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Dublin: 4°C Tuesday 26 January 2021

'With football, there are no guarantees' - Jamie Lennon on his studies, the future, and working with Stephen Kenny

The Pat’s midielder talks to The42 ahead of tomorrow’s clash with Dundalk.

Jamie Lennon with Derry City's Gerardo Bruna.
Jamie Lennon with Derry City's Gerardo Bruna.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

JAMIE LENNON HAS weaved himself a safety net that he may never need to use. 

The 21-year-old Pat’s midfielder last week finished the final exams of his Geography and History degree at DCU, meaning he is now free to focus fully on his football having spent the last couple of months studying and writing theses on the history of public health and the present geopolitics of the Middle East. 

“I was always going to finish college”, Lennon tells The42.

“With football, there are no guarantees. It’s only a career for 10 years if you’re lucky, and there’s not always a lot of money in it. I was pretty good in school, and I always wanted to go to college and have a degree in the back pocket.”

As he has done so, he has remained a fixture of the Pat’s midfield, represented the Irish U21s and retained his place in the squad for the upcoming Toulon tournament. 

Lennon joined Pat’s U19s in 2016, having spent eight years in Shelbourne’s underage ranks. He made his senior debut in 2017, and last year made the most of midfield injuries to stake his claim for a starting berth in the first team. Halfway through the 2019 season, he’s still there. 

“Yeah, you realise quickly just how fast things move. When I first signed for Pat’s, I was hoping to train well, get used to the set-up and maybe get a game here and there.

“But when I broke in everything happened pretty quickly, getting called up [at international level] this year, playing in Europe, and still playing pretty regularly.

“God knows where I will be this time next year, anything can happen. I suppose it’s a good thing, it gives you motivation to work harder and maybe in a year’s time and I’ll be looking back to say I’m in a better place than I am now.” 

He is subject to interest from abroad, with clubs from Championship and League One travelling to Dublin to watch him this season. 

“From a young age it’s always been a big thing to go across”, says Lennon of his potentially following the well-worn path to the English leagues.

“I’ve always wanted to get my education out of the way, and mature as a player.

I would only go across if I felt I was at my best and if I was comfortable going, I wouldn’t go just for the sake of going over. If I was to go I’d want to go and play every week, and play at a good level.

“I don’t think about it too much, I don’t want to know who is looking at me, I want to focus on my own game.” 

That game is blossoming at the moment, with those around him at club and international level important. 

Exams brought stress and fatigue, but the principles of positivity preached – and enacted – at Pat’s were soothing. 

“The only way I play my best football is when I’m enjoying it, if I’m in bad humour or angry then it can affect my play. Once I’m enjoying it, that’s when the good things come and the good opportunities come, like an Ireland call-up.

“Even over the exam period. It’s your final exams, you want to do well and don’t want to go back and repeat in August, when you have Europe. It can affect your mood in training, when you’re tired and thinking, ‘Oh, I have to go and study after training’.

“Things like that can affect your mood so it’s all about keeping a positive mindset.

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“We all talk to each other. We are a close-knit group, the manager talks to us individually to make sure everything is okay, and we are allowed to give an opinion on how we want to train and how we want to play, and all that’s good.

“I can say ‘Exams are stressing me out’, and the lads will give me some advice.”

Having captained Stephen Kenny’s first U21 selection – a home-based XI against the Irish amateurs in February – he was on the bench for the first Euro qualifier against Luxembourg and will travel as a squad member to the upcoming Toulon tournament. 

Kenny calls it one of the most prestigious underage tournaments in the game, with Ireland drawn in a group with Mexico, China and Bahrain. 

Jamie Lennon with Stephen Kenny Lennon with Stephen Kenny at Irish U21 training in March. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Lennon sees the tournament as a further chance for the squad to bond and improve against quality opposition, and another chance to work with a manager with whom he has been highly impressed thus far. 

“You can see why he’s been so successful, I’ve seen first-hand what he’s like on the training ground. It is very infectious, his positive attitude towards football. I’ve really enjoyed the training.

“He is not a very negative manager, he wants to attack teams.

“Similar to how you see Dundalk play nowadays – dominating possession and pushing teams back – and he wants to bring that into our group.

“He wants us to believe in ourselves, that we are good enough to keep the ball against the top teams, like Italy and Sweden as are in our group. Things like that struck me straight away.”

More pressing is Friday’s meeting with that Dundalk team, who have been easing through the gears of late after a clunky start to the season.

Pat’s are improving themselves, and Tuesday’s win against Derry City has lifted them to fifth, one point form fourth place and a (conventional) chance to qualify for Europe.

“We can’t aim any lower than fourth at the moment”, says Lennon.

“We are picking up form, but I think there is a lot more in us and I don’t think we are at full pelt yet.” 

Gavan Casey is joined by Ryan Bailey and Andy Dunne to look ahead to Saturday’s Pro14 final, look at whether Joey Carbery’s move has paid off and Jack Conan talks about how his body is holding up.:

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Gavin Cooney

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