Delight as Kian (16) signs three-year Reading contract
One of Ireland's hottest young prospects will swap Ardee for the professional soccer world this summer after penning a three-year deal with Reading on Monday.
Kian Leavy, 16, has been attracting cross-channel interest since the tender age of 10, with Manchester United, Manchester City, Celtic and Tottenham Hotspur amongst the classy attacker's many admirers.
He trained regularly at United's academy in Lisburn and just last year he played with the Red Devils at the Milk Cup in Coleraine, but while Reading's interest was more recent, the Championship club proved to be an instant hit with the Ardee CS student.
The 'family atmosphere' at Hogwood Park, and their reputation for blooding young talent won over Kian and his parents, Mark and Jillian.
'Reading only got on to us in January or February this year, but when he went over he loved it straight away,'dad Mark reveals.
'It was the little things like just sitting down to eat with the first team players or an arm around the shoulder from the likes of Paul McShane - they made him feel so welcome.
'Paul took him under his wing and John O'Shea and David Meyler have just signed too.'
Mark was a talented and pacey GAA and soccer player in his own right, lining out for St Mary's and Dundalk Young Irelands, and Kian shouldn't be found wanting in the stamina stakes either, as his mam Jillian (nee Brennan) ran for Ireland and Dunleer AC.
Capped at U15 and U16 level, Kian has been described as an old-fashioned number 10. After starting out with Drogheda Town under-8s his progress was rapid, as he moved on to Drogheda Boys, Shelbourne and St Kevin's.
He played for DDSL representative squads under Ger O'Brien and it was the former League of Ireland star who oversaw the next phase of Kian's development at St Francis, and more recently at St Patrick's Athletic.
Mark paid tribute to O'Brien and everyone at St Pat's for their youth development work and it was the same kind of qualities that attracted Kian to Reading.
'They brought through five first-team players last year and when you ask yourself what's the endgame here, that has to be a big consideration.
The likes of United and City sign players from all over the world and when they need a number 10 they're not necessarily going to be looking to their academy.'
Despite arriving late to the party, Reading were quick to offer Kian a deal, a three-year contract with the option of a fourth, but the timing was also crucial, according to Mark.
'Kian's quite bright and he did well in his Junior Cert. He's just finishing transition year so once he started into the Leaving Cert cycle he would have been staying in Ireland until he finished the Leaving.
'Reading took that on board and made the offer and they've arranged for him to take three 'A' Levels. He knows as well as anyone that there are no guarantees in professional football so that was very important,' Mark added.