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‘I don’t think I failed’ – Ireland’s Conor Masterson on his Liverpool departure

The defender was told of his release by the Anfield club at the end of this season.

Conor Masterson pictured at the Ireland U21 training camp in Enfield.
Conor Masterson pictured at the Ireland U21 training camp in Enfield.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

IRELAND U21 INTERNATIONAL Conor Masterson is refusing to get too downhearted, after it emerged recently that he will released by Liverpool following the expiration of his contract.

Much has been expected of the 20-year-old Celbridge native ever since he joined the Reds as a teenager from local club Lucan United for a fee rumoured to be in the region of £1 million.

Masterson appeared to be making very good progress initially. He trained with the first team and even appeared on the bench on three occasions for Jurgen Klopp’s side.

However, injury problems saw him fall further back in the pecking order at Anfield and he ultimately was surplus to requirements at the club.

Stephen Kenny has backed him to recover from this setback, saying it is “no disgrace” to leave a club of Liverpool’s stature. And Masterson himself is optimistic that he can benefit from this new beginning.

“I was a little surprised [about the release], but I don’t think it’s the worst thing that could have happened to me in my career. I think I needed it, to be honest. I’m really looking forward to the next chapter.”

He can’t say who, but “a few” clubs are interested in his signature. English teams have been in touch, while the youngster says he would similarly be open to playing in the League of Ireland or somewhere else in Europe beyond Britain.

“I went over [to Liverpool] when I was 13, and I’m 20 going on 21 now, so seven years,” he adds. “I had some great experiences, I can’t complain. I supported them all my life. To be playing for the club I support has been an honour and a great achievement. I really enjoyed it.

“I spoke to [Jurgen Klopp] briefly, but not much. He just said ‘best of luck’ and stuff like that. I more spoke to the academy manager.

“Just by training with Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk, you’re just learning. You see little touches, little moves, how [Van Dijk] defends against a long ball. You learn little things that you wouldn’t think about before, because these are just top-class players.”

Masterson is looking to build on an encouraging start, as he formed a promising partnership with West Brom youngster Dara O’Shea, as Ireland U21s got their Euros campaign off to a winning start, beating Luxembourg 3-0 in Stephen Kenny’s first competitive game in charge.

We’re all so connected. We all get on. It’s just that Irish personality or lingo — it’s easy to warm to. I can’t say I don’t get on with anyone on the team and we just love meeting up with Ireland. Whereas I know some lads from England don’t even want to go for England. They just think it’s boring and don’t get on with anyone.”

On Thursday, Kenny’a side will face the Irish senior team, before travelling to the Toulon Tournament ahead of their first game against China on Monday in the Stade de Lattre-de-Tassigny, Aubagne.

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“That will be a great test, playing against Mick McCarthy’s team, top professionals. You have to look forward to it. Obviously you’re going to be a bit nervous, but that’s all part of it.”

Meanwhile, returning to the subject of Liverpool, Masterson says he has no regrets about the route he opted to take.

“I was 16 and moved over to Liverpool. I can’t say it was a bad experience, because I really enjoyed it and got a lot out of it.

“Other people are going the route of staying in the League of Ireland and then coming through, which I agree with as well.

“It’s really down to what the player feels himself and what he thinks he can benefit from the most. I wanted to go over and felt I could benefit from going over at a young age and going through the ranks. I wouldn’t look back and say I failed, because I don’t think I failed. I just think I needed a different pathway, the next chapter, because there’s no point sitting in the 23s and waiting for your chance — it’s unlikely it’s going to come playing 23s football. So I think I need to prove myself by going out and playing men’s football, and showing people what I can do.

“[Moving to Liverpool] is a big sacrifice, but you just love football and you live and breathe it. That’s what you want to do, so I just said I want to do it. I don’t want to say you have to go, but I wanted to go. I think it’s the best decision I could make and it’s only going to stand to me.

Liverpool were great with me. I was flying over and back when I was younger. I co-ordinated with my school in Ireland and England, and it was just they had it down to a tee. I did all my Junior Cert and went on to do my GCSEs. Then I went on to do B-Tech Sport with Liverpool. I can’t complain how they dealt with it. Education-wise, you won’t miss out.”

On the decision to leave, he continues: “In senior football, you’re fighting for three points. It means something, whereas in 23s football, it doesn’t really mean anything. It’s just like a challenge match. I wanted to move on, fight for my career, fight for points, lives are basically on the line in senior football. So that’s what I wanted to move on to.”

Gavan Casey is joined by Murray Kinsella and Sean Farrell for a review of the 2018/19 season, and cast an eye forward to next year and the Rugby World Cup in Japan.:


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Paul Fennessy

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