'I'd use the word surreal' - How a Lucan teenager ended up involved in Liverpool's magical Champions League run
Liverpool's Irish defender Conor Masterson described his Champions League knock-out experiences as 'unreal', and the Kildare man believes he can force his way into consideration at the Premier League club, according to the younster's dad Ciaran.
Masterson, who has captained Ireland at underage level, was named on the bench in Liverpool's quarter-final clash with Manchester City at Anfield last month, and is travelling with the squad to the final in Kiev tomorrow night.
While the 19-year-old did not make it on the pitch against Manchester City, his selection even on the bench for such an important game was a huge show of faith from manager Jurgen Klopp.
It was not the only time Masterson has come close to making his first senior appearance for Liverpool, as he was also named on the bench for the club's Merseyside derby clash with Everton, and for their FA Cup tie with Exeter.
"The way we discussed it as a family was it was a culmination of seven or eight years at Liverpool," Ciaran told Independent.ie. "It had been a long journey and to have an opportunity to make the bench on such a big stage, it was basically dreamland."
While he is not expected to be named in the squad for tomorrow night's final, the former Lucan United defender will travel with the squad to watch the game in Kiev, as he did in the semi-final clash in Rome. Masterson's father Ciaran said simply travelling with the team for such a huge game was a learning experience.
"He's a Liverpool fan you have to remember," Ciaran explains. "Even if you're just a fan the experience is literally second to none. Even in Rome the fact he could access the pitch, it was unreal.
"Actually, I'd use the word surreal. You're a fan, you're standing with all the team in the photos, in the dressing room after the game taking it all in, digesting the atmosphere."
Masterson was also named on the bench for Liverpool's Premier League clash with local rivals Everton, and after the game exchanged jerseys with Ireland captain Seamus Coleman, and Ciaran says the Everton player is a huge source of inspiration for Conor.
"The simple fact that Seamus is not only an Irish player but is captain of the squad, he is a player that Conor looks up to," he added.
"Semaus has texted and encouraged Conor to keep progressing, and hopes that Conor will be in the national team with him in the future."
Being part of a Premier League team like Liverpool is a valuable learning experience for any young player, and Ciaran has nothing but praise for how the club is run.
"The way Conor describes it, being involved in the squads and being involved on match-day is fantastic, but the next day when you're training and people like Mo Salah, or Firmino, or Lallana put you on your rear-end in a session, you learn a lot about yourself," he said.
"The environment that Jurgen Klopp has created is second to none.
"He [Klopp] has spoken to Conor and has encouraged him. He said believe in yourself and you will get a chance."
However, both Conor and his father are under no illusions as to how difficult it is to break into the first team of one of Europe's elite clubs.
Look, you and I know the chances of [Conor breaking into the side] are very, very small," Ciaran acknowledges.
"But there is a chance, and you have to believe. Conor has come up through the ranks from playing for his club in Lucan all the way up to playing for Under-15's, 16's, 17's in Ireland believing that he can do it. And he does believe he can do it."