Kick off for the new FAI Training Facility

The new state-of-the-art training centre will be completed on a phased basis and includes five grass pitches and an artificial pitch

The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) announced the beginning of work on the first phase of its National Training Centre with a sod turning ceremony involving Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane on Monday.

The first development phase will include five full-sized grass pitches and one artificial surface pitch. Funded by the Irish government and Fifa, the training centre will be used for the training of elite players, including international squads. Coach education and referee training will also be held at the centre.

Speaking at the ceremony, FAI chief executive John Delaney hailed the project as a “real boost” to future generations of Irish footballers and thanked the government for their contribution.

“The National Training Centre fulfils a major strategic objective for the FAI in the development of the game nationally,” said Delaney.

“I would like to thank the Minister and the Government through the National Sports Campus Development Authority for their contribution to the funding of this project which will provide a real boost for the next generation of Irish football talent.”

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Leo Varadkar, praised the initiative shown by the Irish football governing body.

“I want to thank the FAI for taking the initiative and committing itself to the Campus,” he said.

“With further developments in store, the National Sports Campus at Blanchardstown is a centre of excellence for Irish sport and a great national asset that we can all be proud of.”

A partnership usage agreement is in place with the Dublin District Schoolboys League (DDSL) which will see the facilities used by development squads.

“Our investment and licence agreement for use of the National Training Centre meets our future development requirements and gives the DDSL access to state of the art facilities for our development squads,” said DDSL chairman, Paddy Dempsey.

Meanwhile, Delaney has revealed that the Republic of Ireland’s mooted friendly international against Portugal in June is in doubt.

The Boys in Green were set to face the Seleccao in New Jersey during the summer but the FAI CEO explained that the game hinges on securing a further friendly game in order to fill the gap between the fixture against Italy on May 31 and the provisional date of June 10 for the Portugal game.

“If the Portugal game is to go ahead, we have to play another one because the gap is too vast,” Delaney told reporters. “There is nothing signed. There were discussions but again Martin and I will discuss it and we’ll make a decision over the next 24 hours.

“We have Turkey and Italy confirmed at the moment. The idea is to play more than the two games but it’s up to the management team. If they feel that more than two games is too much after a long season, then fine.

“But if they want more time with the players and preparation for next season, we’ll look at that as well.”