Sunday 18 August 2019

'An unbelievable day' - Getting to know Irish teen Mark Travers after superb man of the match performance on debut

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - MAY 04: Mark Travers of Bournemouth rolls the ball out during the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Tottenham Hotspur at Vitality Stadium on May 04, 2019 in Bournemouth, United Kingdom. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - MAY 04: Mark Travers of Bournemouth rolls the ball out during the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Tottenham Hotspur at Vitality Stadium on May 04, 2019 in Bournemouth, United Kingdom. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Irish teenager Mark Travers made a hugely impressive Premier League debut for Bournemouth on Saturday, as his rapid rise to prominence in 2019 continues to gather momentum.

The 19-year-old who was named in Mick McCarthy's Ireland squad for the Euro 2020 qualifiers against Gibraltar and Georgia in March and now he is a  Premier League performer, after turning in a fine display in an incident-packed game at the Vitality Stadium that was won by a late header from Bournemouth's Nathan Ake.

With Tottenham reduced to nine men after Son Heung-Min and Juan Foyth were sent off either side of half-time, Travers had little to do in the second half as he preserved a clean sheet and secured the man of the match award on his debut.

It is a flying start in the Premier League for a youngster who could be a contender to be Bournemouth's regular keeper next season with the experienced duo of Asmir Begovic and Arter Boruc expected to move on, Travers gave an insight into his background as he met the Irish media in March.

"I grew up in Maynooth and went to school in Kilcloone," he reflected. "I didn't play much GAA, mostly golf and soccer. I started at Confey, then Lucan to U16s. Then Cherry Orchard for a season, Shamrock Rovers for six months.

"To be honest, it started on the green in my estate. I was always the first to go in goals when we had matches. I just loved diving around in the muck, but my Mam didn't!

"I just loved diving around, saving all the goals. That's why everyone watches football, isn't it? To see all the goals. But me stopping them is a different feeling.

"I was a Chelsea fan as a kid so Petr Cech was one of the best around at the time, he was probably one of my ," said Travers.

"I'd been going on trial since I was 15 or 16 to Crystal Palace, Sheffield United, Preston. There were a few more offers at the end of that Cherry Orchard stint but I decided to stay for the extra year and join Shamrock Rovers. Thankfully, it was the right decision."

Travers made his mark against Tottenham as he pulled off four stunning first-half saves to deny the Tottenham duo of Dele Alli and Lucas Moura, as he was the obvious pick for the man of the match award.

"It was an unbelievable day for me," he said after the game. "I've worked so hard for that and the manager called me in yesterday morning to tell me I'm playing.

"The first save I had (from Dele Alli) was unbelievable and I'll always remember that one. To come away with the three points against such a great team like Tottenham is fantastic."

Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe also paid tribute to Travers, as he admitted his teenage keeper was vital to his side's win.

"We were indebted to our keeper in the first half of this game," stated Howe. "We rate him very highly. He's a great character and he’s got a great attitude. He's a very good goalkeeper with huge potential. Mark was fantastic for us and we knew he was ready for this level."

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