Development Irish Grassroots Football

Non Competition is the way to Success

Just got back from pilot exercise put on by Jason Carey, Director of Coaching at Peamount United FC on behalf of the DDSL. It seems that after all these years of getting it so wrong, the DDSL have now turned to the Grassroots Coaches of some of Dublins biggest community clubs, to come up with a pathway that will enhance the development of kids across Dublin.

The plan is that all young people playing recreational football will now follow the new DDSL player pathway which starts with small-sided (to be confirmed) 3v3 at u8s and into 4v4s & 5v5s for u9s;  7v7 for u9s & u10s and 9v9 for u11s & u12s.

The focus is on player development and getting away from the winning at all costs attitude from coaches and parents.  Over the next few years we will see the above rolled out all across Dublin and finally we can say that the DDSL are on the right path when it comes to assisting with the development of young footballers across Dublin.

I have researched best practice in Scotland, England, Wales and across the world (Brazil, Portugal, Spain, Holland and Germany amongst others) and this player pathway will fit into an Irish context and help young players to reach their potential.


Last Saturday Malahide United along with St. Malachys FC put on a pilot were the kids played various 4v4 and 5v5 games and tonight Jason showed the true potential of Irish kids, who were allowed to play with the freedom in age appropriate games and pitch dimensions. Tonight 3v3 demo with four goals, 4v4 demo with gk, 4v4 without gk and 5v5s with two goals proved that this is the way Ireland needs to go for part of the SSG pathway.

Peamount decided not to enter their u8s into the league last season and you could notice the difference between the kids who have had a full year developing in their academy versus the kids who played competition football. Peamount players were Technically better and certainly had developed game intelligence.

Research has shown the undoubted advantages of small sided games (more goals, more 1 v 1s, more successful passes, more touches) and the benefits of moving through small-sided games formats to the adult version of the game, step by step through age appropriate games, which is the only way to develop the full potential of kids.

“Nature decrees that children should be children before they become adults…If we try to alter this natural order, they will reach adulthood prematurely but with neither substance nor strength.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau

The Problems in development of young players

  • Too much pressure on young players
  • A severe lack of age-appropriate coaching
  • No obvious system to accommodate for late developing players
  • Too much emphasis on results in all age groups
  • A lack of ability to develop talent early and placing them in the correct environment

(Allen 2008)

Why Small Sided Games

  • More touches of the ball.
  • Simpler decisions to make.
  • Better game-related fitness, short duration of high-intensity vs laps of a pitch.
  • More time with coach per player.
  • More opportunities to solve game problems.
  • More attacking opportunities (dribbling, shooting, passing )
  • More defending opportunities.
  • More shooting and more goals = more fun!
  • No hiding place, players don’t get lost in these games, improves competitiveness & healthy agression.
  • More opportunities for the full range of skills.
  • Encourages better shape and awareness of team-mates.
  • Encourages faster play, fast transition from defence to attack.
  • ITS FUN!!

Player Development

We have to develop a football culture in Ireland where young players are developed positively, learn to win through effort and develop skills for life through football. This should be our number one focus.  Are aim as Coaches and the Cubs providing football is to create a more enjoyable football experience for all involved, football is also about the teaching of life lessons and character development, is it not just about teaching the game. Taught in the right manner football can develop vital character-building life skills a child, skills that will help them in every walk of life.

These changes, (which I state, have yet to be passed) will keep young people in football longer and enhance the development of KIDS all across Ireland.

Let’s hope it happens…soon!

“The amount of space in 11-a-side is not good for young kids. You spend too much time running around without the ball…I think the best way to improve your skills is to play football on a smaller pitch. I didn’t play 11-a-side football until I was 13. In Brazil, most kids play futebol de salao, which is similar to five-a-side. In futebol de salao, you are always involved.” Juninho, World Cup Winner 2002 with Brazil



Irish Grassroots Football

Post – Future of Youth Development in Irish Football

Thanks to all you attended the talk the other night, in particular the speakers Mitch Whitty: NDSL Playing philosophy and changing the mentality, Austin Speight: Developing level of coaching at Pro clubs UK and France, Michael Lynam: Positive Coaching for Children/Young Players and Dermott Dalton: Horst Wein’s – Optimal Development Model.

The Clubs

We had coaches from Aungier Celtic, Bohemians FC, Cabinteely FC, Castleknock Celtic FC, Crumlin United, Dunboyne AFC, DDLS referees, NDSL Academy, Premier Skills Ireland, Lourdes Celtic FC, Newbridge Town FC, Portlaoise AFC, Shelbourne FC, Trim Celtic AFC, Ratoath Harps, including journalist from the Times, The Herald and The Star.

What was said

Some really good points made:

  • Summer football.
  • All year around football.
  • Non competitive until 12s.
  • Introduction of ‘Funino’ 3v3 and 5v5 throughout Ireland.
  • Clubs to put pressure on SFAI and FAI to implement change ASAP.
  • Regular workshops to implement change.
  • Child Welfare mandatory courses for all coaches (Like the UK).
  • Parent education should be mandatory.
  • Bigger involvement of soccer in both primary and secondary Schools.
  • Much more involvement from the governing body ‘the FAI’ within Grassroots structure.
  • Pre-season talk with players and referees.
  • The converted to spread the word amongst fellow coaches and implement changes within their clubs.

Your Suggestions prior to talk: 

  • More Futsal games for skill development rather competitive 5v5 games for winning.
  • Change in Coaching Methods with an emphasis on technique and insist on all Coaches/Managers attending coaching courses before being allowed coach kids.
  • Smaller pitches, smaller goals.
  • No league tables until aged 14 – play on small pitches until 13/14.
  • We must concentrate on developing our young players technically from 5/6 years of age.
  • Non-Competitive football until u14. Bigger focus on Technical needs of the players from u5s to u14s.
  • Small sided games is the way forward up to u12 level. Should be non competitive at this level.
  • Start 11 aside football at u14s.
  • Competition to start at u13s.
  • Introduction of a proper national technical program.
  • Remove the SFAI from directing football.
  • Allow more influence from other coaching groups like Coerver.
  • 7v7 until age u12s, move to 11v11 at u13s introduce competition at u14s.
  • Roll out changes across the country.
  • In our league NECSL age 12 should is currently 11 a side, will be pushing again to keep it at 9 a side.
  • 9aside until u13 with size four ball.
  • Competitive soccer to be introduced from under 14s upwards and a bigger emphasis towards concepts such as ”FUNino” also more F.A.I involvement in the D.D.S.L
  • No moving clubs before the age of 12
  • Smaller pitches for younger ages – more touches, so more football

Let me know if I have forgotten any, thanks!


They are just some of the questions and ideas brought up by coaches from the clubs listed above. Although the turn out of just 35 coaches was disappointing the content from the speakers and questions from the floor was not. I hope to run these workshops over the coming months and with the help of you guys, we can continue to educate those who have yet to follow the change we so desperately want.


The Winners of the prizes are as follows: 

Inside Soccer Bootroom+ (I year subscription) – John Farrell – Ratoath Harps

Inside Soccer Bootroom+ (I year subscription) – Fran Tyrell – Dunboyne AFC

Inside Soccer Bootroom+ (I year subscription) – Robbie Connell – Trim Celtic AFC

Inside Soccer Annual Convention 2011 (I year subscription) – Eoin Feely – Unattached

Inside Soccer Annual Convention 2011 (I year subscription) – Keane Murray – Aungier Celtic

Coerver Coaching workshop – May18/19th – Alan Byrne – Lourdes Celtic

Coachdiary Workshop (tbc) – Dermot O’Connor – Cabinteely FC

And a 20% discount for everyone else before April 15th – use code TCD20

Thanks to JAKO.IE for sponsoring the event – INSIDESOCCER.COM and COERVER COACHING IRELAND for the prizes and you for participating.

Next Talk: May 2013

The Future of Youth Development in Irish Football