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Irish FA: National training centre to be 'second home' for NI football

The Irish FA say they plan to make progress towards the creation of a national training centre "with the highest priority".

Northern Ireland men's international record goalscorer David Healy said on Sunday that "structural failings" of the IFA had included a failure to build a training ground and invest in youth.

The IFA say they intend to create "a bespoke high-quality facility".

The governing body added that they are trying to identify a suitable location.

In a statement released on Wednesday evening, the IFA said they were releasing an update on their plans "in light of recent public commentary".

They say that the proposed new facility "will create a second home for Northern Ireland football to complement the excellent match venue at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park" and will have "a dedicated Northern Ireland identity".

"Extensive research has already taken place to identify an appropriate site in a suitable location," they explained.

"The Irish FA will make a significant investment into the facility and anticipates utilising capital funding from external sources, particularly those that that are designed to support national associations in these types of strategic infrastructure projects.

"Advanced discussions about potential locations remain ongoing with several landowners including Northern Ireland Executive departments, local councils, and private developers and we hope to make a planning application depending on the outcome of the site selection process.

"Given the scale and complexity of such a venture it is difficult at this stage to assign precise timeframes for completion, but all efforts will be exhausted to ensure that progress is expedited with the highest priority."

IFA 'engaged directly with Healy'

The association also revealed that they have engaged directly with 95-times capped Healy in recent days in an attempt to address the concerns which he articulated during his appearance as a match analyst on Viaplay for Northern Ireland's 1-0 defeat by Kazakhstan in Astana.

The loss was Northern Ireland's fifth in a row in their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign.

Among the other issues Healy believed were hindering the country's progress was a failure to invest in youth development.

"David is a significant footballing figure in Northern Ireland, and his record speaks for itself. Like everyone at the Irish FA, he wants the best for the football community here in Northern Ireland," continued the IFA statement.

"We have engaged directly with David in recent days to discuss those comments, which of course we acknowledge. We clarified with him that the JD Academy has been in existence since 2019 and has already produced three senior international footballers.

"In addition, the wider work of the Elite Player Pathway, in collaboration with our clubs, has led to over 60 players signing professional contracts in either England or Scotland.

"Furthermore, we are about to launch a review into youth football which will revolutionise that level of the game in Northern Ireland. It will be a significant piece of work resulting in an active game that generates maximum enjoyment and technical development for every child."