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'It's a bit of a weird one as the school is obviously renowned for its rugby stars'

Teenage Bohs defender Andy Lyons’ impressive performances mean his Blackrock College friends are now regulars at Dalymount Park.

Andy Lyons pictured at a Republic of Ireland U19 Media Event.
Andy Lyons pictured at a Republic of Ireland U19 Media Event.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

IT’S BEEN A hectic few weeks for Andy Lyons.

Just before the mid-season break, the 18-year-old starred in Bohs’ memorable 2-1 win over Shamrock Rovers.

The following Tuesday, he sat the last of his Leaving Certificate exams. The teenage defender has just finished up his time at Blackrock College and is hoping to study business and sport management in college.

“It’s a relief and a weight off my shoulders, it’s good that it’s done,” he says of the exams.

“It went well. I was doing eight subjects. I was happy enough with it.”

With his schoolwork finished, Lyons can now focus primarily on football in the coming weeks.

He was recently named in Tom Mohan’s Ireland training squad and is expected to feature at the U19 Euros next month, with the Boys in Green the only one of the eight teams to have qualified for the competition with a 100% record.

Despite international commitments that saw him train at the national team’s base in Abbotstown during the week, Lyons is also available for club duty tonight, as Bohs travel to face Waterford.

The youngster is widely considered one of the most promising youngsters in the League of Ireland, having captained Bohs’ successful U19s side that competed in the underage equivalent of the Champions League.

Last November, he went on trial at Wolves, and the prospect of English football remains a possibility, but for now, he is focusing on the short term.

“Time will tell, really. At this stage, I’m just concentrating on Bohs and Ireland as well, and then whatever happens after that happens. I’m staying here with Bohs, I’ll be going to college, but if there is interest from the UK, we’ll have to see what happens.”

Lyons admits though that he was a tad distracted while doing exams, with thoughts of the Dublin derby hard to ignore.

It was a bit mad, to be honest with you. Thankfully, I didn’t have an exam that day, so it wasn’t too bad, but I had Business the previous day and I was sitting in the Business exam thinking ‘I have a derby tomorrow’. It was trying to write about business, but I had that going around in my head. But no, it was an unbelievable win [against Rovers] and you saw what it means to the fans.”

And while focusing on the Leaving Cert was not always easy, Lyons recognises its long-term importance in helping him adapt to life outside of football.

“I’m grateful, because I don’t know what I’d do with myself if I didn’t have something to do during the day, because we train at night. Having school there was a good thing, because I could go to training from school every day. In that way, it’s very important. You see a lot of the lads coming back [from England] and a lot of them don’t have Leaving Certs. In the modern day, it’s very important to get your education done for life after football.”

His school, Blackrock College, is better known for producing rugby stars rather than footballers, with Brian O’Driscoll, Leo Cullen, Luke Fitzgerald and Garry Ringrose — who Lyons was recently honoured alongside during a Sports Day – among its past pupils.

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Should Lyons progress to the Ireland senior ranks, however, he would not be the first Blackrock student to play at that level, with former Ipswich and Rotherham striker Alan Lee having represented the Boys in Green 10 times between 2003 and 2006.

“It’s a bit of a weird one as the school is obviously renowned for its rugby stars coming out of the school.

But my best mates in the school take a massive interest now. They wouldn’t really know that many footballers, because they have come through Blackrock, which means they know rugby players.

“All of my friends now, Bohs is such a great club and they all come and watch me. Even if I’m not playing, they still come and watch the games because of the kind of club it is and the feeling of a Friday night match.

“By me playing, people have gained an interest in the League of Ireland that they wouldn’t have if I wasn’t there. They would normally be stuck with rugby all of the time. But watching League of Ireland, they have actually realised that they enjoy it. It’s a bit of a difference for them.”

One player Lyons’ mates and any Bohs fan will have particularly enjoyed watching of late is Danny Mandroiu. Having joined the club from Brighton prior to the start of the season, the 20-year-old has already scored six goals this season, including a few crackers, most notably the recent winner against Shamrock Rovers.

For us, it’s no major change really, as we see it day in, day out in training,” Lyons says. “He’s done it a few times this season, but I don’t think people [on the outside] knew what he was capable of. He showed it in the derby and there’s no bigger game to showcase it. I was right behind it and you’re thinking to yourself ‘wow, what a player’. But he does it every day in training. Just for the fans, the league and the whole country, it’s good they get to see how good a player he is.”

And for Lyons himself to be trusted by manager Keith Long in such a big game served as a significant confidence boost. The full-back and his fellow youngsters proceeded to repay the manager’s support, despite the team missing some important players for the clash.

“It all comes back to the gaffer having faith in us,” he adds. “From the last game against Rovers, the whole back four was missing and it changed. That’s the gaffer having faith in us, especially [Michael] Barker and Paddy Kirk. That faith was a big thing and the performance and result just made it extra sweet.”

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Paul Fennessy

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