The Derry City midfielder is convinced of the quality of players plying their trade in Ireland's domestic leagues and believes that many are capable of making the step up
By Ryan Kelly
Martin O'Neill is set to name his Republic of Ireland squad for the forthcoming international friendly match against Serbia and it has become common for former League of Ireland stars to be in the reckoning for a place.
In Ireland's last game, against Poland in November 2013, there were seven players in the squad who could trace their roots back to the League of Ireland and the recent proliferation has been a major source of encouragement to those involved in Ireland's domestic game, not least Barry Molloy.
The Derry City midfielder is pleased by the trend and believes that many more are capable of stepping up a level and eventually going on to gain international recognition with either the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland.
"There are a lot of players who are very capable of going to England to start with," Molloy told Goal. "The likes of Keith Fahey, Rory Patterson; these are boys who I think are more than capable of going and representing countries.
"Whether it be as part of a 28-man squad so that they can get the feel of it, I don't know, but there are definitely players playing in the league that are more than capable."
Fellow graduates from Derry's 2006 FAI Cup winning team include Ireland's first-choice goalkeeper David Forde, who is now playing in the Championship with Millwall, and 13-time capped Northern Ireland international Paddy McCourt.
More recently, Molloy's former team-mates James McClean, Niall McGinn and Danny Lafferty have received senior international honours, while ex-Sligo Rovers defender Seamus Coleman has even had the honour of captaining his country.
"There are a lot of players here that are more than capable of following in their footsteps," continued Molloy. "They'd be more than capable of stepping up into an international squad and proving themselves."
Keith Fahey's high-profile move back to St Patrick's Athletic has served to intensify the debate, leading the chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI), John Delaney, to affirm that Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane will scour Ireland's domestic game in search of the potential stars.
One possibility for O'Neill and Keane to explore is an international team consisting solely of players based in Ireland's leagues, allowing players to interact with and learn from coaches at international level.
"The only way they're going to get used to the regime and get used to ways of playing under an international manager is to meet up with a select side and play the way they want them to play," argues Molloy.
"They can see players at close quarters and see if they're good enough for themselves."
Whether or not Delaney's affirmation is merely lip-service remains to be seen, but Molloy welcomed the increasing attention being afforded to the league.
"It is very encouraging," says the Derry City captain. "It's brilliant that they're looking at home-grown players and people who are plying their trade in this country."