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Like father like son

IRISH FOOTBALL'S gene pool has come up with another gem as Bury goalkeeper Ritchie Branagan is following in the footsteps of his dad, Keith, by getting his first Ireland call-up.

Irish U21 boss Noel King has this week named a 19-man squad for a friendly away to Cyprus next month and among the batch of uncapped players is Bury player Ritchie.

The 19-year-old has broken into the first team this season and has made three appearances for the League Two side -- leading the Irish call-up.

His dad was a Premier League regular with Bolton and was capped once at senior level by Mick McCarthy in 1997 and now Ritchie has taken the first steps towards an international career.

"We have hard good things about Ritchie and as the Cyprus game next month is a friendly it's a good chance for us to get some new players in and have a look at them," U21 boss Noel King said today.

"I had seen some reports about him and I was lucky that when I went over to see him and speak to him, he got to play for Bury. He made his debut for them in October and has played a few games since then.


"It's a very good sign that he's playing first team football at such a young age. It's very hard for keepers to get first team games in their teens so the fact that Bury have played him shows that they rate him highly.

"It's early in his career and we don't want to put too much pressure on him but it's good that we can bring him in, see him in training and then hopefully get to watch him in the game against Cyprus," added King.

The fact that Ritchie is now able to play for Ireland at U21 level will make some Irish fans -- who remember his dad playing -- feel very old but it's following the trend of sons adopting some of the footballing genes from their famous dads.

Irish legends like Packie Bonner, Chris Hughton and Paul McGrath watched with pride as their sons went on to play underage international football for Ireland while in the last 18 months Bolton Wanderers player Liam Irwin -- son of Denis -- has started to make good progress at club level and Liam also won his first international cap for the Irish U19s against Ukraine last August.