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'It wasn't a difficult decision' - Matt Everitt on picking Ireland over England

The talented winger has no ‘second thoughts’ as to where his international allegiance lies.

Matt Everitt (file pic).
Matt Everitt (file pic).
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

DUAL NATIONALITY HAS been a hot topic when it comes to international football and in particular in relation to Irish football of late.

A number of players have switched both to and from the Republic from underage to senior level.

Matt Everitt, the youngest player in the current Ireland U19 squad, was born in Surrey, but says he is fully committed to the Boys in Green, having made a debut off the bench for Tom Mohan’s side in Monday’s 1-1 draw with Norway.

One of six English-born players in the 20-man squad, he was one of three first-time call-ups, along with Andrew Omobamidele and Joe Hodge, all of whom were standouts for Ireland at the Euro U17 tournament earlier this summer.

Everitt was spotted playing for Brighton in the Hibernia Cup by an FAI representative a couple of years ago, and he has rarely booked since, qualifying through his Cork-born grandmother Theresa and racking up several appearances at U17 level, before graduating to the current set-up.

Ireland just gave me the call and I didn’t have any second thoughts,” he tells The42. “I wanted to play for them. I took the call-up and I had my first appearance against Norway in Prague in the back-end of the U15s season. It wasn’t a difficult decision.”

Everitt was introduced in the 61st minute against Norway with Ireland trailing by a goal, and contributed to an improved second-half performance that saw Mohan’s side emerge with a creditable result.

“A win would have been ideal, but I think the team put in a really good performance in the second half and the draw was deserved,” he says.

With as many as 15 players that were involved in qualifying absent for one reason or another, new players such as Everitt have had to learn fast in these new surroundings.

“First half, it did look very hot for the players on the pitch. The second half, the sun set a bit and I think everyone felt that, because we started to run with a bit more energy.”

His former u17 team-mate and the second youngest player in the squad after him having been born in September 2002, Hodge was particularly impressive in the group opener, scoring the crucial equaliser and cutting an assured figure for someone so young.

“I was very impressed,” Everitt adds of the Man City starlet. “No one deserved that goal more than him. Top-quality guy and top-quality footballer as well. He deserves to be in the starting line-up. And it’s not easy as a 16-year-old to be in the starting line-up for the U19s in the European Championship and he excelled in that position I thought.

“He’s quiet, but as you get closer to him, you understand him more and he’s just a really nice lad who treats people well.”

And between representing Ireland at the U17 and U19 Euros this summer, the pair haven’t got too much time to take it easy of late.

Me and Joe were both doing our GSCEs, so after the Euros, we had to do them. Then we had two weeks off. Then we came back into pre-season. We got the call-up for this tournament. So it’s been full-on.

“I was shocked when I got the call-up and buzzing obviously. I wasn’t expecting it at all.”

And for a number of the players involved, these U19 games are the biggest matches they have ever been involved in. Everitt, though, insists himself and his team-mates are not fazed by the prospect of playing in front of a national audience, with all their group matches being broadcast live on RTÉ2.

“We’re far away and we don’t see a lot of the hype around it. A lot of the boys are just focused on the game really. We didn’t realise how many people were watching until after, when we saw it on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and all that sort of stuff.

“I think it’s helped that we’ve been able to focus on the football.” 

At 16, Everitt may sound like an overnight sensation to those who don’t know him, but in reality, he has been toiling away for years already. He had his first training session at the age of three. By 10, he had joined Brentford’s academy. And when it shut down three years ago, the youngster moved to current club Brighton. He is living there in digs near the club’s training ground now, but undertakes the 40-minute drive home back to his parents’ house every weekend.

“It’s going well at Brighton. I’ve started my first year as a scholar now. I was still at school last year, I was with the U16s. I was with the U18s at the back-end of last season. With the 18s, we’ve finished the highest we ever have in the league.

“We had a decent season last year and I’m looking forward to seeing what this year brings now I’m gone full-time at the club.”

And as promising as the future looks, with Ireland just two games away from a potential European Championships semi-final spot, Everitt’s present is pretty exciting too.

Thursday, 18 July: Republic of Ireland v France, Banats Stadium, Yerevan, KO 18:00 (Irish Time) – Live on RTÉ2

Sunday, 21 July: Republic of Ireland v Czech Republic, Yerevan Football Academy Stadium, KO 18:00 (Irish Time) – Live on RTÉ2

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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