Being a Player in the League of Ireland

Cian Moore

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Taking a look inside the life of Irish footballers.

Money, fame and stardom are just a few words associated with the lifestyle of a professional footballer playing abroad, but here in the League of Ireland, this isn’t quite the case, as life at home isn’t as luxurious for Irish players as it is for their counter parts playing across the water.

While Premier league players are paid enough money to last many life times, it’s normal for a League of Ireland player to have to endure the daily slog of a nine to five job, in addition to a playing career.

With training sessions up to 5 times per week and games at the weekend, accompanied by other posts, it’s intriguing to see how players cope with these commitments.

With more than 10 years experience in the league, ex-Bohs, Dundalk, UCD goalkeeper and current Just 4 Keepers coach Matt Gregg gives us an insight into League of Ireland from a players perspective.

Gregg, who has playing experience with numerous English clubs signed for Bray Wanderers in 2001, but upon his arrival, he found it peculiar that footballers in this country have to balance playing and working.

 When I played in England no players worked outside of football, so when I came to Ireland I found it strange that so many players had outside jobs.

With both full-time and part-time teams, playing in the league makes it increasingly challenging for some players to commit as much as others.

Some players would only concentrate on football, whereas others would balance jobs alongside their football career and Gregg stated that this can be a difficult obstacle for many players to overcome.

Some teams in Ireland were full-time and others part-time so to me it was hard to see how players could commit properly to their role.

Maintaining a dedicated football lifestyle in tandem with a job produces more than one test due to other problems that arise while playing in Ireland, such as traveling to away games and the aspect of European football.

Each year 4 teams compete in the preliminary rounds of Europe’s elite football competitions, the UEFA Europa League and the UEFA Champions League and like any average person with a nine to five post, there’s a limited amount of holidays a person can take and Gregg made it clear how it was difficult for players to do this.

I do know other players who had jobs found it hard to get time off work for away trips and also found it tiring from working all day and training all night .

Gregg went on to indicate that having a career in the League of Ireland can be a strenuous task, as part-time players are put under massive pressure.

I think part-time players in Ireland are asked to train and commit too much for very little rewards. I do believe that as a part-time player you should not be asked to train more than twice a week.

“I think the pros are all for the younger players, as it acts as a stepping stone for them to hopefully move to the UK or Europe to find a full-time career.”

With these complications taken into account, you’d begin to wonder if it’s worth the effort playing in Ireland, but Gregg then spoke of the pros of playing football here and what makes it worthwhile, such as the opportunity to move abroad and have a successful career on a bigger stage.

I think the pros are all for the younger players, as it acts as a stepping stone for them to hopefully move to the UK or Europe to find a full-time career.

Having a playing career in the League of Ireland gives players a platform to perform on, which could lead to better things for a player.

This is reflected through the national team, as the squad is full of ex-League of Ireland players, such as, Seamus Coleman, Wes Hoolahan and Shane Long.

Although playing in the league has its downside and it isn’t as glamorous as playing away from home, it show players can benefit from having a football career in Ireland.

Younger players can use this as motivation to perform better and train harder, which  can lead to transfers abroad and the possibility to break into the national team.

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Cian Moore