18 and in the first team, Heaney shows Rovers' Plan B in action

The 18-year-old won a penalty and scored the winner against Bray Wanderers on Monday night.

Heaney: Monday's win over Bray was his home debut for Rovers' senior side.
Heaney: Monday's win over Bray was his home debut for Rovers' senior side.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

WHEN SHAMROCK ROVERS launched a second team back in December, many felt it would give the Tallaght club an unfair advantage.

Club chairman Jonathan Roche said at the time that the Rovers ‘B’ team would act as a “pathway’ for younger players to push their way into the first team, and that other clubs should be doing the same.

On Monday night in Tallaght Stadium, that pathway led 18-year-old Sean Heaney to his home debut, and the defender wasted no time in making an impact – winning a penalty, and then scoring what would be the winner for the Hoops.

Heaney made his senior debut in the Setanta Cup semi-final second leg defeat away to Dundalk, and then followed up that appearance with another in Dundalk on Good Friday.

With Luke Byrne having to sit out recent games due to his red card in the 1-0 defeat to St Patrick’s Athletic, Heaney has deputised and impressed Rovers boss Trevor Croly.

Speaking after his side’s 2-1 win over Bray Wanderers on Monday evening, he expressed his delight at the youngster’s progression and said there is plenty more talent in Rovers’ First Division and U19 squads.

Croly said: “He’s a great lad. He’s been with us since last year and trained and been with the first team.

“He probably would have made his debut a little bit quicker to be honest but for his Leaving Cert so we had to give him some time and manoeuvre things around that, but it is great for him.

John Mountney with Sean Heaney Settling in: Heaney has taken advantage of Luke Byrne's suspension. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“He’s in the Irish U19 team and he’s gearing up towards a great career. He can play centre-half, on the left side, and he’s really, really comfortable on the ball as you’ve seen.

“That’s what we want to do as part of the First Division plan the club have put in place.

We’ve put structures in place that we can have the best players and develop them because there is no doubt that working with Colin (Hawkins) in the First Division has helped him.

“It has made that gap coming from the U19 side into the First Division easier and it has definitely made it easier for me to judge his progress.

“Every time he has had to step up, he has stepped up with ease.”

Although many commentators had their criticisms of Rovers launching a second team, the initial signs appear to be very positive.

With talent like Heaney in their ranks, the production line looks like it will become very fruitful for the Tallaght club.

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Simon Walsh

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