Tag Archives: Luke Brennan

From top: clockwise from top left: Nathan Collins, Max Murphy, Ryan Cassidy and Aaaron Connolly; Luke Brennan

I bear the saddest news.

It seems the English have taken Michael Collins.

I watched him rifling one into the back of the net for the Everton’s FA Youth Cup side, mobbed by fellow blueshirts.

Moments later I was on his twitter page, shocked to find that he has left behind his Irish heritage, thrown in his lot with the English. He’s too far gone lads.

They have taken him in body and mind. He’s already sharing photos of his abs and looking for someone to join in his snapchat stories.

All is not lost, we still have Max Murphy, he’s alive and well and playing for Stoke City. I hear Steve Coogan is on the way back to us too, Irish passport in the post. Good man Steve. It’s a difficult station for the Irish-ish.

Word on the street is that out at Green Acres retirement home, things are still very tense around dinner time. Quinner has come over all Tony Robbins, telling Mick he has to”awaken the giant within”, telling him “Food is the medicine we don’t know we are taking”. Mick still wouldn’t eat rice for a week. Cas still thinks he might come back to us, thinks we should try one more roll of the dice.

We arrive at the International break just a few days after the last Irish captain in the FA Youth Cup has fallen. On St Patrick’s day, of all days, Ryan Cassidy lived out a childhood dream and scored into the Kop end at Anfield.

It was the semi-final, and not enough to carry his Watford team into the final, they lost 2-1. It’s not an exaggeration to say he carried the team, as captain, scoring two goals in each of the three previous rounds.

This is just one small part of the significant firepower that Irish youth football has at it’s disposal. All Ryan’s exploits didn’t even get him into the U19 squad for the important Elite qualification phase in Russia, only into the Irish U18 team playing a friendly double-header against Turkey.

My thoughts in these matches are often with the players who don’t make it. We have the injured Aaron Connolly, who was the reserve premiership top scorer before his hamstring went. He was soon replaced by another Irishman, Adam Idah, who has been pulled up to the Irish U21 team.

The 17 year old captain of Stoke City’s Under 23 team, Nathan Collin, scored a goal on his last outing, but injured himself and won’t make it to Russia.

Then there is Glen “The Goal machine” McAuley, who has spent the year fighting for his place on the Liverpool U23 team after two years as top scorer for their U18 team. It’s been tough. Tough to get game time and tough to score when he has.

He’s managed  three goals in cup competitions, but none in the league. Yet he has managed two Man of the Match awards this year. He is a prodigious talent, he scored the goal vs Slokavia that qualified Ireland as Under 17s to the finals in England last year.

It is a thing of beauty.

Reminiscent of Zidane’s first senior goal for France, where he slaloms left and right without even touching the ball to beat the first two players. Great players do great things without thinking, the very best can do them without even touching the ball.

McAuley is a fighter, for his goal, he wins ownership of the ball without having any right to it. Feigns right, then casually sidefoots the ball into the goal past the back-pedalling ‘keeper. One touch, temporary immortality achieved, for a few years, you would think. Yet, he still hasn’t made it to Russia.

The thing is, it’s a viciously competitive arena, youth football. It’s full of promise, not only your own dreams, but family, friends, loved ones. There isn’t much room for a u-turn, so everyone keeps on going. Nothing has the potential to crush like punctured expectation.

Who would be a Troy Parrott, a Ryan Cassidy or a Glen McAuley. Or a host of other names, celebrated, but soon forgotten.

We have Irish youth football teams lining out this week at U21, U19, U18 and U17 levels.Let’s cheer them on, but also hope they get support in years to come for all their hard work and sacrifice. I’m guessing success is the easy bit….

…My interest in football this year has been rekindled by a 5 a side football group (above) I set up in Porto. Football, and all sport is a way we have to share our playful nature.

I’ve always found it’s a great way to know people, and get to know people. It’s the little things, like those in our group that have given others a spare room, or helped someone find a job, that makes it seem worthwhile to me.

My wish for these brave young footballers, is that football always supports them, even in these small simple ways.

Luke Brennan is an Ireland born, Portugal-based writer, entrepreneur and sports fan.

Previously:Green Shoots (Or: Why I Think We Might Win The 2030 World Cup)

Top pics: FAI

 

From top: Troy Parrott (second left), celebrates with, from left, Jason Knight, Cameron Ledwidge and Barry Coffey during the UEFA U17 Championship Finals group between Bosnia & Herzegovina and Republic of Ireland in Burton-upon-Trent, England last May; Luke Brennan

When I first saw Robbie Keane play football, I thought “I know a Robbie Keane when I see one, and that Robbie Keane, is a Robbie Keane”. The question on every football fan’s lips these days, is “Where will we find the next Robbie Keane?”.

The FAI now have one of the most useful tools available in unearthing another Robbie Keane. They have, Robbie Keane. The thinking is that it takes a Robbie Keane to catch a Robbie Keane.

As they revealed Keane to the press, they had only one question, but dared not ask it: as Robbie leant down to sign on the dotted line, winking at the cameras, humming “There’s only one Robbie Keane” to himself.

“Will you be ringing Declan Rice, Robbie?”

I will in me swiss, thought Robbie, humming quietly to himself. “Yeah”, he said, “Meself and Mick will get the boy sorted”, wondering why anyone with half a million followers on Instagram would ring anyone.

You see, we don’t need another Robbie Keane, nor do we need Declan Rice.

It doesn’t matter if you are making sausages or running the Irish football team, the recipe for success is a steady supply of good raw material.

When you get that part right, you don’t end up relying on one player being your only goal-every-second-game striker for 20 years. We were lucky to have him, but we’re even luckier to have moved on.

I haven’t watched Premiership football in 20 years. I still won’t watch it. Everything from the prawn sandwiches to the wall-to-wall betting slogans winds me up, never mind the harm it does the Irish game.

I was living and working in the UK when I turned my back on it. I was placing in the top 5 of a company-wide fantasy football competition and had a “moment of clarity”, thinking I’d be better off spending my time working out what makes the factories of the world work than wasting any intellectual real estate on the Premiership.

I’m slightly disgusted with myself for even writing about it in passing; but it’s a necessary part of the good news that I bring.

Ireland are on the up.

They have been steadily improving their underage performance, the U17s were ranked 24th in Europe back in 2015, they’ve moved to 12th this year (Irish players Adam Idah and Aaron Connolly winning the golden boot for most qualification goals in the 2017 and 2018 competitions along the way).

At very least, we’ve got a golden generation.

There are half a dozen Irish teenagers making the bench in the Premiership this season, one even got a goal (Michael Obafemi scored the first premiership goal of the season by an Irish forward, in December). There are as many Irish teenagers in the English second division making it onto the pitch.

But that is nothing compared to what they are doing in the second string and underage
teams. In English underage football, the Irish are providing 5% of the players, but 12% of the goals.

They are learning their craft, captaining their teams, scoring winning goals with a relish that implies a new confidence. Heroism is an art; leadership a learnt skill. The Irish captains of the future are lining out for their club’s FA Youth cup teams in far greater numbers.

Last week Southampton’s youth team was captained by Kameron Ledwidge, formally of St.Kevin’s boys, Dublin. They were beaten 2-1 by Watford, captained by scorer of both goals, Ryan Cassidy, another St. Kevin’s alumni.

In another fourth-round tie, Preston beat Norwich, captained by Adam O’Reilly, defeating his former Cork schoolboy team-mate (and Norwich leading underage goal-scorer) Adam Idah.

There are other young captains, such as Stoke City’s Nathan Collins and Bolton’s Luca Connell. There is Troy Parrot at Tottenham. James Jennings, Ethan Varian, Will Ferry and Jason Knight all average a goal every other game for their Premier league youth teams. Parrot averages a goal a game.

I saw Ryan Nolan from Limerick captaining Inter Milan’s U19 team. I saw Ryan Johansson come on for 20 minutes as centre forward for Bayern Munich’s U19 team against Barcelona U19. He was the best player on the pitch.

All these players should put in a good performance at this year’s U19 championship. The 2020 U19 championship is being held just up the road in Northern Ireland, we can expect a good result in what is almost a local tournament.

Ireland’s U21 team will be building towards the 2021 finals in Slovenia. The hope is that the 2023 finals, when this golden-age of Irish football comes good, will be an all-Ireland hosted event.

A good result in that, would mean an Irish team would qualify for the 2024 Olympics. Plenty of opportunity to practice heroics, make mistake, learn, grow, yielding a mature and practiced squad.

We should also ask another question. What if that is the new normal? What if the wealth, prosperity, new genetic input and solid sports management is giving that result as a constant?

What if we’ve got the product pipeline right? What if there is another generation to follow?

Truth is we would need it.

Again, It doesn’t matter if you are making sausages or building an international football team; you need a product pipeline. Unlike sausage recipes, players wear out. You need to have been producing consistently over time to have a shot.

Did someone say we have a chance at a World cup? The future is bright, but the future is ten years away. Roll on World Cup 2030.

Luke Brennan is an Ireland born, Portugal-based writer, entrepreneur and sports fan.

Top Pic: Malcolm Couzens/Sportsfile

fancy a little pot?

At the Dublin Flea Christmas Market, Point Square, Dublin 1

Luke Brennan, of ‘Broadsheet on the Telly‘ fame, writes:

My mother [potter] Helena Brennan has taken  a stand in the Dublin flea-market this week. She will be there from today until Sunday.

She has just opened up a kiln after 3 months of making through the Autumn, she sent me these photos (above) of a miniature teapot she will have on sale there, along with a lot else besides. She would of course be very happy to see any Broadsheet readers there.

Helena Brennan

Dublin Flea Christmas Market

Irish-made stocking fillers to Broadsheet@broadsheet.ie marked ‘Irish-made Stocking Fillers’. No fee.