FAI grassroots initiatives are astounding. And last Friday I was proud to be part of it.

I was invited to the FAI’s Positive Partnerships conference in the Aviva stadium. It’s an event where the FAI bring together many of its stakeholders to thank them for assisting with their grassroots initiatives. (My training company – Waverley Sports & Fitness Academy – are educational partners with FAI Project FUTSAL)

I was honored to be there, along with many others, who work with the FAI to implement what can only be described as an astounding array of grassroots initiatives. In fact, its probably the most comprehensive of it’s nature in the country.

My affinity with the FAI and Soccer goes back over five decades – and if this article sounds a little biased towards social initiatives by the FAI, it’s because it is; it was a  soccer course in Clondalkin that turned my life around, and soccer coaches that provided hope when all else around me was failing.

That was twenty-five years ago – and I haven’t looked back since. Without that soccer course, and coaches like Con Flanagan and Brian Kerr, I’m not sure if I’d be writing this today.

brian kerr image

The conference highlighted the incredible educational work that is carried out by the FAI – a lot of which never gets the credit it deserves.

john delaney

FAI CEO John Delaney talked about the depth and span of the FAI’s partnerships, which include local authorities, government departments, state agencies, An Gardai Siochana, Third level colleges & ETB’s, to mention a few.

Minister’s for sport & justice Brendan Griffin and Charlie Flannagan spoke about how soccer was making a difference in communities and households around the country – and commended all in the grassroots sector on their great work.

Colm Young (Esker Celtic FC) and Councillor Vicki Casserl y    spoke of the latest innovation: frame football. There were a few tears shed when Vicki spoke about her eight year old soccer obsessed son James (who uses a frame), who said to her one day “I’m equal. I have a football kit and can play football now… just like any of my friends”. In fact, James, with ten others, set off to Birmingham to play in a frame football competition at the weekend – and as they believed – to represent their country 🙂

Dr Aidan Carthy, pyschologist at the Institute of Technology Blanchardstown – Spoke about the social impact of walking football (for the over 50’s) and the positive results that his team of researchers had found

Oisin Jordan  linkedin logo image  manager of Football For All programmes spoke about the many exciting developments happening in the FFA programme – in particular the new strategic plan for 2017 to 2020. FFA is one of the most inclusive sports programmes in the country catering for Cerabal Palsy, Amputees, the Blind, Powerchair football, the Deaf, Frame football and many more versions of adapted soccer.

Des Tomlison linkedin logo image and Victor Ekanem linkedin logo image talked about the innovative approaches to integrating migrants and refugees to local communities through football and language programmes. In particular, a programme between Drogheda Boys FC and refugees in Mosney.

The depth and innovation of the FAI programmes are breathtaking and include the following:

  • Breakfast football
  • Irish traveler and travelling community football blitz
  • Project FUTSAL
  • Africa day football blitz
  • After schools programme
  • Intergration Through Football
  • Fun in the sun
  • Inside Outside (a programme involving Limerick prison)
  • Soccer Sisters club programme
  • Ballaghadereen language and football programme
  • Late night leagues
  • Intellectual disability programme
  • Football For All

It would be easy to think of the above as just ‘soccer programmes’ – but they are more than that.

They are programmes that:

  • Tackle social problems and inequalities.
  • Contribute to the wellbeing of the Irish nation.
  • Empower people through education and innovation.

And maybe someday the grassroots people and FAI initiatives will get the recognition they deserve.

Thanks to everyone for making it a great day, in particular:

FAI Staff & CEO

John Delany, Derek O Neill, Gerry Reardon, Karen Campion, Karen Glesson, Tom O Shea, Oisin Jordan, Des Tomlinson, Victor Ekanem,


Dr, Aidan Carthy (director, national research centre for psychology Institute of Technology Blanchardstown), linkedin logo image

John Byrne (psychologist & sports management lecturer, ITB) Claire Murphy (PA to minister Katherine Zapone),

Councillor Vicki Casserly,  (Fine Gael – SDCC)  linkedin logo image

Colm Young (Vice chairman Esker Celtic FC)  facebook icon image

Niall McGuirk (senior sports development officer Fingal County Council)

Mary Harkin (manager Go For Life)

Con Murphy (MC)

Andy Townsend   & Kevin Kilbane  (former ROI internationals)


It was a great day for GetMO as well. He got to make his international debut at the Aviva.

Talk soon

DOK – Founder Winning Minds Movement