goal Kicks

  • Opponent must be 6 yards away from player receiving the goal kick
  • First pass is free
  • Must be taken from the ground
  • Encourage GK to pass to nearest teammate at all times

Throw Ins (kick ins)

  • From the ground (Change to hands from 11s)
  • First pass is free (remove at 11s)
  • Play can start with a pass or like field hockey just take yourself.

Pitch Size

  • Pitches to be roped off with Parent area
  • Must be fully lined (no cones)
  • Penalty Box & Penalty spot
  • Side lines
  • End line
  • Half way line
  • Centre circle

Goal Posts

  • In good working order
  • Safe
  • Secure to the ground
  • Game appropriate
  • Age appropriate

For the 7v7 game goals should be the same as in Spain and Portugal – 6×4′


  • Introduce rugby style clapping off the pitch after game.
  • Kids must learn discipline at a younger age and to respect elders i.e referrer
  • Introduce zero tolerance
  • Sin bin or cool off period with 1 chance (No sending offs, no number advantage)


  • Should shake hands after game.
  • Encourage, no screaming at/or abusing players.
  • Shake referrers hand before and after every game.
  • Zero Tolerance for abusive coaches
  • If you have more than 10 0r 12 players, prior to kick off, then so what. All kids should be able to play regardless if you have a few Extra.
  • Referee to step in if coaches are being too aggressive to players.


  • Parents requested to stand to the side and not behind coaches
  • In a designated roped off area
  • Parents should not be coaching from the sides, in fact should be encouraged to say nothing at all just be a spectator. They are their to support not ridicule.
  • If a parent is seen to be abusing any match official he/she is expelled from the venue – Zero Tolernace (Game does not start until spectator is removed)
  • If a parent is taunting apposing fans he/she is expelled from the venue – Zero Tolernace
  • Referee have the right to call the Garda if threatened.

Introduce the 11v11 from u13s

  • If county does not have sufficient teams or players to play 11v11 they continue with 7v7 , 8v8 or 9v9 until a later age.
  • Full association football rules.
  • Smaller 11v11 pitches and goals.
  • Move to full size 11v11 pitches and goals at u14s.

Pitch Size

  • Must be fully lined (no cones)
  • Penalty Box
  • Penalty spot
  • Side lines
  • End line
  • Half way line
  • Centre circle

Goal Posts

  • In good working order
  • Safe
  • Secure to the ground
  • Proper size

Code of Conduct

Same RULES apply as the small sided games

“players join football teams because they want to play the game not sit and watch”

We need change so badly, its killing spirit of the game…

The reality is that our kids are far less superior to our Iberian neighbours and why? Well the game in Europe is age appropriate and the focus is to develop the kids technically, allowing more touches of the ball and encouraging them to express themselves by taking risks and being spontaneous. Dribbling is taught at a very earlier age and encouraged by all.

In Ireland

Our focus is results, leagues, cups, top goal scorer, getting the ball forward and playing bigger kids over the smaller more technical and why, well to win of course!

This year 3 FCBarcelona coaches, 1 Sporting Club de Portugal Coach, 1 Sporting Braga Coach and Horst Wein all had the opportunity to watch Irish kids of various ages and abilities and they all expressed the same concerns. Irish kids were not intelligent (Game intelligence) and technically very poor.

Let me know your thoughts and the changes you would make.