FAI Schoolboys chief John Early visited the peninsula this week and hailed the top class facilities provided by clubs in Inishowen for their youth players.

The Inishowen Youth and Schoolboys League hosted an SFAI delegates meeting - held twice annually - and chairman Early was very vocal in his admiration for the healthy state of youth soccer in the peninsula.

He told the Inish Times: "We've been up here in Inishowen before with national cups and always got a warm welcome, so when Paddy (Corr, IYSL secretary) invited us to hold the delegates meeting here, we were more than happy.

"It's great for representatives from all over the country to see this part of the world, and so many of them were remarking on just how good the facilities are here."

Early paid a special visit to Cockhill Celtic to see how their rebuild is coming along after their pitch at Straboe was destroyed by the August floods last year.

The chairman, who is also an FAI committee member, said he was pleased to see the club getting back on its feet after receiving financial assistance from both the government and the FAI.

"When a club is in trouble and we're in a position to help," he said, "then of course we'll do anything we can.

"There are 90,000 players affiliated with the SFAI across the country and it is because of the work done by the clubs in providing such good facilities that these young players are able to flourish."

And on that score, he went on, the players from this area are more than holding their own in terms of national recognition.

Several young players from the peninsula were chosen to play for various Republic of Ireland schoolboy teams this season, and Early believes geography is no longer a barrier to progression.

He said: "Inishowen and Donegal in general have both been fighting their corner in that respect for a number of years. The day is well gone when you had to be from in and around the Dublin area to get noticed.

"If you're a good player, there is a pathway through regional development, and of course the annual Kennedy Cup is also the perfect platform for players to shine."

Early was pivotal in revamping the national cup programme so that clubs from remote areas would be given a greater opportunity to succeed, and he believes participation in this competition is something that would benefit Inishowen clubs greatly.

"I'm from a rural area in Tipperary," he said. "I could see we could never win anything nationally because the Dublin sides, naturally, tended to dominate.

"The concept of the regional aspect of the national cup was that clubs could win a regional final, and it's been very successful in not only giving players the credit they deserve, but also in giving recognition to the work that people like Paddy put in."

Many issues were discussed at the delegates meeting in Buncrana's Inishowen Gateway Hotel on Saturday, including the perennial issue over young players being tempted away by senior clubs only to struggle to get actual game time.

Said Early: "Of course you want to see tplayers go on and develop, but nobody wants to see a good player spending a lot of time on the bench and this something that we are monitoring very carefully.

"And what we would say to our leagues regarding this is that although it may be frustrating to see good players leaving for senior clubs, let's concentrate on the countless good players we have and do everything we have to further their development."

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