MAYO’S FINEST FOOTBALLERS are usually found knocking about McHale Park but eight-year-old John Joe Finn is making a name for himself in the Santiago Bernabeu instead.
The budding soccer star was snapped up by Real Madrid’s world-renowned academy after he dazzled scouts with a five-star performance during trials in the Spanish capital.
Finn was born in Spain where his father John, a native of Ballyhaunis, has worked for the last 19 years but it was his French-Cameroonian mother who had the footballing ties to get him a trial with los Merengues.
“She knew a couple of footballers here in Spain who were friends with Nicolas Anelka and [Christian] Karembeu, so there was some French connection,” John Finn Sr explained to the Big Red Bench on Cork’s RedFM.
She got to meet Zinedine Zidane and he said to her to take him along for a trial. So we took him along to the Real Madrid grounds and he went for a trial. There were six goals scored by his team and he scored five of the six.
It was a very nervous day for all of us because there were about 200 boys and in the end, there were only two selected out of 200.
As part of the Madrid youth programme, Finn trains three times a week and will be invited to join the club’s school which will ensure that he continues his academic learning alongside his football.
By the time of the World Cup in 2022, Finn will be 18 and could well be pushing for a place in the Irish squad. But he’s also eligible to line out for France and Spain and his father says that they’ll leave that decision up to him when the time comes.
“That’s always a difficult one. His heart is Irish, he loves his Irish background and roots, it’s always there. His grandad is thrilled about it. When he gets to that age and when he makes the grade, we’ll ask him himself who does he want to play with.”