Festy embarks on Derby dream
Pádraig Byrne looks at the career of Enniscorthy player Festy Ebosele as he aims for soccer stardom
Over the years, many fine players have graced the pitch at Bellefield, the home of Moyne Rangers. But in recent times, few have garnered the same levels of praise as young Festy Ebosele.
Having completely stood out in the Wexford League at under-12 and under-13 levels with some stellar performances, Festy progressed to St Joseph's Schoolboys in Sallynoggin, before making the step up to Bray Wanderers. However, last week it was confirmed that the 16-year-old from Cluain Buí, Enniscorthy, had put pen to paper on a three-year deal with Derby County.
While Derby narrowly missed out on promotion to the Premier League for this campaign, losing out in the play-offs to Fulham, the Championship club has big aspirations of making the leap back to the top flight. However, Festy remains undaunted by the club's stature and hopes to force his way from the youth setup into the first team over the next three years. While most lads his age are imitating Frank Lampard on muddy pitches, Festy will be hoping to force his way into the Chelsea legend's plans for the Derby team as he aims to restore them to the promised land of the Premier League.
'This has been going on for about a year,' said Festy's father Fustas. 'They had scouts at the games to watch him and they followed his progress. Then there was a lot of things to be agreed. He used transition year to travel over and back and settle in and now he loves it. There is no problem.'
A keen footballer himself, Fustas moved to Ireland from Nigeria and swapped the hustle and bustle of Dublin for the quiet life in Enniscorthy back in 2000. While he always enjoyed soccer, he's reluctant to take any credit for any of his son's passion and ability.
'It was his own interest really,' he said. 'He tried out different sports before deciding to concentrate on soccer and saying that this was what he wanted to do. He has always been football mad since he first started playing the Moyne Rangers when he was around eight.'
From that early age, Festy began to shine and stand-out on the football pitch as a real talent. Former manager and Moyne Rangers chairman Kevin Lawlor says it's no surprise Festy has earned a big break.
'He played under-12 and under-13 with us and he did stand out,' he said. 'I had the privilege of managing him myself and I remember the last game he played for us was a cup final against Gorey Rangers. He was absolutely outstanding. He scored a hat-trick and we won 4-1. He was unplayable. Some of the local reporters said it was the finest schoolboy performance they had ever seen!'
As part of the deal with Derby County, the Enniscorthy club will be due some compensation for helping to develop Festy's talent; a talent which has seen him represent Ireland at under-15 and under-16 level. Kevin says he was an absolute joy to work with. 'He's a lovely lad,' he said. 'He's got speed, he's got skill, he's got the lot. We used to play him in midfield, but he's added a lot of goals to his game and is scoring quite freely. I'm delighted for him. Derby seem to have very high hopes for him so hopefully he can progress even further.'
In terms of that progress the first step is to capture the attention of manager Frank Lampard. 'Hopefully he can start to break into the first team,' said proud father Fustas. 'He is working hard and now he has a three year contract, so hopefully he will get his chance.'