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Brennan' Brief There is a good generation of young players coming through Irish ranks - but they need to be at top clubs

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Matt Doherty was the last Irish player to earn himself a move to a top club

Matt Doherty was the last Irish player to earn himself a move to a top club

SPORTSFILE

Matt Doherty was the last Irish player to earn himself a move to a top club

These are grim times for Irish football. We can’t win a match, we can’t even score a goal and there just doesn’t seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel.

But I'm confident things will turn and that there is cause for optimism. There is a good generation of young players coming through and a first appearance at a Euro Under-21 Finals in now in reach, even though some of the team’s best players are regularly called up for senior duty.

But these young players need to get to the best clubs in England if their careers are to truly blossom, and that is not happening – and hasn’t been happening for years.

Matt Doherty’s summer move to Spurs was the first time any top English side took an interest in an Irish player in a long, long time. That’s the truth of it. It may hurt the egos of some players but that’s where we are right now, trying to make up for inspiration in international matches with perspiration.

Slovakia put the Republic of Ireland out of the Euros last month and they put Northern Ireland out of the Euros last night. They are a small country, population-wise, and their domestic league rarely makes a mark in European football.

Yet, they have players lining out with the best clubs in Serie A, teams like Lazio and Inter Milan. Those clubs don’t take an interest in Irish players, nor do La Liga outfits, ditto the cream of the Bundesliga.

Until some of that underage talent matures and begins to play with the best clubs, our football team will have more bad nights than good ones.

And that’s a shame, because a successful Irish football team is the one sporting body that can bring the nation together. Rugby only hits the spot in certain parts of the country and, while many people love watching hurling and gaelic football, the GAA only truly hits people in the gut when your own county is playing.

No, it is the national football team that can unite us. But, right now, the glory days of even Lille in 2016 seem so far away and so unlikely to return. They will, but when? Now that is the question and can a cash-strapped FAI afford to wait for them?

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