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'He still uses my toothpaste' - The rise of Brady and Hendrick from schoolboy team-mates to Euro 2016

Friends since they were six years of age at St Kevin’s Boys, the pair are now starring at a European championships with Ireland.

Republic of Ireland - UEFA Euro 2016 - Media Activity - June 15th Brady and Hendrick spoke to the media today. Source: Chris Radburn

- Ben Blake reports from Versailles 

WHEN JEFF HENDRICK lined out in front of Robbie Brady for Monday’s Euro 2016 draw with Sweden, it was the latest in a long list of milestones they have achieved together.

Occupying the left-hand side of the pitch for Ireland, with Brady at full-back and Hendrick in midfield, the pair produced stand-out performances on their debuts at a major tournament as the Boys in Green earned a hard-fought point

While Brady was strong in the tackle and dangerous going forward, Hendrick created a hatful of chances for himself and was only kept out by a combination of opposing goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson and the crossbar.

The Dubliners, both 24 and born 17 days apart, know each better than most as they came through the ranks at schoolboy level with St Kevin’s Boys before earning moves to England as teenagers — Brady was signed by Manchester United and Hendrick headed for Derby County.

Republic of Ireland v Sweden - UEFA Euro 2016 - Group E - Stade de France Brady (second in from left, front row) and Hendrick (second in from right, front row) lining out at the Stade de France on Monday. Source: Chris Radburn

They also played together for Ireland at every age group from U15s up to U21s before breaking into the senior team and becoming key players for Martin O’Neill in the recent qualifying campaign.

“It’s been incredible,” said Brady. “It’s a long road and we have been lucky enough to do it together. We were speaking about it throughout the qualifiers.

“We were picking up late results and it looked like we were giving ourselves a chance in the qualifiers, and I just spoke to Jeff about it and said how big a deal it would be if we managed to get here, and to play together on the big stage was unbelievable.

“It was a great moment for the both of us.”

Screenshot 2016-06-15 at 18.38.39 Brady (third in from right, back row) and Hendrick (second in from right, front row) with St Kevin's Boys U13s in 2005. Source: skbfc.yourclub.ie

The friends first met when Hendrick joined famous Dublin Districts Schoolboy League (DDSL) outfit Kevin’s, where Brady was already being developed.

“I think we were about six or seven years old at our club, St Kevin’s Boys, back home in Dublin,” tells Brady. “Jeff came in at that stage and we have gone on from there.

We have played in every team possible from then on at international level all the way up to senior.

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“It’s not everyday something like that happens, so with Jeff a good mate of mine, to be able to play on the big stage with him was excellent.”

Hendrick comes in: ”We have roomed together every trip except for this, when we have had our own. The first day we came in, it was a bit different. We were used to being in the room having a chat.

“We grew up close enough to each other, so we know a lot of the same people as well. We have a lot to talk about, so not rooming together now was a bit different. But he still wanders in, uses the toothpaste and all.”

Jeff Hendrick Hendrick during his days with Ireland's U19s. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

There is an air of positivity around the Ireland camp after the Swedish performance, but Derby midfielder Hendrick knows that Belgium and Italy will pose even bigger threats.

“We have got to take some confidence from that game, the way we played,” says Hendrick. “We were unlucky not to get the three points. On another day, we would have, so we have got to take the positives in and make sure we are ready for the game.

“Even though they were beaten, it’s still going to be a really tough game – but hopefully they’re thinking the same looking at us.”

Robert Brady on the attack Brady in action against France for Ireland's U17s in 2008. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Brady has made the left-back position his own over the past year but, with Jon Walters ruled out though injury, pushing him into midfield and bringing in Stephen Ward is an option O’Neill may consider.

The Norwich City man, who has been linked with a summer transfer to Premier League champions Leicester City today, would be happy to do a job further forward but says he has grown into his new role.

“I’d say I am a bit more comfortable there than 18 months ago,” says Brady. “I am still learning – you learn every game you play. I have played another full season at left-back this season, so I feel as if I know the position a bit better than I did, say 18 months or two years ago.

But I feel more than comfortable playing there now. I am really enjoying it.”

Manchester City attacker Kevin De Bruyne started on the right against Italy but Brady could also find himself up against Chalsea’s Eden Hazard or Yannick Carrasco of Atletico Madrid as the Belgians possess a wealth of talent.

“I know what type of players they Belgians have,” he adds. “They have got some top class players and it will be my job to stop whoever I come up against and I am looking forward to the challenge.”

Listen to The42′s Ben Blake on the 98FM Euro 2016 Daily podcast throughout the tournament 

‘Individually, Belgium are as talented as any side in the competition’ – O’Neill prepares for life without Walters

Analysis: The 24 minutes that cost Ireland against Sweden

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Ben Blake

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