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'The talent is out there' Talent development in Irish football: an examination of organizational structure and practice

Finnegan O'Halloran, L (2020) 'The talent is out there' Talent development in Irish football: an examination of organizational structure and practice. Doctoral thesis, Liverpool John Moores University.

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Football is one of the most complex and competitive sports in which to reach elite levels (Haugaasen, Toering, & Jordet, 2014). Differences in sport systems, societal norms, cultural traditions, sociological and organisational issues may influence an athlete’s complex career development journey (Stambulova, 2009; Henriksen et al., 2010; Richardson, Relvas, & Littlewood, 2013). An ecological approach to development views child development within the context of a system of relationships that form his or her environment; therefore, to foster future positive behaviours and change developmental trajectories one must identify and understand direct and indirect influences on development (Bronfenbrenner, 1977; Gabbard & Krebs, 2012). The aim of this thesis was to examine the football governance landscape in the Republic of Ireland in relation to its ability to develop youth footballers, whilst exploring the contextual and lived experiences of these youth players as they developed within their respective talent development environments. This study employed a mixed method approach which involved quantitative and qualitative research data in a collection of studies. Study One, analysed and presented the demographics of those involved in the Football Association of Ireland’s primary talent development mechanism (n=1936), the Emerging Talent Programme (ETP). This study found a significant Relative Age Effect (RAE) and inequity of access to the ETP in relation to place of birth within the cohort. It also identified clear patterns of internal migration, with footballers moving towards the ‘core’ footballing development centre of Ireland (Dublin District Schoolboy League, DDSL). Study Two assessed the talent development practices of all authoritative bodies within Irish youth football with respect to organisational, governance, athletic, psycho-social, cultural and environmental issues. This study identified tensions and incongruence between strategic apex organisations resulting from Governing Body leadership, board composition, political dominance and perceptions of a lack of organisational justice. Structural and resource inequalities were identified in relation to finance, scouting networks, quality of coaching, facilities and player volume. Such incongruence combined with inequalities, led to concerns regarding youth development. Study Three provided a lived experience insight into the talent development pathway encountered by Irish footballers. This study followed five footballers who were on the Republic of Ireland under 15 international team, for a period of four years. This journey provided an insight into the impact that macro factors (identified in Study One and Study Two) had on the experiences of a developing footballer. Overall the thesis has provided an original contribution to the study of talent development in Irish football, providing a holistic analysis of the development pathway, its governance structures and the resulting lived experience of the pathway, utilising a bio-ecological approach.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: talent development; football; Ireland; sport governance; bioecological theory
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure > GV561 Sports > GV711 Coaching
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure > GV561 Sports
Divisions: Sport & Exercise Sciences
Date Deposited: 22 Oct 2020 09:58
Last Modified: 08 Nov 2022 15:42
DOI or ID number: 10.24377/LJMU.t.00013837
Supervisors: Richardson, D, Littlewood, M and McArdle, J
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/13837
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