With Richie Towell's departure from the League of Ireland to a Championship side, David Smith argues that Ireland missed the opportunity to cap Towell when he was at Dundalk and this will motivate even more talented players to leave the league.
PFAI Player of the Year Richie Towell has signed for high-flying Championship side Brighton and Hove Albion.
Immediately, it has been said that his chances of an Ireland call-up have improved immensely. What does that say about the League of Ireland?
Towell had been instrumental to Dundalk's double-winning season. He scored 29 goals in all competitions, and he capped off a wonderful season by scoring the winner for Dundalk in the FAI Cup final against Cork City.
He picked up an array of awards including PFAI Young Player of the Year, Dundalk FC Player of the Year and was selected in PFAI's Premier Division Team of the Year during his time at the Lilywhites.
Towell had expressed a desire to play for Ireland in May, stating that:
"I had the honour of playing from U-15 to U-21 level and it was great privilege for me and the family and the next step would obviously be full senior international."
"There’s nobody from the League of Ireland in the Republic of Ireland squad and it’s disappointing, because you look at the amount of people that are [in the squad] that have played in [the League of Ireland], the likes of Seamus Coleman and players like that."
Towell also acknowledged how difficult it is for League of Ireland players to gain international recognition in that interview and admitted that a move overseas might be the only way to force his way into Martin O’Neill’s plans.
With Euro 2016 approaching, Towell clearly thought that he had little to no chance of representing Ireland if he stayed at Dundalk.
The League of Ireland is not the strongest league in Europe, but to score 29 goals from midfield in any league is impressive.
Richie Towell has consistently shown the creative flair and intelligence that fans and pundits have been demanding from the Ireland team.
Wes Hoolahan is 33, and Ireland are sorely in need of more creative players like him.
Towell is an exciting midfielder, and a player who makes things happen. He would give the national team more creativity and attacking potency.
He could be a player to come off the bench and make things happen late in a game. At 24, his best years are ahead of him.
If you look to the German league, the top German performers are in the German squad. The same can be said for the English league, the Spanish league, the Italian league, and so on.
This isn’t the case in Ireland. Steve Staunton was the last Irish manager to call on the services of a League of Ireland player. And how can we improve it if the top League of Ireland performers are not recognised for their talent?
It is sad that a flight to England seems to justify Towell's ability more than his performances for Dundalk did.
Ireland missed the opportunity to cap Towell when he was at Dundalk and this will motivate even more talented players like Towell to leave a league that struggles to keep genuine quality.