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Offline redrobin

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FAI uses W-League to raise standard
« on: September 08, 2008, 10:12:22 PM »
FAI Uses W-League to Raise Standard

Ireland’s Senior Women’s Coach, Noel King Discusses W-League Combine
USL News Release

Monday, September 08, 2008

TAMPA – In a creative effort to raise their standard of play, the Football Association of Ireland sent Noel King, the country’s Senior Women’s Coach, to the inaugural United Soccer Leagues (USL) W-League Combine to “shake a few trees” and perhaps land one of several talented Irish-American players to boost his sides’ chances in UEFA Women’s EURO Qualifying.

“We have been making massive improvements in the women’s game back home, particularly at the younger age level,” said King. “Our senior team is on the brink of qualifying for the European playoffs, which hopefully will take us to the European finals, but if we’re going to do that we’ve got to straighten up. And with 44 odd million Irish-Americans playing in North America there is a fair opportunity we could qualify one or two of the girls from over here.”

“To qualify, all you need is a grandparent who was born in Ireland or has an Irish passport,” clarified King. “That goes back quite a number of years and gives us a lot of opportunities.”

King spoke very highly of USL’s W-League.

“Everyone in the women’s game knows the W-League,” said King. “It has been a strong league over a number of years with a lot of talented players coming out of it. For us, it’s a starting point. And if you never start, if you don’t shake a few trees, you’ll find nothing. We have lost quite a few players in the past because we didn’t make the commitment to see if we could get one or two. We’re trying to change that.”

When asked about the level of play during the combine, King pointed out the correlation between a successful scouting trip at the W-League Combine and success in FAI’s final match against Sweden in UEFA Women’s EURO Qualifying Round on Wednesday, October 1. Should the Republic of Ireland qualify, they move on to the tournament’s playoff round which begins on October 25.

“The level of play [at the W-League Combine] has been quite pacey,” said King. “The Irish standard is not here yet, we’re well off this standard. Surely some of our players could play here, there is no question to that, but the depth of our squad, our lesser players would not map here. If we can get our weaker players strengthened, it would improve our side greatly. It would give us a good chance to get to the European finals.”

In further preparation for the UEFA Women’s playoff round, and ultimately, the seventh UEFA European Women’s Championship, the Football Association of Ireland will play three matches against the U.S. Women’s National Team in the U.S. The first exhibition will be played on Saturday, September 13 in Philadelphia at Lincoln Financial Field. The second is set for Wednesday, September 17 in Giants Stadium in New York. And the final match is scheduled for Saturday, September 20 in Chicago’s Toyota Park. Should the Republic of Ireland qualify, their matches at the UEFA European Women’s Championship will be played between August 23 and September 10 of 2009 in the host country of Finland.

“You may think we’re crazy, taking on the Olympic Gold Medalists, but it’s ideal because it raises our standards. Our match against Sweden is 10 days after the last American game and if we are in the European playoffs, we have a massive, two-legged game against the second seed in Europe following that. So, you could say we’re in the lion’s den a little bit, but in my opinion, it doesn’t matter how well we do against the Americans. They are a fantastic team and we hope to learn from them.”

Looking past the upcoming competitions, King and the Football Association of Ireland is paying close attention to the undertakings of women’s soccer in North America. More specifically, the possibility of fielding Irish players in conjunction with the launch of Women’s Professional Soccer and the enduring USL W-League.

“Well, we have to look at everything,” said King. “Right now our standard is not good enough. Our fitness is not good enough. We need to look at the full-time game to improve. If we could come to an arrangement that would allow us to bring players over here and train at the full-time level against better players – we could get fitter, we could get stronger, and we could get better.”

“We have certainly been getting more support from Football Association of Ireland,” added King. “We would need more, but we would only be too pleased [to come to an arrangement with a WPS or W-League club]. It would be fantastic. It would be groundbreaking. And we would like the change.”
« Last Edit: September 08, 2008, 10:14:59 PM by redrobin »