A series of interviews with up and coming Hoops - Click to expand

Academy Stars …. Sean Jones-Carey

 

Name: Sean Jones-Carey

Team: Shamrock Rovers Under 19s

Age: 17

Position: Defender

Nickname: ‘Jonesy’

From where: Clondalkin

Are you still in school? No, I finished up this summer and I am going to college in September.

What school were you in? I went to Clonburris in Clondalkin for Primary School and then to Moyle Park Secondary School in Clondalkin.

What do you hope to study in college? Once I get the points, I’m hoping to do Business Management in Maynooth. I already have a football scholarship lined up so once I get the points I have the course.

Where did you start out in football? When I was 8 I signed for Cherry Orchard and I was with them up to when I was 14. I had a great time there winning leagues, winning cups, trips abroad and everything. It was quality. The coaching there I can see helped me a lot when I signed for Rovers. I loved every minute of it there.

When did you join Shamrock Rovers? I joined Rovers when I was 14 for the Under 15 National League. Thomas Morgan and Dessie (Baker) were in charge of the team then.

What do you remember of that year? Everyone worked really hard all year and done great to get to two finals. It was a shame how the finals ended but it was a great year all round.

Did you learn anything from those two finals (against St. Pat’s)? They were different than playing normal league games, there was more pressure and more people watching, just a completely different game I thought. I thought we played well, especially in the second final (Mark Farren Cup); we were just unlucky on penalties. In the first final (League final) we started off poor but then in the second half we thought we had done enough to get back into the game, we were just unlucky.

Can you remember how you felt after the final whistle? It was devastating, all the hard work all season, it was heart-breaking.

Does that experience make you feel more determined now? Yeah, definitely. The next year I just wanted to go back and try my hardest again and win the titles.

But then last year turned out to be very disruptive due to the pandemic. How frustrated were you over that? It was very frustrating; the season was basically wrecked. But then I was at home training every day and I was delighted when football was back. We got to another final but sadly the same happened to us again (as the previous year).

Would you say you were really happy that the season got going properly more or less this year? Yeah, I’m loving football at the moment. I’ve been loving every minute since I came up to the Under 19s. I’m happy that we have a proper season this year and that we are getting a proper run at it. I think we will do well.

How do you view your quick transition from Under 17s to Under 19s? I’m still eligible to play another year at Under 17s but I think it’s better for me and my development to play at Under 19 level.

What was the recent injury you got? I picked up a hamstring injury, I think it happened in the fourth game of the season. I played twenty minutes against St. Pat’s a few weeks back and felt it a bit again so I decided there was no point in risking it even more and doing further damage so I took the last three weeks off. I was with the physio and I am back fit now. I feel 100% recovered.

What’s it been like for you playing in Tallaght Stadium? I love it, the pitch and everything about it makes it the best place I think to play football in Ireland and we are lucky to have the chance to play all of our home games in Tallaght Stadium. It’s just a different class to everywhere else.

Do you notice a difference playing for the 19s as against the 17s? Yeah, it’s a lot more intense and physical. A lot of the players would be two or three years older than me and a lot stronger but I think I have been doing well.

How do you think things are going for the team? We started off very well but then we had a couple of disappointing results but we qualified for the next phase and I think we’re going to kick on now and hopefully keep winning and win the league and the cup double, that’s the goal.

How would you describe yourself as a footballer? I’m very fast and very direct. I like to get on 1 v 1s in the final third, I like to get a cross in the box. I like attacking and defending. I’ve been playing wing-back this season and I like that, especially as I have more space out on the right. I try to go at defenders and get balls into the box every chance I get.

Would you always have been a right full previously? For a season at Cherry Orchard when I first played 11-a-side I played at centre back and then I moved over to right back. That’s when I felt I loved playing on the right side anywhere. I still like playing as a centre half but my main position would be right back/right wing back.

Did you take a sudden stretch or were you always tall? I have always been one of the tallest on my team growing up. I normally would be the tallest but playing U19s now there are a few taller boys than me; it feels strange not being the tallest!

Would you like to say anything else? I’m loving football at the moment. I’m happy with the way Aido, Grayser and Thomas do the training, it’s all been quality since we have come back, I’m just loving it.

*Aidan Price, Stephen Gray and Thomas Morgan are the coaches for the SRFC Under 19s.

ACADEMY STARS – AIDOMO EMAKHU

Name:  Aidomo Emahku

Team: Under 19s

Age: 17

Height: 180cm

Weight: 78kg

 

Can you begin Aidomo by telling us whereabouts you live? I am living in Clondalkin

What school or college are you currently attending? I am in 5th Year at Moyle Park College. I will do my Leaving Cert next year.

What is your regular position on the pitch? I am a winger. I can play on both wings but I prefer the left.

Have you played in any other positions? Yes, I am currently playing in the striker role and the number 10 role because I am going to have to adapt to that. I played as striker also when I was younger.

Where did you begin in football and what clubs have you previously played for? I started at St. Francis when I was 6 years of age and played there until I was about 10 years old. Then I moved on to Lourdes Celtic for two seasons and then I moved on to Crumlin United. After that I went to Shelbourne in the League of Ireland (underage section).

Describe yourself as a footballer: I like getting on the ball and I like going at defenders 1 v 1. I’m very direct. I look up to a lot of players at top level, how they take on players and how they go about their game. I try to implement that and add it to my game and try learn from them.

What would you say are your strengths? My biggest strength would be going at defenders 1 v 1 and taking on players.

How much do you think you have developed since coming to Rovers last year? I would definitely say I have taken my game up to another level. At first it was me just enjoying football which, of course, I still do but I became more known to the much more defined important details that were required as the level of competition increased. It was only within the last year I’ve started to study the other side of the game which in my case was defending when out of possession. Since then I feel I’ve improved this side of my game and it has contributed massively in my overall performances. Even the professionalism at the club, the little things you have to do, like being on time, eat the right stuff, sleep correctly, all those factors are taken seriously within the club and I think it’s great because it all adds up to becoming a top footballer.

Are there are any other areas of your game that you would like to work on further? Receiving the ball in tighter spaces and be more confident in my ability.

Do you study videos of other footballers to learn some tips from? Every single day I watch the likes of Jack Grealish. I love watching him because of the way he just gets the ball and drives on and takes people on. He has bags of confidence that you can’t really give out about. I have to learn and be like him. Eden Hazard is another. I have a few players I look up but Jack Grealish would be the main one.

What does it mean to you to play for Shamrock Rovers? It’s every kid’s dream in this country really to play for the biggest club in the country. The minute I came here I knew I made the right decision because I have learned so much in the time I have been here, especially in and around the Academy and even when I have been up and around the first team, I have learned so much from the top pros there and the managers as well, they have all been really good to me.

Who is your favourite player worldwide? The obvious one would be Messi but I like Jack Grealish or Thierry Henry.

Do you have a favourite player amongst the first team at Rovers? It would have to be Danny (Mandroiu) or Graham Burke. They play in the attacking part of the pitch and the way  they get on the ball and make things happen. The creativity they have between them is unbelievable. They have the ability to score goals as well and that is something I would like to do for the first team.

Do you do any training yourself outside of your regular training with Rovers? I normally do a couple of upper body sessions because that was one of the weakest parts of my game when I was younger and I have been trying to improve ever since and I have proved it to be fair. I need to stay consistent because it would be a big factor in order to go up to the first team.

Did you feel that with Covid-19 last year that was lost time for you? Not at all. I think it was the year I needed but this may not have been the case for everybody which is completely understandable. Personally, it was a blessing in disguise for me. It gave me a lot of time to sit down and look at areas in my game that I needed to work on and improve. I learned a lot about myself during this time of the year. I knew what I needed to do and the first lockdown gave me the chance to do so; I used it to my advantage and worked every single day. I saw it as an opportunity for me to take my game up to another level.

What do you think of the facilities that Rovers have at the Academy? It’s top class; it’s really professional. It’s the environment you want to be in as a young footballer. It has everything you need to be a top footballer and it is probably one of the best in the country.

How does it feel to be in around the first team? It’s an opportunity I’m beyond grateful for and can’t thank all the coaches enough. I try to learn and take in as much as I can in order to improve my game. I learn something new every time I am in with them and I think it has helped me a lot already so far, not just on the pitch but off the pitch also.

What’s the best advice that has been given to you? The best advice I have been given would have to be from Stephen Bradley. He always tells me to maintain a top attitude and work hard because I will seek many rewards in my career ahead with those two key things.

What sort of music are you into? I like the likes of Lil Baby, Polo G, Drake. There are a few artists but they would be my top ones.

Outside of football what would you like to do? I have always said I would like to start a business one day; maybe a clothing brand or something like that.

Do you get a lot of when people don’t pronounce your name correctly? I do but I don’t really mind it. You tell people and they don’t know how to say it so you just accept it for what they say.

Name: Carl Lennox
Team: Under 17s
Position: Full back/centre half
Age: 15
Height: 185cm
Weight: 72kg

Carl, tell us when you joined Shamrock Rovers
I joined in 2015 for the Under 11 team under Graham Gartland and Robbie de Courcy.

Where are you from and what club were you playing for previously?
I’m from Naas in Co. Kildare. I was playing for St. Joseph’s Boys for two years.

How often do you train per week?
I train three times with my team and I go to my local gym two times a week.

How you manage to travel to Roadstone?
My mam and dad share giving me lifts so I am very grateful to both of them for the sacrifices they make for me.

Last year was your first year playing at League of Ireland level; looking back on that how do you think you did personally?
Overall, I thought I played very well. There were times when I could have played better, I know that myself. I was a bit disappointed with that but it’s a game and you have to learn from it.

Your team got into 2 finals but narrowly lost both; what lessons do you think the team learned from those experiences?
In both games we started slowly; we didn’t get on the ball enough. We gave them (St. Pat’s) a chance to get into it. Once we get going I don’t think any team matches us. We had enough chances over both of those games to have won both but we didn’t take them.

Did you find it a big step up from the DDSL to League of Ireland last year?
It was a big step up at the start. You’re playing against better players and every team is going to give you a good game. You could see at the start of training last year our levels and the intensity and the quality of the training went up a notch. You have to have quicker decision-making also. Every game is a good hard game.

What advice do you think you could give to this year’s Under 15s who are now playing League of Ireland for the first time?
To work hard, to express themselves and don’t let it go by because it goes quicker than you actually think.

You suffered an injury to your arm this year; tell us about that.
Just after the national lockdown got lifted I was out playing football with my mates and I fell over and broke my elbow. That kept me out for between five to six weeks. I couldn’t play and that was disappointing.

You were one of the players impacted by the recent Kildare lockdown. That announcement must have come as a big shock to you at the time?
It did but I was reading things online and thinking is it actually going to happen? Then it was on the news so it was a big disappointment knowing your team was going to be playing without you.

Were you frustrated knowing your teammates had started the season and you couldn’t be there?
Yes, because I was only getting back into training and into the team and then I was back home when the others were playing again.

What does it mean to you to be playing for Shamrock Rovers?
It’s an honour; I feel I am very lucky. All the players around my age would love to be here. I know I have to keep fighting for my shirt.

What school/college do you attend? (and what year are you in?)
I’m in 4th Year at Naas CBS.

Have you any idea of where you would like your career to take you when you are finished school?
To be honest I haven’t really thought about that. I’m just focussed on school and on my football at the moment.

You have played right across the back line. What position do you prefer?
I prefer centre half the most but I’ll play anywhere that Thomas (Morgan) or Ed (Saul) ask me to play. I can play left or right.

Do you model yourself on any player worldwide?
In look up to Virgil Van Dijk and Sergio Ramos. I’m a Liverpool fan and I think Van Dijk has everything about his game, everything’s good and he looks the complete player. Ramos, that speaks for itself, the amount of titles he has won.

Do you have a favourite player from the current Hoops’ senior squad?
Pico Lopes. He’s in my position, he’s in the centre, he shows good leadership. He’s always talking and puts in a good shift for the team.

Name: Darren Prendergast
Team: Rovers II (First Division)
Age: 20
Height: 172cm
Weight: 69kg

Darren, can you begin by telling us how long you have been playing for Shamrock Rovers?
I’ve been at Shamrock Rovers since January 2017. I joined from Edenderry Town and my first year was under Stephen Rice. The next year after that I was with Aidan Price and then Stephen Rice and now Aidan Price again.

Whereabouts are you from?
I am from Monasterevin, County Kildare.

You seem to be a versatile type of player; in what positions have you played for the club?
I’ve played everywhere at the back, centre back, left back, right back and CDM.

What is your own favourite position?
I think CDM because you have more involvement with the game and you set the pace of the game. When I’m watching matches myself I’m more inclined to look at what the midfielders are doing. I think that’s my favourite position.

Who was it like working under your first coach at Rovers?
It was so different training from your local team. The professionalism of all the coaches. Stephen Rice tactically brought new stuff into your mind and changed your view of the game.

How did Edenderry feel about it at the time you left?
I think they were happy at the time but obviously they were disappointed losing me but overall they were happy with the progress I had made.

Are there any players from your first team still with the club that was here when you joined?
Evan Smithers and Jordan Tallon are the two players that I played with at the start. They have progressed with me. I’m best mates with them and it’s great to see they are still here.

You were on the team that beat Bohs last November to win the Enda McGuill Cup; what were your thoughts on that achievement?
It was great because it was my first trophy at Shamrock Rovers. A lot of the players had been waiting so long to win something and it was great to finally get it, especially against Bohs at their ground.

The possibility of Shamrock Rovers entering a second team into the First Division was being discussed at that time; did you think you might have played your final game for the club that day?
Yeah, I think that’s what the thoughts were in the dressing room that it would be the last time we would see each other, play together anyway. We were delighted to think that we might have another chance to keep playing at Shamrock Rovers but we were thinking that would be our last game. I think the emotions in the dressing room from the coaches as well as the players that it might be our last game to win something for the club I think just drove us on.

There were some emotional scenes between players and family members after the game, was that because many of thought you might never play again together?
I think so because the parents got along great and so did the players. The parents were great supporting us the years we were there; I think they too thought it was the last time they were going to see each other and that drove their emotions up. They travelled all over the country, especially last year and even when we played Derry away in the cup we weren’t expecting anyone to be there but the majority of parents were there and that gave us a boost.

How do you feel your form is this year?
It’s hard to know because there has been a lack of games. I think I am progressing and I would like to think my form is still up.

What’s it like working with experienced guys such as Aidan Price and Steven Gray?
They were more defensive players as well so it’s easier for me to learn off them. They see the way I am looking at matches and they give me great feedback.

What’s the experience like training and playing with the First Division team compared to the U19s?
You see the intensity straight away. The quick decision making is the biggest thing you see and the lack of mistakes. There are no mistakes from any player and the passing is just incredible. The intensity is the first thing that hits you, it’s now like you are playing a match.

Are you attending college or studying for anything at the moment?
I am currently in Maynooth in my second year. I am studying Business and Accounting.

How do you chill out when you not playing or training?
I usually just hang around with my mates. I watch football matches and I try and get out as much as I can, just for walks or play football in the park or just have a chat. I listen to music and watch TV and that’s mostly what I do.

Name: Oisin Hand

Age: 17

Team: Under 17s

Height: 183cm

Weight: 76kg

Position: Centre half

Previous club: KDUL

How long are you with Rovers?

This is my third full season coming up now; I had a half-season (at the start) as well.

How do you feel you have progressed since joining?

I think every year I have been getting stronger, learning more from all the coaches, I have had a different manager every year and I have learned stuff from them so I feel I have developed with every manager and become a better player over the time.

Who have been your coaches?

I had Damien (Duff) for the half-season and then the next full season then Tony (Cousins) for a year and now I’ve got Thomas (Morgan) this year.

Does it affect you in any way playing under different managers?

No, I have learned little things from everybody. I’ve learned a lot in the years from Damien and all his coaches were brilliant and the same with Tony and Davy (McAllister) last year and then again with Thomas and Ed (Saul) and even when you go up with Aido (Price) and ‘Grayser’ you learn a lot from them as well. A lot of us have been lucky enough to go and train with the B team and play friendlies with them.

Have you trained along with the First Division team?

Yeah, I have been lucky enough to go and train with the B team and I have played a couple of friendlies with them.

Are you happy with your progress?

Yeah, I’m happy. Just developing and learning a lot from the coaches and the players as well so I’m really happy.

Have you had the opportunity to train with the first team?

I came on in two pre-season games against Bray Wanderers and the Irish Army team and that was a really good experience playing with them and even just being in the dressing room learning little things off them like how they treat a game. It was a friendly for all the younger players and a massive deal for us but for them although it was just a pre-season game they still wanted to win that. Their attitude and stuff were really good to see.

Do you model yourself on any player anywhere in the world?

Anywhere around the world would be Van Dijk because of how powerful and how calm he is when he is on the ball. At Rovers it would be Pico Lopes for his defending, for when he’s on the ball as well – I think he is a really good role model.

Would you actually study these players?

Yeah, even when we were on the lockdown we would be sent stuff every week. We would watch a game and we would watch a good few Rovers’ games. You would have to pick out a player in your position. I watched a lot of Pico Lopes and it’s brilliant to watch him, how he defends, how he leads the back four, it was really good to see.

You have travelled around the country for games to places such as Kerry, Galway, Donegal, Waterford and Cork. How do you prepare yourself when you are going on such a long journey?

I go to bed a good bit early the night before and wake up a good bit earlier as well so when I am getting onto the bus I am not tired and I’m fully ready for the game on the travels. I think on the long journeys that’s when you really become a team where you are going to have to dig in at places like Finn Harps, Cork and Galway where the weather is not great most of the time, teams are going to sit in or sometimes really come at you and put you under pressure early on. I think that’s where we’ve got some of our best results and gave some of our best performances and where you develop more as a player going to places like those.

Do you find that going on long journeys also helps you to bond as a squad?

Being on the bus going to places like Donegal, it’s four hours going up and again back home, you get a good team spirit and you bond well with all your teammates and the coaches.

How did you cope when you were all ready to go and then heard that the football had been shut down?

Obviously, it was a big disappointment. We had our first game due that weekend, I was with the U19s against Cabinteely and then everything was shut down. To be fair, all the coaches were brilliant with us over the whole three months. Every day we were kept busy, we had different stuff to do. It was good fun as well. The stuff they gave us was very tough but really good to do and good craic as well.

You have played in Tallaght Stadium a number of times. What’s that experience like for you?

I’m a Rovers’ fan and it means everything going playing in Tallaght. You’re up there on a Friday night and then you might be playing there yourself on Saturday. The first time we were there it was brilliant; when I was the captain and leading the boys out was some feeling.

Do you have any other favourite venue in Ireland that you like to go to?

For the Euro qualifiers with Ireland, we played all the games at Turner’s Cross. The pitch there was really nice and we had a good crowd at all the games, I liked it there.

You mentioned Ireland there, at what ages have you played for them?

I’ve played at Under 15s, Under 16s and Under 17s.

How has the experience of playing for Ireland differed from playing for Rovers?

International football is a lot quicker. You are playing different styles of football, it’s really high tempo against physical players. You learn a lot about yourself and what you could take off other players in your position from other countries. I’ve learned a lot from playing international football.

How great is the feeling of having played for your country?

It’s an unbelievable feeling and I have been lucky also to have captained Ireland a few times as well. That’s the proudest thing for you and your family when you are playing for your country, especially the European qualifiers when we qualified. The tournament was cancelled but there is no better feeling than playing for your country.

Did you keep your Ireland jerseys?

Yeah, I have my Under 15s and Under 16s jersey; we get that at the end of every season. Hopefully, they might send us out the 17s jersey!

Have you framed them?

I have two of them framed on the wall in my bedroom so it’s a nice little memento and I have my caps as well.

Is there anyone in particular who has been a particularly big influence on you?

My mam and dad make a lot of sacrifices bringing me up to training and that. They don’t have to do it. They do it because they want me to be the best I can. I have learnt off every single coach at Rovers as well and every coach has been brilliant to me since I came here.

Have you any idea of what you want to do in the future apart from football?

The number one goal is to be a footballer but that’s obviously very tough (to achieve) so next year I will be going to Carlow IT and doing Sports Business and Management so I can get into coaching and the business side of football as well.

Is this your final year in school?

I will be going into sixth year in September (at Naas CBS) and after that, I will go on to Carlow IT.

Final question Oisin. As a young person do you ever worry about the future?

No, not really. I don’t look too far ahead. Especially with my football, I keep my head down every single day and just keep working hard. There’s no point looking too far ahead or else you’ll lose track of where you are.

Name: Kevin Zefi

Team: Under 15 Airtricity League

Age: 15

Position: Winger/forward

Height: 176cm

Weight: 75kg

Tell us a little bit about your background Kevin i.e. where you were born and where you live:

I was born in Dublin Ireland and I live in Clonsilla, Dublin 15.

What school do you attend and what subjects interest you most?

I attend Luttrellstown Community College and I enjoy PE the most.

What is your first memory of football and can you remember where you got your interest in the game from?

I played in a local mini-league and I enjoyed it. I got my interest in the game from when I was younger, I used to love doing skills against other players and I just really enjoyed it.

Have you tried your hand at any other sports?

No, I haven’t but I have played GAA in primary school.

When did you join Shamrock Rovers?

It’s been about two years, just as Damien Duff left.

What was your first impression of the club?

It was a very warm welcome thanks to the staff and players.

What did you make of playing in the League of Ireland Under 15 league last year?

I learned that you have to move the ball quicker and I adapted quickly to it.

What was your standout moment with Shamrock Rovers last year?

Scoring on my debut against Waterford away.

Do you have also a standout moment with Ireland from last year?

Captaining my country against Latvia on my debut with Ireland.

What are the countries you have played against for Ireland?

Luxembourg, Faroe Islands, Latvia, Poland, England, Australia, Spain, Holland, Czech Republic.

How would you describe yourself as a player using a maximum of six words?

Skilful, powerful, creative, quick, hungry, tricky.

What’s the best piece of advice you have been given so far?

That no matter what, keep the head up, keep smiling and enjoy the game.

How are you coping with there being no football at the moment?

It’s a tough time but I’m working hard every day doing our schedule that the club has sent us. I also play a bit of football with friends.

How do you occupy yourself during the day?

Training and watching players I look up to and learning new things every day.

How did you juggle your schoolwork and football training last year?

It was tough, some days I didn’t get to complete my homework but the next day I would try and get it done in school most of the time.

What football Apps do you have on your phone?

Livescore.

Name: Dylan Duffy

Team: Under 19s/First Division

Age: 17

Position: Midfielder

Dylan, we’d like to ask you firstly to give the readers a little bit of information about your background in football.

I started my football with Blessington F.C. and then went to Lourdes Celtic, St. Kevin’s, St. Francis and now I’m here with Rovers. I signed for Rovers when I was Under 15s and my manager at the time was Damien Duff. The other coaches were Lee Raethorne, Luke Byrne and Ciaran Byrne.

You joined Rovers in Damien Duff’s first year in charge of the Under 15s and won the Galway Cup then with that team. Does that seem a long time ago to you?

It does feel like it was a long time ago because I’ve been through so much since then but that was an incredible year with a great team and great coaches.

You lost an entire year in 2018 through injury; how much did you manage last year to make up for lost time?

Coming back from 15 months out is going to be hard for anyone. The first 2/3 months after the injury were hard because I was trying to move fast but the lads on the team and the coaches all helped me to get back to my best.

Before the season was put on hold you played in each of the First Division games that were played; how was that experience?

The First Division was a great experience and it was a good challenge for me and the whole team. Hopefully, when the season comes back we can push on and start to get the results we know we can achieve.

You will also be with the Under 19s this year but having played Under 17s last year how much of a jump have you found it playing at First Division level?

It was a big jump physically; the First Division is a lot more physical than the Under 17 league. I don’t think it was anything I wasn’t ready for and I think when the league is back I can push on and have a great season.

Getting back on the pitch last year was a great achievement for you but how much did you enjoy the season under the new management team?

Last season was one of the most enjoyable seasons I have ever had and that was down to the team and coaches. Tony (Cousins) didn’t put any pressure on me when I was coming back from injury and that really helped me to get my confidence back. I think we were unlucky not to get more out of the league last year but it was still a really enjoyable season for me.

How are you managing to maintain your fitness during the current national crisis?

I think when the season is back we will all be fitter than we were when we finished because Pat Deans has all the teams doing a programme and I personally feel a lot fitter already from it. I think this lockdown in a way is good for footballers to work on individual stuff that they didn’t have the time to do when they were training.

Do you feel frustrated at not being able to train and play?

It’s really tough not being able to train and play every week. Sometimes I don’t know what to do with myself when there is no training.

With no football and no school how are you coping with the boredom?

I haven’t been that bored since the lockdown because I’ve been training every day and I still have school work to do. We have been doing Google classrooms to keep on top of school work. I’m not complaining when I can play football all day out in my garden.

Are you confident that when the season resumes you can pick up where you left off?

I’m confident when the season comes back I’ll pick up where I left off in the First Division and keep improving every week in training and games.

You are related to former Rovers’ played Jamie Duffy (2006 & 2007). In what way are you related?

Jamie is my first cousin. He taught me a lot when I was younger.

Do you have a role model and if so, who is it?

A big role model for me is my dad. He’s a hard worker and I try to be like him with my work rate on and off the pitch.

Name: Ben Curtis

Age: 15 (will be 16 this week!)

Position: Midfield

You had a good year with the Under 15s last year; how well do you yourself think you did?

I thought it was a great year for me personally. It was my first League of Ireland year and I was so happy with how I played and how well I fitted into the team. I feel that the training I got throughout that whole year definitely helped my performances and helped me as a player.

Would you say that being an elite player in a set-up such as the SRFC Academy helped you grow more in that year than most boys your age?

Yes, I consider myself lucky to be at an incredible club such as Shamrock Rovers. There are loads of young lads out there who would love to be in my shoes and play for Rovers so I am happy to be a part of it.

You are a valuable member of the squad and play in either defence or midfield; which position do you prefer yourself?

It’s actually a question I get asked a lot. This season I’m focussing on one position to progress and that will be centre half but if I am needed to play midfield at any time I will have no problem with that.

You captained the team last year. How big a deal is it to be the team captain?

It’s a big responsibility in a good way. I felt very proud leading the team out in Tallaght Stadium for the final against St. Pat’s. Coming from a small club in Navan to being captain at the biggest club in Ireland is just amazing.

Do you believe there is an added duty on you as captain to lead by example?

To be honest with you no, I don’t think so. As captain you need to be a leader and lead by example but I think every player should be a leader in their own way and everyone should help each other. That’s the responsibility I set for the lads last year but, of course, a captain should be leading by example and should always help his teammates out.

You are the eldest of four brothers currently playing amongst the ranks of the SRFC Academy; what can you tell us about your younger brothers?

They are all amazing footballers to be honest. All three of them are different in their ways of football but they are all very committed in what they do and are competitive like me. They have all helped me as a player and I am blessed to have the three of them.

The postponement of the beginning of the season was understandably necessary but what are you doing currently to keep yourself fit and fresh?

I’ve been following the programme sent out by the fitness coach Pat (Deans). Every day we get sent stuff to do which keeps us ticking over but I have also been doing my own bit. That means going on a run or going to the nearest green to kick ball with my brothers.

With no football and no school how are you keeping yourself occupied?

I’ve been focussing on being strong and fit for whenever the season starts back and also spending some more time with my family which is important.

You have chalked up quite a number of appearances for the Republic of Ireland. Do you feel a special moment of pride when you pull on the green jersey?

Of course, it’s an amazing feeling to be wearing the green jersey and representing your country. It’s a childhood dream for most kids and it was mine since I was very young so hopefully I can keep it up and stay in that jersey up until first team football.

What’s the most interesting occasion you have had with the international team?

That’s a tough one. I would have to say captaining my country against Spain. I always get nervous before games, especially international games but to be honest when I found out I was going to be captain against such a big country like Spain I had no nerves at all. I just wanted to play and in the end we got an excellent result against them.

Do you have a favourite player in the Rovers’ first team squad?

I don’t personally have a favourite but if I was to pick, I’d say Jack Byrne or Pico Lopes.

How would you describe yourself as a footballer?

I would describe myself as hard working and competitive but mostly a team player. I always want to help my team out in any way possible if that means doing an extra run or covering for someone’s mistake.

What’s your favourite App on your phone?

My favourite app would have to be Instagram.

Who is the funniest team mate on the Under 17s and why?

The funniest on the team would be Sean Jones Carey. He always has something to show in the dressing room and never fails to make everyone laugh.

Team: Under 19

Position: Centre half/left back

Height: 179cm

Weight: 72kg

Previous clubs: Esker Celtic and Crumlin United

When did you join Shamrock Rovers?

I joined Shamrock Rovers in the summer of 2017

Was there anything in particular that swung your decision to sign for the club?

I went up for a training session, Damien Duff was the head coach of the team, the session was really good, the intensity and on the ball a lot; that was really enjoyable. Damien Duff was definitely a factor.

What was your first impressions of Shamrock Rovers after you joined?

I thought the people that worked there were really nice and I was made feel very welcome into the squad that I was with.

Can you remember your very first game?

My very first game was against Finn Harps, I came on at half time. It was a friendly game and we won 2-0 here at the Academy at Roadstone.

Are you happy with the progress of your development?

Yeah, 100%. I have definitely come as a player, tactically and technically.

What would you say are your strengths as a player?

Passing, speed, good decision making.

Would you say you like to model yourself on any established player in particular?

I would like to be like Virgil Van Dijk, the way he is playing at the moment is unbelievable. He is the best defender in the world at the moment.

You are doing some training with the first team; how is that going for you?

It has been really, really good. The standard is obviously higher than what I have been used to but I’m getting used to it now. All the players have been really nice. The sessions are demanding but it’s benefitting me a lot when I go back and train with my own team too.

How are you managing with your education?

It’s tough but it’s manageable. The hours are longer than my previous school by a couple of hours. I’d be really tired when I get home but I just have to get on with it; that’s what I have to do.

Are you looking to gain any academic qualifications outside of football?

I’m looking to be either a sports scientist or a physio. At present I’m studying Biology in Ashfield College.

You have so far gained eight international caps for Ireland while playing for the Hoops. What has that experience been like for you?

It has been unbelievable. It’s always an honour to represent your country and make your family and friends proud; it’s a feeling you will never forget.

What are you looking to achieve this season?

I’m hoping for success trophy-wise. Any competition that we go into I want to go and win it. Personally, I want to keep on improving and keep on getting better. Hopefully I can get Player of the Year just like I did when I was playing for the Under 15s.

What do you like to do to pass the time when you are not training, playing or studying?

Probably going out with some of my mates. It’s tough not seeing them as much, with training and that I rarely have time so whenever I do have any I go out with my friends.

How many days a week do you go to Ashfield College?

I’m there every single day. On Monday and Tuesday I usually go in late as I’m training with the first team. It’s 9.20am until 7pm Monday to Thursday and 9.20am to 2.30pm on Fridays. On Mondays and Tuesdays when I am training with the first team I don’t start college until 1.30pm. This is my first year at Ashfield. All the teachers are very helpful and all the other students that go there are really nice and friendly so it was easy to adjust to it and to become comfortable in that environment.

Finally, Adam, what would you as a young player say to fans who don’t show enough interest in the underage section to come along to the games?

Throughout the club the standard is really high in the Academy and the first team. I think people should come and get to know us; we are the up and coming players who are going to be hopefully representing Shamrock Rovers in the future. I think it is important that people get to know us.

Team: Under 15s

Position: Centre midfield/left back

Height: 5’ 9”

Weight: 10st

Previous clubs: St Kevin’s Boys, Aisling Annacotty (Limerick)

Tell us John where exactly you come from? I am from Castletroy in Limerick, in the suburbs of the city.

How long are you playing for Rovers? I am playing for Rovers a year and nine months, since January 2018. My first game was a friendly against Corduff Under 15s in Roadstone.

How did you do that day of your first game? I did well that day and I scored too; it was good to get a goal on my debut.

How did you come about to play for Rovers? I was approached by them after a tournament.

What’s your normal position? At the moment it’s left back; I have played there for my country as well.

You haven’t always played there though have you? When I came to Rovers I played as an attacking number 8. In the summer of 2018 the Ireland Under 15 manager Jason Donohue spoke to Rovers Academy Director Shane Robinson and said he thought that I could be a good left back. Shane worked with me on the position and I made the Irish squad as a full back. Thanks also to Glenda Curtis and her family who let me stay with them while I was in Dublin at that time. I did well playing at left back with Ireland and I have continued playing there sometimes with Rovers.

What school do you attend? I am in Castletroy College. I’m in Transition Year. I did my Junior Cert in June.

Do you model yourself on any particular player? Centre mid I have always admired Kevin DeBruyne; at left back Andy Robertson.

How many appearances have you made for Ireland? 11 including Under 15 and Under 16.

What was your first game for Ireland? It was against Poland Under 15s in Poland.

What are the countries you have travelled to with the Ireland squads? Poland, Spain, Cyprus, Czech Republic and England. I have also been to Finland with Rovers.

What’s it like for a young lad of your age to travel away as part of an Ireland squad? It’s a really good experience. I knew most of the lads before I went away for the first time so it was easy enough to settle in. It’s good to get the opportunity to go away and it’s important to enjoy it. There are many kids around Ireland that would wish they were in my place so I’m grateful for it.

Do you think you learn from playing against foreign opposition? You do, they are the best of the best in their country so you learn every time you play; you pick the key points from each game as to where you need to improve and bring it into the next one.

What has the experience of playing in the FAI Under 15 League been like for you this year? It’s been incredible really; it’s been great to have the opportunity to play for such a big club as Shamrock Rovers. The league is a higher standard; I wish it had started younger, it’s class. I had always expected it to be very competitive.

How much do you think you personally have developed this year? I think I have developed a lot, especially at left back. I just need to keep working hard and keep on improving.

Your team had a super win against Dundalk in the league semi-final; what was the mood in the camp following that victory? We were delighted. As our coaches said we just need to keep the momentum going. We plan to do that and keep on working hard for the final.

How do you travel for training and games? My dad. I don’t know what I would do without him. Sometimes if he is unavailable I would get the bus during school holidays but mostly it’s by car.

What bus would you get? The green bus, the Dublin coach, that drops me off at the Red Cow and I get collected there by a parent or by Shane (Robinson). I get the bus back home again from the Red Cow.

Then you have to get up for school in the morning. How do you do it? Just working hard and dedication. As well, we always drive to training during the school year to make sure I get home as early as possible. I do all my gym, individual fitness and ball work in Limerick.

Team: Under 19s

Position: Midfield

Height: 183cm

Weight: 72kg

Previous club: UCD

Position: I would say I am an attacking midfielder. I played a more defensive role at the start of the year but I prefer the attacking role and I am playing there now.

Describe yourself as a footballer: I am a player who likes to attack and defend as well. I like to run and pass the ball around. I like to take on opponents 1 v 1 but I don’t mind defending, every player has to do that.

Describe yourself off the pitch: I’m a relaxed person. I like to spend time with family and friends, watch TV and play a bit of football with my friends during the off season.

What’s your earliest memory of football? I went to see Rovers play Real Madrid in 2009. That would be my earliest memory of going to a big match. It was a big deal at the time and my dad organised the tickets for him, me and my brother Daniel to go. That was my first time to see Shamrock Rovers.

What was your own first game for Shamrock Rovers? I played in a pre-season friendly this year for the Under 19s against Athlone Town’s first team. We won 3-2.

Whereabouts are you from? I’m from Knocklyon. I have always lived there.

What are you currently doing education-wise? I have just finished school at St. Colmcille’s in Knocklyon. I am going to college in September to study an Arts Degree in Spanish and Business.

What kind of music are you into? A bit of everything really. My favourite is rap; I’d listen to it before games or on the bus travelling to away games. I don’t have a favourite artist as such but I like Post Malone; I like to listen to him.

What do you like most about playing for Shamrock Rovers? Being around the best players in the country every week and for every game. Rovers are the biggest club in the country; it’s great to be a part of it. I feel I am lucky to be a part of it.

What’s your favourite meal?  Chicken curry

Who do you think is the best player from another club that you have come across in the Under 19 league? I haven’t seen much except when I play against them but one I would say is Colm Whelan, the striker with Waterford. I saw him playing in Dublin earlier this year and I thought he looked good.

Finally Darragh, your team have qualified for the final of the Enda McGuill Cup. What are your thoughts on that? I am really looking forward to it. We will be playing against Bohs in the final. I haven’t played in many finals before so I hope to get the opportunity to play in this one. Playing against Bohs you couldn’t really ask for more. It’s great to be involved.

All interviews carried out by Robert Goggins