Tuesday 16 January 2018

Capital gains from Nolan's decision to snub Leicester

Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

AROUND Kilmacud Crokes they thought they had lost him. The Stillorgan club are a big outfit, but even they couldn't give Kevin Nolan what Leicester City or Blackburn Rovers were offering.

A talented soccer player, Nolan had been earmarked for a move cross-channel and was called back to Leicester for a second look. So impressed were they by Nolan on his first visit to Leicester, the indications were that he'd be offered a deal on his return. Even in Crokes' illustrious nursery he was a notable prospect, but they feared the worst and prepared accordingly until an unlikely schedule conflict threw the club a lifeline.

The second trial with Leicester clashed with a Leinster minor league game where he was due to play for Dublin. There wasn't much agonising over the decision which offered him life as a professional sportsman and potentially a very comfortable existence.

But he opted to stay home, and when he was drafted into the U-17 International Rules team, his mind turned completely to football. That decision would eventually lead him to a day like Sunday.

"I was closer to signing for Leicester than Blackburn. But when they wanted me to come over it clashed with a Dublin game and I went to that instead. I didn't really think too much about it to be honest."

Yesterday's equalising score was just the second of his career. The first one was pretty important too, when he pointed in extra-time against Wexford to open his account in a Dublin jersey.

"I watched (the point) last night in the Burlington. When it came to me, I had one thing on my mind and I just followed through and kept the head down. I was delighted because the lads had done really well to get us back into the game. We kept fighting hard for it and didn't give up and then when Stephen came up to take that last free, I knew he was going to finish the job. He's a very good striker of the ball and you'd have total confidence in him."

Soccer wasn't the only code to show interest in him. The Crokes' man was also linked with the switch to the AFL when player agent Ricky Nixon invited him to one of the training camps held here, but Nolan insists he never truly considered life in Australia.

"I think there was just some interest there in lads of a certain age and I suppose I was around the right age at the time. At that stage, I was involved with Dublin under Pillar (Paul Caffrey), too, so I don't think it was ever going to be a runner for me even if anything had come out of it."

He can't hang around long. As the man-of-the-match in the All-Ireland final there are serious demands on his time.

He heads around Temple Street Children's Hospital to spread some joy -- it's something he'll have to get used to this winter.

But it could have been very different. Had he plumped for Leicester he might have been preparing for a Carling Cup clash away to Cardiff tomorrow night instead.

"I wanted to go and play for Dublin and that was my choice. I can't say I regret it for even one minute. The whole experience has been fantastic. It's just unbelievable. It's worked out okay for me to be fair," he laughed.

Irish Independent

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