After Northern Ireland’s memorable Euro 2016 in France, Elite Performance Director Jim Magilton admits the country needs to ensure that feel good factor can continue.
Magilton believes the Irish Football Association need to set up dedicated schools at secondary education level to create a pathway into the senior game and ensure Northern Ireland gets the best talent.
Oakgrove College has been mentioned as one of those possible schools, Magilton didn’t want to confirm anything but did praise St Columb’s College, who incredibly have produced a schoolboy international for Northern Ireland for the last 16 years in a row.
“Education is a very strong part of life in Northern Ireland, and Grammar School education in particular where education and sporting pathways have been created for Rugby or GAA or Hockey but there’s not really a soccer/football equivalent school,” he confirmed.
“A lot of schools over the years, with St Columb’s College being a prime example, have produced a good footballing hierarchy and a lot of top class players who have gone on to have careers in the game.
“I think the next step for us is to try and combine the contact time afforded at schools, because these boys are in school 30 hours a week and if you are at a ‘rugby school’ or a ‘GAA school’, especially the older boys, they’ll be getting full-time coaching on a daily basis and also a full time physical development programme, and obviously their education is being cater for on a daily basis.
“So I think we have to interact with schools and try to adopt schools which are relevant to soccer and also join our youth strategy like our grassroots programme.
“We do extensive work at grassroots from Primary 5 and 6, particularly with the development of the Primary Schools District Programme, which allows us then to identify the best young talent in a Primary School system.
“That allows us to take Primary 7 players into our Talent ID centres, which eventually we hope could lead to a school’s selection programme.
“St Columb’s College have produced a School Boys International every year for the last 15 or 16 years and that’s pretty prolific, De La Salle and Boys Model have also done that and that’s tremendous testament for what those schools have done.
A lot of schools over the years, with St Columb’s College being a prime example, have produced a good footballing hierarchy and a lot of top class players who have gone on to have careers in the game.Jim Magilton
“Our two major cities have produced the largest part of our players and that’s not to say that the other regions haven’t, but it’s great to see that our two major cities have produced players on a regular basis for all our school international teams,” added Magilton.