Bohemian FC is delighted to confirm the appointment of Craig Sexton as the club’s new Head of Academy.

Sexton vacates his role as Bohemians U19 manager to take up the newly-created full-time post, and leaves the FAI after seven years working in coach development, most recently at IT Carlow.

The 29-year-old will oversee the club’s League of Ireland academy teams, boys and girls, including the partnership teams with St Kevin’s Boys, and all underage Bohemians teams.

Sexton brings to the role a wealth of coaching and player development experience. As well as his roles with the FAI, he has won a league and cup double as manager of the Bohs U19s, where he also managed in the UEFA Youth League in successive seasons, and spent a season as first season assistant manager at Shelbourne.

He returned to Bohemians earlier this year to take the reins of the U19s once more, and is now looking forward to playing his part in driving the club further forward in his new role.

He said: “There has been brilliant work done over the last number of years. There are a lot of good people who have been driving it forward as much as they can. Their work has put us in a position where we have the potential and ability to grow in all areas.

“I have been involved in youth development for a long time. I have always wanted to progress everything that I am involved in.

“Ultimately I am here to develop everyone at the football club wherever I can; structures, coach development and player development.

“I am here to help the whole process and to help everyone reach their potential. I believe we can bring it to another level. That is the plan; to support all areas of youth football at the club, boys and girls, as well as with League of Ireland partners at St Kevin’s.

“We have a great working relationship with St Kevin’s. For the last number of years it has certainly been fruitful for everybody. We have benefited and they have benefited, so I am excited about continuing working with the guys and working directly with Stephen Costello.

“But I will be working with all sides; below the League of Ireland teams also at our own club, boys and girls. There are a lot of good people there to work with, and I am looking forward to assisting the support layers that are there across all the teams across the club.”

There has been a welcome and necessary evolution in the attention paid to youth development by League of Ireland clubs and by the FAI in recent years.

It has come a long way since Sexton himself transitioned from schoolboy football with Belvedere to the Bohemians first team a decade ago.

He said: “For young players developing at the moment, the resources and supports they have now at academy level are unbelievable compared to what went before. We are lucky to have that, we are lucky to be able to support the development of young players.

“We are in a much better place in terms of facilities available to us. We have the use of St Kevin’s resources at Shanowen and St Aidan’s, and Bohemians have a first-class training facility at DCU.

“Everything is on site now, everything is catered for. It is night and day compared to what I played in at that age. Don’t get me wrong, I had a really good upbringing and schooling in football as a young player. But what the lads have now is on another level.”

The steady realignment of home-grown player development as a key priority for Irish football has been accelerated by Brexit, one of the results of which means Irish players can no longer leave for British clubs until they reach the age of 18.

That has put the ball back in the court of the FAI and League of Ireland clubs to forge an environment that will allow young players reach their potential.

This provides a huge opportunity to retain the best Irish players in the country for longer, but it also provides a challenge to raise standards so that those players have the resources, support and coaching they deserve.

Sexton said: “There is a real focus now from a governing body point of view, from a government point of view, from clubs themselves; all see the benefits of bringing players through and having academy football structures thriving. There is also a welcome focus now on developing women’s football in the country too, and Bohemians want to be a big part of that.

“There are a number of factors that have led to the focus on player development shifting; Brexit means players cannot go over to Britain now until they are 18, people are realising the need to have home-grown players coming through who are good enough to go on and player for our national sides, and people are also realising the beneficial role clubs can play in their communities.

“All of that stuff is beginning to hit home. I think Bohemians have been a bit ahead of the game in that. We have done a good job in our community on our own but certainly now the FAI are really putting a big focus on that, which is fantastic.

“Academy football is a huge part of that. We need a thriving underage system to prop up our first-team systems in the country, and we need to have those pathways. We are getting there; there have been massive improvements.

“There are pathways now, but that brings its own challenges and expectations too in terms of resources we need to meet. Young players expect to be coached well, they expect resources, they expect to have a tangible future pathway in football.

“It is up to meet those demands. We want as many players as possible to progress to our first team, and to meet their potential, whatever that is.”

That pathway from underage football to first-team football is now an easier sell to young players.

Seeing is believing, and any young player or parent paying attention to Bohemians in the last number of seasons will have seen some of the best raw talent afforded an opportunity to prove themselves at first-team level.

That pathway, in conjunction with St Kevin’s, is now a well-trodden one, with the likes of Warren O’Hora, Andy Lyons, Danny Grant, Ross Tierney, Dawson Devoy, Promise Omochere, Evan Ferguson and Jamie Mullins among others some of the most notable success stories.

Sexton added: “It is tangible now because the success stories are out there in plain sight.

“Young players can now look at players who have come in and made a real impact on the first team and think to themselves ‘I can do that’, and that is especially true at our club.

“There are so many examples at our club now, and they are what young players should be looking to emulate, and it is our job to assist them with that.”

Welcoming the appointment, Stephen Costello, Head Coach at Bohemians’ League of Ireland partners, St Kevin’s Boys, said: “This is a great appointment for the clubs. Craig has a great experience of player development and of bringing players through, which is invaluable.

“We are really looking forward to working closely with him in his new role, and working together to develop the best young players in the country.”

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