Football Research Group

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Football Research Group

Football Research Group (FRG)

A ‘Football Research Group’ has been established in WIT. The group consists of a mixture of Department of Sport and Exercise Science lecturers with a wide range of expertise in the areas of talent development and organisational structure in football, player migration, psychology, transitions and coaching; and also national and international experts in football research.

The group initially identified a lack of coordinated research being conducted on football in the Republic of Ireland and decided to bring together some of those involved in various pockets of research nationwide to aid the collaboration and dissemination of football research. The membership and focus of the group have expanded since its initial inception, to now include researchers with links to the Italian FA, and a range of English, Italian and German professional clubs. The group have already gained the prestigious position of being designated as the official research partner with the Croatian Football Association.

These links will also provide opportunities for WIT students with dissertation projects having already begun in partnership with external group members. The group aim to develop their numbers of Masters and PhD students into the future.

Drawing from a broad range of expertise within the football research community, future research areas of interest will include ecological approaches to talent development, youth development pathway analysis, migratory patterns within youth football, influence of place and date or birth on development, coaching research, psychosocial influences on talent development (e.g. parents, siblings), sports science applications to football, transition support within youth sport, strategic apex analysis and the impact of stakeholder relationships on talent development pathway formation.

Contact: Laura Finnegan [email protected] Twitter: @finnegan_laura

Transdisciplinary research is a type of interdisciplinary research which involves researchers from different fields working with practitioners over a protracted timeframe, implementing innovative conceptual and methodological frameworks to potentially result in new theoretical approaches (Polk 2014). Transdisciplinary research is driven by real-world problems and requires practitioner input. However, it is often less valued within academia (Krishnan 2009). As transdisciplinary research investigates practical problems, researchers need to connect deeply with the problem context and ‘engage with stakeholders beyond academe who “own” the problem and its context’ (Carew and Wickson 2010).

The Football Research Group aims to bring together academic members of staff from within Waterford Institute of Technology and expert independent scholars to produce research within the thematic area of football studies. Drawing from a broad range of expertise within the football research community, these research fields will include ecological approaches to talent development, youth development pathway analysis, migratory patterns within youth football, influence of place and date or birth on development, coaching research, psychosocial influences on talent development (e.g. parents, siblings), sports science applications to football, transition support within youth sport, strategic apex analysis and the impact of stakeholder relationships on talent development pathway formation. These factors will all be investigated in relation to their impact on football development.

Association football is the most popular team participation sport in Ireland (ISM, 2017). A strategic approach to research in this field has been neglected by the Governing body (FAI), with no collective, formulated approach to research generation within the organization. With WIT research staff being involved in football research, an opportunity exists to establish this group as Ireland’s hub for such research to occur. This group can incorporate all codes of football to become even more accessible to grant calls and potential funding streams.

As highlighted above, this type of research needs to embed itself in a practitioner led approach. This will be in terms of accessing data gathered directly by clubs/ National Governing bodies or utilizing these organisations as ‘gate-keepers’ to allow access by researchers. This need to engage with industry further highlights the need to form this strategic group to add legitimacy to such requests for access. We need to be seen to add-value to offering within these organisations. This engagement work will expand the reach and level of integration of WIT research with local sporting organisations (e.g. Waterford FC, Wexford FC).

Laura Finnegan

Laura Finnegan is currently conducting her PhD in the area of talent development in Irish football. She has been involved in UEFA research projects and has delivered her research on the UEFA Pro-license programme across Europe. She has three recent publications on Irish football (see below) and has an established blog to aid the dissemination of her research.

Jean McArdle

Dr Jean Mc Ardle has been researching in the area of physical education, sport sociology and in the area of talent development. She is currently involved with research on Irish football along with Laura Finnegan and coaching within the Irish sport system with an external research forum. Most recently she completed international tutor accreditation in tutor training for the coach.

Darren Murray

Darren Murray is currently a lecturer on the Sports Coaching and Performance course in WIT and CEO of Health and Fitness Ireland. Holder of an MSc in Sports Coaching Science (UCD), MSc Sports Performance (UL) and MSc Strength & Conditioning (LIT/Setanta). Holder of a UEFA Pro License, Darren worked for the Football Association of Ireland for 18 years as a development officer (2000-2018) & previously worked 7 years on a part time basis (1993-2000). He acts as a Coach Educator on UEFA courses and has worked as a coach / head coach with club, county, provincial, national and international teams.

Emma Saunders

Emma Saunders is a lecturer in the Department of Sport and Exercise Science in Waterford I.T. Emma is currently conducting her PhD in the area of third level student athletes in Ireland focusing on transition experiences and dual career support. She is also involved with the performance lifeskills support service in Sport Ireland Institute and a Dual Career Research group in the UK.

Tom O’Connor

Tom O’Connor holds a B.Ed. (Hons) from St Patrick’s College Drumcondra and an M.Ed. (Distinction) from Ulster University. He has been shortlisted for an FAI Communications Award for a 25 part series entitled, 'Life Beyond Football', which was an exploration into education possibilities alongside a soccer career. He has conducted research into players from the initial Elite Underage Leagues- presenting findings at International Education in Sport conferences in both Dublin and Belfast, a paper on the findings is currently awaiting publication. He has also played with Monaghan United and is a volunteer journalist for extratime.ie, specialising in the Underage Leagues, since 2014.

Stephen Finn

Stephen Finn holds a BA Humanities (Psychology Major) from DCU. He is a UEFA A licensed football coach and has been an assistant coach and analyst with Republic of Ireland underage international teams. He was also the analyst for the Kildare GAA team for four years. He is a former journalist and has produced a number of analytical studies on player development, coaching and systems of play in recent years.

Chris Thompson

Lecturer in Dept. Sport & Exercise Science. PhD in mental fatigue in football in association with FIFA Medical Centre of Excellence and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim (professional football club in Germany). Hull University alumni. Previous experience at Hull City FC.

Finnegan, L. (2019). Stepping-stones? An exploration of internal football player migration in the Republic of Ireland, Regional Studies, Regional Science, 6:1, 596-606, DOI: 10.1080/21681376.2019.1685905.  

Finnegan, L., McArdle, J., Littlewood, M. & Richardson, D. (2018) Somewhat united: primary stakeholder perspectives of the governance of schoolboy football in Ireland, Managing Sport and Leisure, 23:1-2, 48-69, DOI: 10.1080/23750472.2018.1513342

Finnegan, L., Richardson, D., Littlewood, M. & McArdle, J. (2016).  The influence of date and place of birth on youth player selection to a National Football Association elite development programme. Science and Medicine in Football, 2016, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02640414.2016.1254807

Finnegan, L. & McArdle, J. (2015). Guest chapter: Football on Film: The Portrayal of Sportsmanship. In Sportsmanship: Multidisciplinary Perspectives, Delaney, T. McFarland: North Carolina. https://www.amazon.com/Sportsmanship-Multidisciplinary-Perspectives-Tim-Delaney/dp/078649803X 

Finnegan, L., Doyle, C. & McArdle, J. (2014). Emerging Talent: A review of elite Irish youth football players. FAI.

O'Connor, T (awaiting publication) 'Life beyond Soccer- How education and the Elite National Underage leagues aid the holistic development of elite soccer players in the Republic of Ireland'. Sport in Society Special edition

Jean Mc Ardle (2015) Amateurism and Professionalism: Sportsmanship and the Irish, Sports Studies and Sportsmanship: Essays from a Multi-disciplinary Perspective, Mc Farland Publishing, New York (In Press)

Jean Mc Ardle and Laura Finnegan (2015) Football on Film. The Portrayal of Sportsmanship Sports Studies and Sportsmanship: Essays From a Multi-disciplinary Perspective, Mc Farland Publishing, New York.

Ciara Losty, Jean Mc Ardle (2012) These Sporting Times: The Social and Sporting Impact of the Current Economic Climate on the GAA, Ireland: Economic, political and social issues. NOVA Publications