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Adaramola emergence shows cynics shouldn't judge a book by its cover

Dublin teenager has made his Crystal Palace first-team debut in the FA Cup this season after biding time in the shadows as a schoolboy

THE COLOURS THAT mattered most to some at St Kevin’s Boys did not include the famous orange of the Dublin schoolboy club.

Instead, it was red, blue, and yellow that certain players and parents involved felt would define their future in the game.

Even from as young as seven.

“That is how we separated the different kids in the same age group but who were at different ability levels,” coach Mark Keenan explains. “There would be so many kids and we would have different teams for them in line with where they were at that stage in their development.”

For St Kevin’s, the red team were the Firsts, blues were Seconds and yellows the Thirds.

Tayo Daniel Adaramola has already featured in the red and blue of Crystal Palace during their FA Cup exploits this season, but he never made it beyond the yellow grade during his three years with St Kevin’s from Under-9s to 11s.

imago-20211003 Patrick Vieira has included Adaramola in his first-team plans. Source: Imago/PA Images

Not that it mattered a jot to him or his parents, father Remi and mother Kemi, before they left Dublin to join their extended family in London, a move which would open bigger doors to professional football.

“All that mattered to them was that Daniel was happy and enjoying playing the game with friends,” Keenan, the Palace and Republic of Ireland Under-19 international’s former mentor, recalls. “It’s not always like that.”

Adaramola has played twice for Patrick Vieria’s side this season, both appearances in the FA Cup. He came off the bench against Hartlepool United before starting the victory over Stoke City, with a taste of the Premier League as an unused substitute for the 1-0 defeat to Chelsea sandwiched in between.

He started for the club’s Under-23s yesterday so is unlikely to be part of their squad for the sixth round meeting with Everton today, yet his status as a first-teamer, granted the No.45 shirt by Vieira, has not led to a change in attitude.

“He is one of the nicest lads here,” a Palace source adds. “He loves football, you can tell he does. He has been around the first team but when he might be needed with the 23s he still works hard, he still enjoys it. He’s not thinking he’s too good for it or shouldn’t be there. His attitude is an example to follow.”

On the face of it, Adaramola’s story might appear to be one of those grim tales of a young life pushed down the route of professional football because of immense early ability.

Instead, scratch just a little deeper and it’s anything but. While he and his family did leave their home in Blanchardstown, west Dublin, for London before his teens, it was not at the behest of a Premier League giant who felt compelled to get ahead of a chasing pack.

crystal-palace-v-stoke-city-emirates-fa-cup-fifth-round-selhurst-park Adaramola (right, No.45) celebrates with teammates against Stoke in the FA Cup. Source: PA

“There would be people at the club even then who wouldn’t have known who Daniel was,” Keenan, who refers to Adaramola by his middle name, admits.

There will be those who can speak of scenarios in the not-so-distant past of clubs in England enticing talent from these shores with inducements for parents, the chance to relocate to a new country with a job provided and a new life for the family.

The catch, of course, is that their son signs up and becomes part of the system long before their 16th birthday (a prerequisite in the pre-Brexit
age), where they must come through a relentless examination of talent and endurance to see if that early promise is vindicated.

This is not Adaramola’s story.

Still, his ties in somewhat with the dynamic shift in underage football here.

Adaramola’s earliest years with a ball at his feet were at his local side, St Mochta’s, a prominent schoolboy club in Dublin 15 which has up to 120 kids in its junior academy, aged between four and six – with a further 32 schoolboy teams and also a successful senior set-up.

rotherham-united-v-newcastle-united-pre-season-friendly-aesseal-new-york-stadium JJ Kayode, now with Rotherham United, also started playing with St Mochta's in west Dublin. Source: PA

His path was similar to other Mochta’s graduates. JJ Kayode, now with Rotherham United, started there, so too Derby County’s Cian Kelly Caprani and Stoke City’s David Okagbue, but it is the latest prospect to depart the club that hints at what the future holds.

Darius Lipsiuc received his earliest football education in their junior academy, progressing through the DDSL path before joining St Patrick’s Athletic to be part of the new National Leagues, a structure implemented by the FAI’s former high performance director Ruud Dokter.

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“That is the option now option to us,” Noel Crawford, a St Mochta’s stalwart, explains. “What Dokter’s plan has done is put all DDSL clubs on the same level. Kids no longer have to feel like they have to get to a so-called bigger club to then go somewhere else.

“We are defining our own pathways now and the playing field for schoolboy clubs has been levelled. The question to ask now is what do we want to be as a club? Will you be really, really strong until say Under-13s (start of National League), capable of bringing through the younger players ready to go through the National Leagues?”

stephen-kenny Ireland manager Stephen Kenny spoke positively about Adaramola on Friday. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

That debate is not of concern to Adaramola, of course, who visited Charlton when he first arrived in England but was still the raw, error-prone kid who left St Kevin’s at Under-11s.

“It was as if his feet moved quicker than his brain back then,” Keenan remembers. “He was only a child, so as he has got older everything has clearly developed.

The Premier team wouldn’t go near him cause he was not up to the standard, but for him and his parents it was just about playing football at whatever level and enjoying it. He never missed a training session or a match.

“He has been a late developer and it proves the point that you can never know where a kid will end up at 11, 12, 13, 14 years of age. There are so many variables in development. Now he is getting rewards but he always persevered.”

A six-month stint at West Ham United’s development group followed, and when that came to an end Adaramola’s journey with Palace began.

That eventually led to a call-up to the Ireland Under-17s and then 19s, by which point there had already been plenty of Irish influence on him in south London.

Coaches Paddy McCarthy and Stephen Rice, the latter now part of Stephen Kenny’s senior set-up, helped guide Adaramola.

“We’re well aware of Tayo but it’s a little too soon for us,” Kenny said on Friday when he named his squad for the upcoming friendlies with Belgium and Lithuania.

“He’s very, very quick and he’s doing really well [at Palace]. He’s very highly regarded.”

That wasn’t always the case, of course, but things are never as clear cut as red, blue and yellow.

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