As the sun shone down upon the players and pitches in The Drom of Salthill Devon, a familiar League of Ireland face was amongst the crowds watching the next generation of footballers in Ireland. In his typical attire of Finn Harps gear and in a jovial mood, he felt it was a day away for him, “like a holiday.”
Knowing Salthill Devon well from his time there as a youth player, Horgan felt they ran a fabulous tournament and with the likes of Leeds United and Ipswich Town playing in it, “the standard is as high as ever and long may it continue.”
The Premier Division boss had watched the Finn Harps U15 squad in the morning and was hoping to watch the younger side after chatting with Extratime.ie. He felt the tournament and the challenges it brings was great for the young teams.
“It’s a great experience, regardless of winning or whatever. The academy has grown in the last few years and I’ve seen Michael Grant over there that runs it. The effort that he puts into it is second to none and the benefits of that are being seen here over this week. The kids benefit from [the tournament] situation and I think it’ll only stand to them in years to come.”
With mention of the U15 side, it immediately lead into questions regarding the possible introduction of an U15 League of Ireland and his thoughts on it, having been the Republic of Ireland Schoolboys national team manager for the past four years.
“I know Ruud Dockter has promoted this and it makes perfect sense, you know, the best players play with the best players against the best players and for footballing reasons it makes obvious sense. From the point of view of the club, like our own [Harps], financially it is a strain, y’know what I mean, there’s no doubt about it.”
“We’ve a first team, an under 19, an under 17, and now an under 15 side. For football reasons, absolutely, totally and utterly agree and you can go down to under 13s and it makes perfect sense. Yet, it’s not all down to football reasons as you well know, and it does bring with it difficulties of having to fund it and also try and keep a first team on the road.”
The question of summer football and its implications arose with Horgan feeling the benefits of being able to coach on good pitches without needing floodlight facilities as well as stop and start with kids without the distraction of getting cold were very clear to see amongst other things. However, he carried a word of warning for future ideas.
“I see the benefits of it in regards coaching kids, especially the younger kids. However, I was involved at intermediate level where the implementation in some areas of summer football was never going to work. At that age group and level, of lads that work full time and basically that have young families and that, I just didn’t see how it was going to work but with younger kids, obviously most certainly.”
Development towards the first team is always upon the mind of the former Fanad United manager as I asked whether we would be seeing the inclusion of more youths into the Harps first team set-up. With a number of U19 players training throughout the year, barring a month off for the Leaving Certificate, he feels their time may come from now until the end of the season.
“We’ve had a lot of injuries, a couple of them long term, and these will make spaces for the younger lads, who’ve done very, very well. Joe Boyle has developed a very decent side in the under 19 league and a few of them will play a part in the team between now and the end of the season.”
“It probably depends on whether we stay up or not. If we get relegated, I’m sure a lot more of them will play a part, be it in next year’s First Division. If we stay up, maybe not as many but certainly four to five lads have been in all year apart from during the Leaving Cert period and they were in training with us last night as well.”
“Some of them will get into the panel, and a couple of them will be making appearances before the season’s out. Whether that’s enough to keep us in the division or not only time will tell but we’ll see.”
Now while a chat flourished after the questions, Horgan was finally allowed be left to his day off. Yet, you can see that with the knowledge people of his ilk bring to the game, especially in the transition of younger players into the senior game, the kids are in good hands.