The Park's pride for Jesse


YOUNG Park star Jesse Stafford Lacey has been called up to the Irish Under 15 squad for the Quatar Tournament in Doha later this month.

The fourteen year old Ardfert youngster will be part of Irish boss Niall Harrison's squad, which will play two fixtures against the Aspire Academy.

The news that the promising attacking midfielder was in the squad was greeted with enthusiasm in Christy Leahy Park this week according to St Brendans Park club chairman Colm McLoughlin.

"The atmosphere was great [when we heard] and all his team mates in the Under 15 / Under 16 squads were congratulating him and are very proud of him. They know the work he's put into it. It's been absolutely fabulous," he commented.

"We're thrilled for a lad like Jesse who's been in our academy since Under 6s and to see him work his way up all along. We're especially thrilled for himself and his family and for the club and for Kerry schoolboy soccer to see that Jesse's work ethic has played off so much.

"It just goes to prove that any lad if he works hard can achieve. It's great to see him make it to the Irish international squad."

Interestingly Stafford Lacey is the first player from the Park to have been capped at schoolboy level for the Republic, even if former player Darren Dennehy did make the breakthrough cross channel in recent years.

Padraig Harnett, the secretary / PRO of the Kerry Schoolboys / girls league, feels that this latest call up for a Kerry player to an Irish squad proves that the structures in place for soccer development in the Kingdom are working.

"The league is delighted that another player has gotten the chance to wear the Irish jersey. He has come thorugh our academy and emerging talent programmes and it just proves that you can make the green jersey from Kerry. You don't need to go to Dublin any more," he commented.

Stafford Lacey, who is presently coached at the Park by Graham O'Sullivan and David McGee, has been one of the leading lights of the Kerry schoolboy league in recent seasons, playing in a variety of midfield positions.

"He's the kind of player that can adapt to any position in midfield," McLoughlin said.

"Especially as an attacking midfielder. He's scored goals in a lot of the trials. The Irish Under 15 coach Niall Harrision has been particularly impressed with him, hence his selection on the team."

His selection on the team and his participation in the Quatar Tournament could open some pretty big doors for the young Kerry man, McLoughlin explains.

"This is a tournament that a lot of scouts would be looking at players of that age and especially for across the water and Premiership or Championship they send a lot of scouts to tournaments like this.

"Jesse's age is just the right age for a young lad to be going across channel to ply his trade at a higher level again," he said.

With the Park winning last year's Premier A senior league, with the senior side making progress in the Munster Champions League and with this latest piece of good news things are certainly moving in the right direction for the Tralee outfit.

Lacey's selection can only mean good things, McLouglin says.

"It sets a target, sets a precedent, for lads coming through that this is what they can achieve."