From top: Adam Idah (top left) and Adam O’Reilly as young Republic of Ireland teammates; Adam and Adam, as senior football rivals today; Luke Brennan
What are the chances?
This time last year, I wrote about two players, both called Adam, both from Cork, who ended up playing against each other in the English FA youth Cup.
That day, Adam O’ Reilly had won out, the flinty midfielder captaining a strong Preston North End U18 side.
He scored one of three goals that beat an U18 Norwich side starring Adam Idah, their star striker, who had scored two hat-tricks in the competition the previous year, this year, came up short.
On Saturday, a year older and wiser, they faced off again. This year the stage was so much bigger: they had both made the jump up to the senior squads of their respective clubs, this time they met in the senior FA Cup, the real FA Cup.
O’Reilly had a more difficult year, injury pulling him in and out of the first team, he had only made it to the bench.
As young footballing bodies try to progress this final stage in their development, injuries are common. Players appear and disappear in a panicked sea, as they clamour towards their hopes and dreams.
Those that get left behind are never heard from again, swimming in the hope and dreams of your friends and family, amidst all the backslapping, a man could drown in his own expectations. Nobody wants to fall foul of their own ordinariness.
The only way out of this cold sea is to announce yourself in such a way that cannot be forgotten. Write your name in letters big and bold. MY NAME IS ADAM. So that the manager knows your name, and the players know your name, and the dogs in the street know your name. The fans need to know your name and call it out, you need to be unforgettable. ADAM. ADAM. ADAM. The press should be asking, about, well, WHAT ABOUT ADAM?
Adah Idah is not an ordinary player. After his performance on Saturday, well, everyone at the club knows his name. He got his first senior team start and he grabbed it with both hands.
Within 90 seconds he was on the scoresheet, breaking at pace from midfield before calmly slotting the ball into the far corner.
By half time he got a second, taking advantage of some poor goalkeeping, he drove the ball into an empty net, but from 40 yards, on his weaker left foot.
He completed his hat-trick in the second half winning his own penalty, before converting it with his usual delicate ease. The youngest FA cup hat-trick scorer since Ian Lawson in 1957.
Adam Idah has soft feet, he scores with delicate ease, he strokes the ball into the net; he manages this while inhabiting a frame not unlike that of Zlatan Ibrahimović. In this, the universe seems to be playing some deeply ironic cosmic joke on us, as Adam Idah could not be more unlike Zlatan in every other way.
Adam Idah is humble, considered, courteous, affable and thoughtful. If you had a daughter, you’d love if she brought Adam Idah home, you’d think “That’s a relief”.
Adam Idah is cool, in the only way someone can actually be cool; he is cool because he couldn’t care less about being cool (most likely because he is too busy thinking about how he can score more goals).
Of course Adam Idah is most cool because he is from Cork. And for some reason, Cork seems to produce a large number of hyper-cool people. They are mystery to me, Cork people.
They produced Roy Keane, who I could never understand until St.Patrick appeared to me in a vision explaining to me that, like the shamrock, Roy was three things, 1) My favourite footballer of all time 2) Someone who I deeply admired as a human being 3) A bit of a langer. – Like the shamrock, he was one thing, but also, all three things.
As for Adam O’Reilly. I’m guessing his day in tall letters isn’t so far away. He first hit the headlines in 2014 as a 13 year old, who, when his Ringmahon Rangers team were 1-0 up to Corinthian Boys (Adam Idah’s team, a co-incidence, or is it?) and had been awarded a penalty.
He adjudged the award to be unfair to the other team (a player had picked up the ball to allow attention to an injured player). O’Reilly stepped up and rolled the ball into the goalkeeper’s hands. The first penalty miss of his fledgling career.
Good karma awaits those who know how to do the right thing. It’s great that we are producing such fantastic footballers, but isn’t it phenomenal that they are such wonderful human beings too?
In the last year since I first proposed that Ireland might win the 2030 World Cup, things have been moving along nicely. Adam Idah isn’t the only one hitting the headlines.
We’ve also had man of the match performances from Aaron Connolly with 2 goals against Spur in the premiership. Jason Knight got two for Derby in the Championship, Wayne Rooney says he reminds him of a younger version of himself.
Nathan Collins was Stoke’s youngest ever captain in August: when he was awarded the winning goal, he amended the record to say it was his team- mate. Troy Parrot has made his Premiership debut.
Micheal Obafemi has been getting on the pitch for Southampton in the premiership, he scored against Chelsea, the goal was top-drawer, the turn to take it was better, but the Irish jig to celebrate it suggests he needs more time in Dublin based training camps.
All the above players are not only Irish Under 21 Internationals, but also qualify as Under 19s. Add in Will Smallbone who scored in Southampton’s senior FA Cup match. Gavin Kilkenny, who is making the grade at Bournemouth, on the senior bench on Sunday, but a goal scoring man of the match winner in a summer game with Lyon.
The outstanding Conor Coventry has just signed a long term contract at West Ham. At Celtic you have a trio of players at (Barry Coffee, Jonathan Afolabi, and Luca Connell ) all itching to make an impact at club level.
As well as all these wonderful club performances, they have been ripping up trees for the Ireland Under 21s. Looking like contenders to qualify for U21 Euros for the first time. However, this is just a test run, for the next U21 campaign (it runs on a two year cycle), we’ll lose no more than 3 or 4 players, leading us to the U21 2023 Euro Championship at full strength.
Leading us nicely into the 2024 Olympic qualification, which should be a nice dry run for the World cup final 6 years later.
Luke Brennan is an Ireland born, Portugal-based writer, entrepreneur and sports fan.
PS: If you’d like more frequent updates on the progress of the young Irish footballers, I can suggest no better source than @KennysKids on twitter. Run by UCD student Kevin Higgins, he provides such thorough and up to date reporting that I wonder if he will make through college at all. Or perhaps he’ll be the real winner from the 2030 World cup as he passes 1 million followers and retires with his laptop to the Caribbean.
Previously: Why I Think We Could Win The World Cup In 2030