Coulter hits all the right notes between the sticks
REPRESENTING your country is a great honour, even if it means stumping up €2,000 to do so. That's the view of Ryan Coulter, who is in Belgrade preparing for Ireland's first football match on Tuesday in the World Student Games.
Ryan, a goalkeeper with Dundalk in the League of Ireland Premier Division, has famous footsteps to follow, as his father Phil Coulter was on the winning Eurovision team for the UK 42 years ago.
That Eurovision gig earned Phil a small fortune, but Ryan's ambitions are not as exalted.
"My ambition is to get a scholarship in the US," he said before departure last week. "I have had a few offers and I'm taking up one from the University of San Diego who have an Irish coach, Seamus McFadden, from Donegal, and an assistant coach, Brian Quinn, from Belfast. Dad thinks the Irish connection will help."
Ryan is part of an impressive all-Ireland squad in Belgrade, featuring players from a number of League of Ireland and Irish League clubs, but they each had to contribute €2,000, with the FAI providing €5,000 for each player and paying for the coaching staff.
"We'll play six matches," explained Ryan, "three group games against Italy, South Korea and Uruguay, and three more in which we play for placings, so I could be a very busy man."
Tall, dark and handsome, Ryan, 20, was born with that special 'madness' that sets goalkeepers apart: "I loved throwing myself around, even on the all-weather surfaces. And I have the scars to prove it."
He credits his coaches, Josh Moran and the late Austin Mullen, at St Joseph's Sallynoggin, for developing his skills, while his father, Phil, has been fully behind him in his football career.
"I used to play the piano, but once I got into the football that was it, and I was never forced to play. I bought a guitar last year because I like the sound of it but I haven't had the time to get beyond a few chords."
Ryan, who leaves for San Diego on August 5, intends to study communications and marketing and hopes to remain in sport when his playing career ends.
While he will miss his family, he sees the move abroad as "a small sacrifice for something that could come good". Besides, his father's show, Celtic Thunder, is due in San Diego, and a special set of drums for that show were sourced to a drum-maker there, so Ryan is already looking forward to a family reunion when the show hits town.
In the meantime, there's the World Student Games to test his attention span.