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Dublin: 9 °C Sunday 9 August, 2020

'I found it difficult leaving my family and all my friends, but it's really went well for me'

Ireland U17 captain Seamas Keogh on a big 12 months that has seen him make the move to England.

Seamas Keogh pictured at the Uefa European U17 Championship Finals Draw on Thursday.
Seamas Keogh pictured at the Uefa European U17 Championship Finals Draw on Thursday.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

SEAMAS KEOGH MAY only be 17, but the talented youngster has already made some significant strides in football.

Hailing from Sligo, within the space of a few years, he has gone from local side Benbulben FC to Sligo Rovers’ youth set-up, before linking up with Premier League outfit Southampton’s academy last July.

“The move was on the cards for quite a while and the club are happy with the agreement made,” Sligo Head of Youth Development Danny O’Leary said, after the transfer was announced. “While we are sorry to lose him as a Sligo Rovers player, a Premier League academy is a chance for Seamas to continue his growth as a player and we respect that.

“His attitude and commitment have been second to none. As he moves over, we offer our very best wishes to Seamas.”

The young midfielder is set to experience another proud moment next month, as he captains Ireland during their hosting of the European U17 Championships.

Colin O’Brien’s side face Greece in Tallaght Stadium on 3 May, before playing Czech Republic in Waterford Regional Sports Centre on 6 May, in addition to their final game back at Shamrock Rovers’ home ground three days later against Belgium.

They have already played the Czechs and the Belgians in friendlies in recent months, losing 2-1 to the latter and 3-2 against the former, and suffering defeats in five out of eight matches in total since the last Euros, albeit some of which came against sides of the calibre of England and Germany.

Nevertheless, while there is room for improvement in the team if recent form is anything to go by, Keogh is retaining a positive outlook ahead of the tournament.

“We’re really looking forward to it. To play in Ireland is such a big thing. We’re delighted it’s there,” he says.

It has been a whirlwind 12 months for the 17-year-old, who models his game on Jeff Hendrick and has also captained Ireland at U15 and U16 level.

This time last year, however, he was relatively under the radar, while learning his trade at the Showgrounds. Now, he counts Irish internationals Shane Long and Michael Obafemi among the people he can seek advice from

“Going into the league [with Sligo] was a big thing for me. I just came from a small club. I really enjoyed it, everyone was really welcoming and it was a great team to play for.

I played in the Kennedy Cup with Sligo-Leitrim in 2016 — it just went from there really. [Southampton] spotted me in a few other tournaments and I went over for a trial. It seemed to go well and down the line, here we are now.

“I just went into the Kennedy Cup trying to enjoy my football. I was lucky enough that I had a few good games and got a few good goals.”

As is the case with most Irish footballers who go away, adjusting to this transition was not easy. Homesickness was one issue, but overall, Keogh says the positives have outweighed the negatives. 

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“Obviously, it’s a big thing to leave your family and move to a different country and play football. But it’s always something that I’ve dreamed about. And to make your dream come true, it’s a great thing.

“I found it difficult leaving my family and all my friends, but it’s really went well for me. I got straight into it, everyone was really welcoming and made me feel at home.

“The facilities are exceptional, they’re world class. I’ve embraced that and am really enjoying stepping out on a football pitch every day, so it’s a great opportunity.

“I’ll train five times a week and play a game at the weekend if I’m selected [for Southampton's U18s]. Obviously, it’s a big step up from going two or three times a week [with Sligo]. It’s something that I love at the end of the day, playing football, it’s what a person my age wants to do, I’m really happy.”

Moving to England meant Keogh had to make certain sacrifices, such as not completing the Leaving Cert, though the player still receives education through his club.

It’s a big thing, but I’m lucky that Southampton have a great education set-up. We have two full days of education where we’ll do our sports science pre-tech course.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what it brings, but I’ve enjoyed it so far.” 

And as he prepares to lead Ireland out on home turf in front of family and friends next month, Keogh adds that the secret of his success is simply having fun.

“The main thing I’d say is just enjoy playing football. As long as you’re enjoying it, you’ll do well and succeed. So just enjoy your football and be happy.”

Gavan Casey and Ryan Bailey are joined by Bernard Jackman to look back on a thrilling weekend of European rugby on the latest episode of The42 Rugby Weekly:

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

Subscribe to our new podcast, The42 Rugby Weekly, here:

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Paul Fennessy

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