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Stuart Byrne column: A reserve league would be best for everyone

Our League of Ireland columnist believes young players and those on the fringes would benefit from the introduction of second teams.

Shamrock Rovers reserve team manager Colin Hawkins.
Shamrock Rovers reserve team manager Colin Hawkins.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

PAT FENLON WAS in the papers today suggesting that Shamrock Rovers are weighing up whether to get rid of their reserve team after just one season in the First Division.

He has a vast amount of experience in management and will have gained knowledge from his time working with Hibernian so he brings a lot to the table and should be listened to.

In relation to the reserve teams, the main issue, and this is relevant to all the top club, is that you’ve got players on the bench who aren’t getting a game. That must be frustrating for managers who would want their players to be match fit but the structure simply isn’t currently in place to facilitate those players.

Putting the Shamrock Rovers reserve team into the First Division at the start of this campaign was a way of trying to develop their young players and those on the fringes quicker. There are restrictions, however, as the reserve players aren’t permitted to playing first team while only four of those signed for the Premier Division squad (three outfield and one goalkeeper) are eligible to feature in the second tier.

In order to be competitive, clubs must have relatively big squads and for those unable to keep players match fit week-in, week-out, a reserve league would be beneficial.

I’m not going to name names but there are some players out there who may have been involved in the first part of the season at the clubs but may not have played in two or three months and are desperate for some football.

My introduction to LOI football was as a 16-year-old. I would play a schoolboy game for Stella Maris on a Saturday then I would play a reserve game alongside Trevor Molloy for Shamrock Rovers on a Sunday.

My point is that you would be playing with big players, who were either coming back from injury or had fallen out of favour with the first team, and learning far more than you would be playing underage.

Are the young talented players better off developing in a reserve league against a better standard of opponent? They probably are, which is why I believe we need a reserve league.

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Stuart Byrne

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