Tuesday 17 July 2018

Tipperary teen Coffey looks to make his mark on Euro stage

Troy Parrott, left, celebrates with team-mate Barry Coffey
Troy Parrott, left, celebrates with team-mate Barry Coffey
Coffey: "You only get a small window of opportunity to go into professional football and I wanted to take it." Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

John Fallon

Given he wasn't even born then, Ireland U-17 midfielder Barry Coffey can be forgiven for admitting that he's not using the success of 20 years ago as inspiration for their European finals starting today.

Ireland are participating at the tournament for the third time in four years since UEFA doubled the number of finalists to 16, and they'll feature again in 2019 when the FAI finally get to host the showpiece.

Colin O'Brien's current batch, who kick off against Belgium this evening (5.45pm), are a fusion of those still underage from last season's intake which reached the quarter-finals and the backbone of an U-16 squad that won the Victory Shield.

All six survivors from the tilt in Croatia 12 months ago - Kameron Ledwidge, Nathan Collins, Kian Clarke, Tyriek Wright, Callum Thompson and Adam Idah - should start at Loughborough University but Celtic midfielder Coffey is also guaranteed a slot.

Others have pressed their claims for inclusion by flourishing in the second half of the season.

Ryan Cassidy's goalscoring exploits for Watford have earned him praise from club captain Troy Deeney while Adam O'Reilly has progressed to the first-team bench at Preston North End.

Then there's the excitement surrounding Troy Parrott, the Spurs striker possessing similar close control to his neighbour Wes Hoolahan.

Finals

Coffey got the nod in each of the six qualifiers O'Brien's side played to reach the finals in England.

That they won all six - averaging three goals per game - earned them a top seeding and they're fancied to progress from a pool that also includes Denmark and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

A talented hurler in his day with his local club in Nenagh, Barry took a different path to his brother Andrew by shunning the inter-county scene for a career in football.

"Hurling was huge in my town of Nenagh," he explained.

"My dad (Noel) won some titles for Nenagh, my sister (Maeve) plays camogie and Andrew captained Tipperary's U-21s last year before getting on the senior panel.

"I enjoyed playing hurling growing up and, even nowadays in Glasgow, I'd get the hurl out and have a puck around.

"For me, though, football was the game I fell in love with. You only get a small window of opportunity to go into professional football and I wanted to take it."

Bhoys boss Brendan Rodgers immersed himself in the hunt for a player that Chelsea also thought highly of. The Tipp teen excelled at a tournament in Holland that also featured Real Madrid.

"Playing in Europe against top teams was a great experience but Celtic was the club where I felt most at home," reasoned Coffey.

"I've been there a year now, the time has flown and thankfully there has been no problems with homesickness."

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