Former Cork City defender Neal Horgan has suggested that the Covid-19 crisis provides Irish football with a chance to re-structure the relationship between the League of Ireland and the schoolboy game.
Horgan, who made over 300 appearances for his hometown club and was a member of the 2005 league winning side, is the author of two books on Cork City, first on their demise in 2008 and then on their resurrection under the FORAS banner.
Speaking on this week's edition of the RTÉ Soccer Podcast, Horgan bemoaned the factionalism within the Irish game, specifically zoning in on the long-standing disconnect between the schoolboy game and the League of Ireland scene.
These two factions, within the game, have too often pulled in different directions, but the crisis unleashed by the pandemic perhaps offers an opportunity to force the two together.
"We're looking at unique circumstances in terms of Covid but I think it's revealed really deep-lying structural issues in Irish football as never before. We've been dealing with these issues for 100 years or so.
"There's too many factions within the game. The Schoolboy versus League of Ireland situation and the way it's structured means that Irish football is weaker than it should be. They're pulling in different directions. I am saying that without assigning blame to any faction. It's just the way it is.
"This could be an opportunity - and I know it's very difficult to look beyond the short-term issues that are hitting each of the clubs - to take a long-term view. Is this a chance to change those structures that we may never get again?
"If we were to rip it up in the morning and re-design Irish football, would we decide that schoolboy clubs are part of League of Ireland clubs?
"They're could be an opportunity here for re-structuring and consolidation. So, instead of having a weak League of Ireland club, you could have a League of Ireland club that is at the centre of the community and has the schoolboy clubs perhaps owning a part of that League of Ireland club.
"This is very easy for me to say because I'm not involved in the day to day running of a club or the FAI,
"But if money was coming from the government - and this is where you can start imposing some conditions to that money - you could say what is the long-term best interests scenario for Irish football? Do we provide money to League of Ireland clubs on the basis that they start to merge with schoolboy clubs?
"I know that sounds like it opens a whole can of worms but I think we need to look past those factions. We need to look long-term if we can at all - and I know it's a very difficult time - but if we're not going to do it now... Is this the opportunity now? It might be."
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