Wednesday 26 October 2016

Meet the 10 most influential Irish teens

As Time magazine names its young up-and-comers, we take a look at the best of our homegrown talent

Published 12/11/2015 | 02:30

Jack Byrne in action against Albert Reyes Roig of Andorra in the qualifying match for the UEFA U21 Championships 2017
Jack Byrne in action against Albert Reyes Roig of Andorra in the qualifying match for the UEFA U21 Championships 2017
Walking the walk: Clara McSweeney was signed by IMG models, the agency which represents Kate Moss and Giselle, aged 18.
Joanne O'Riordan
Conor Clinch
Jordan Casey
Gearoid Solan, ballerino (bottom left)
Soak - Monds Watson.
Sky's the limit: 'Moone Boy' star David Rawle.
Zena Donnelly

Malia Obama, Jaden Smith and Hunger Games star Amanda Stenberg were among those featured in Time Magazine's recent list of the 30 most influential teens of 2015.

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No Irish were included on the prestigious countdown. But just a year earlier, Kinsale, Co Cork secondary students Ciara Judge, Emer Hickey and Sophie Healy-Thow, were selected by Time after placing first in the Google Science Fair with their discovery of a bacteria that could help increase crop yields.

Yet while teens from Ireland were overlooked on this occasion, it is beyond dispute that young people here are more confident than ever and prepared to conquer the world on their own terms.

The stereotype of the timid, cosseted Millennial, wrapped in cotton wool through childhood and singularly unprepared for the big, bad universe at the end of the driveway, would seem to be entirely without foundation.

After all, Saoirse Ronan and One Direction's Niall Horan were still in their teens when they achieved international fame, while Limerick's Collison brothers, creators of the Stripe online payment platform, became Silicon Valley millionaires aged 19 and 17.

Unlike previous generations of Irish people, modern teenagers are growing up full of self-belief and unembarrassed about their ambitions. Which is surely as it should be. Here are 10 Irish teens who have already made their mark.

David Rawle, actor


The Roscommon-set comedy Moone Boy was created as a vehicle for quirky comic Chris O'Dowd. But the true star of the series, which this year completed season three on Sky, is arguably Rawle (15), whose dead-pan acting provided many of the show's funniest moments.

Nominated for Best Breakthrough Actor at the 2012 British Comedy Awards, he also voiced the main character in Oscar-shortlisted animation Song Of The Sea - another subtle performance that enriched the movie without calling undue attention to Rawle.

Jack Byrne, soccer player


19-year old Dubliner Byrne joined Manchester City's underage academy in 2011 and is regarded as one of the British club's brightest young talents. No less a figure than Roy Keane has tipped the midfielder to become a star after Byrne completed a successful year on loan with respected Dutch team SC Cambuur. Keane likened Byrne's success in the Netherlands to a young David Beckham's spell at Preston, before he became internationally famous with Manchester United. Success will be especially poignant for the Irish under-21 international who last summer signed a Manchester City contract extension eight years to the day after the sudden death of his father.

Jordan Casey, entrepreneur


It would be heaping too much pressure on the 15-year-old student at De La Salle Waterford to describe him as the Irish Mark Zuckerberg (who invented Facebook in his college dorm). But the self-effacing Casey already presides over an impressive technology mini empire. A self-taught programmer (his parents had no idea what he was up to in his bedroom) Casey was just 10 when his first game, Alien Ball Vs Humans, was accepted by Apple's App Store - the most important shop window in the world for mobile entertainment.

This made him the the youngest developer for the iPhone/iPad platform in Europe, an achievement on which he has continued to build. With Casey Games becoming a player in the mobile "space", in 2013 he was invited to address the prestigious TiEcon Summit in California. His future is so bright, it's a wonder he doesn't have to wear mirror-shades around the house.

Clara McSweeney, model


Model McSweeney had a bright start to 2015, when she signed with IMG Models the same agency representing Kate Moss. Discovered by modelling maven Andrea Roche as a 15-year-old in Mitchelstown, Co Cork, bright things await as she looks forward to her 19th birthday.

Based in New York, she is a lively presence on Instagram and Twitter and appears to have stayed grounded even as her career takes her into the modeling stratosphere.

Bridie Monds-Watson, singer


Recording under the stage-name 'Soak', Derry songwriter Monds-Watson (right) signed a record deal aged 16 and was shortlisted this year for the prestigious BBC Sound Of poll - a tip sheet of up-and-coming songwriting talent (previous winners include Sam Smith and Adele).

Still only 18, she is a finalist at this year's Mercury Music Prize for Best British or Irish LP, receiving a nomination for her quietly stunning first record Before We Forgot How To Dream. She has furthermore became a spokesperson for tolerance and equality, having spoken openly about her sexual orientation and her struggles fitting in at school in Derry.

Zena Donnelly, actress and singer


Donnelly (13) had her first taste of true fame singing The Greatest Love Of All with Whitney Houston on stage in Dublin in 2010. The schoolgirl, from Blackrock in Dublin, had already appeared on the Late Late Show and was soon a regular on TV commercials and in stage productions such as Annie. But her biggest breakthrough came with her casting in the movie A Christmas Star, due for release this month and starring Liam Neeson, Pierce Brosnan and Kylie Minogue. Zena has also featured in the kid's TV show Spooky Stakeout.

Gearóid Solan, ballet dancer


Solan is the first Irish male to be accepted at the Royal Ballet in London in over 30 years. The 15-year-old County Meath native studies at Castleknock College in Dublin, and discovered ballet after taking up gymnastics age six.

A member of the Irish National Youth Ballet from age nine, he practices 14 hours a week, at Celbridge School of Ballet, Co Kildare.

Recalling his acceptance he said, "My mum, Anne Marie, and I were both sitting at the computer. She was showing me some sort of video, and by accident she clicked into her email. And there was an email from the Royal Ballet School there. We looked at each other before we opened it together. We just read the first line, and she was over the moon."

Conor Clinch, photographer


It's just five years since Dubliner Clinch (19) took up photography "on a whim". He was bored, had a camera - why not give it a try? He quickly became one of the most buzzed-about young snappers in the fashion industry, working with Topman, British Vogue, Gap, and River Island and earning the praise of influential photographer Rankin. The native of Coolock has an instantly recognisable style - a striking mix of beautiful and haunting.

Joanne O'Riordan, disability rights campaigner


Named Young Person Of the Year 2012 (at the Rehab People of the Year Awards), the 19-year-old Co Cork native was born with Tetra-amelia syndrome, meaning she does not have limbs. She came to attention when she confronted Enda Kenny over cuts to funding for the disabled (a decision that was reversed).

She went on to address the United Nations in New York, outlining the ways in which technology could transform the lives of the disabled if only the required investment was forthcoming. Her brother, Steven, shot a documentary about Joanne, called No Limbs, No Limits, which was released last year.

The Strypes, rock band

A group award for the County Cavan retro-rock quartet, three of whom are in their teens. Having formed for a primary school Christmas concert, the outfit's vintage rock - augmented by Austin Powers-style retro fashion sense - has made them wildly beloved among the sort of music fans who feel it's all been downhill since Cream broke up.

As with many Irish bands who do well internationally, they were initially embraced in the UK, where there is always a ready market for musicians who sound as if they could have supported Eric Clapton in a dingy club in 67. It's a cliche The Strypes are happy to inhabit, although their second LP, Little Victories, did wink prominently in the direction of Arctic Monkeys.

Irish Independent

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