CIAN BOLGER, although he won't be 20 until March, is used to making big decisions -- and he could be faced with another one affecting his future before the end of the month.
Currently on loan from Leicester City to Bristol Rovers, who play AFC Totton in the second round of the FA Cup today, Bolger knows Rovers are keen to extend his loan, which ends on December 30. However, other clubs are showing interest, while Leicester are ready to offer a new contract.
It's all about gaining experience, and the Celbridge native has put this ahead of other considerations -- even playing for Ireland -- in the past 12 months.
"Paul Doolin called me up for the under 19s for a trip to Croatia last season," he recalled, "and I'd love to have gone but the situation I was in I couldn't. I had just started my loan with Bristol and if I went away with Ireland I would have been back to square one with the club."
Bolger, a 6ft 4in centre-back with striking blond hair, is a stand-out with a good pedigree. His father, Declan, was a midfielder with Dublin for six years between 1986 and '92, winning a National League medal in '87 and two Leinsters. Cian played with Kildare at under 12 and 14, and was then part of a Dublin development squad under Val Andrews before soccer took over.
"He was a very good hurler and footballer," says his father, "and himself and Greg Cunningham used puck the sliotar around after training at Leicester. He came home a few weeks ago to see Celbridge win the Kildare senior hurling championship because there were a lot of the lads he had grown up with playing."
After his initial loan experience with Bristol last season, Bolger returned to Leicester and tore ankle ligaments, which kept him out of action for three months. On his return, a number of clubs expressed interest in taking him on loan, but he decided to return to Bristol.
"I need games. The main thing is to play football, it's about getting your name out there," he says, explaining why he turned down clubs in higher divisions for the certainty of starting at Bristol.
A former Young Player of the Year at Leicester, he has won several man of the match awards at Bristol and been named in the League 2 Team of the Week, but he admits this season has not gone as planned.
"We have been controlling 90 per cent of our games but a few mistakes are costing us because we're not scoring. We're creating chances, but not getting the luck of the draw."
While he thinks his game has improved at Bristol, he is candid enough about it: "Technically, I have a few things to work on: getting it to my feet quicker, decision-making, and first touch. I find you don't have as much time in the league as I had in academy football."
His ambitions are straightforward: "I want to play as many games as I can, and win promotion. There is more than enough quality in the team to get promoted, getting a bit of luck is all we need."
Bolger was rested by manager Paul Buckle for last week's game at Southend, but he is looking forward to playing in today's Cup tie. "For any game on the telly, you never know who could be watching," he reasons.
A good display could help determine his future when the transfer window re-opens in January. And it might also help to remind Ireland under 21 boss Noel King of his ability. "If the opportunity to play for Ireland arose again," he says, "I would be more than happy to accept. The timing of my last call-up was unfortunate."
His strong points are heading and tackling, and he is also Bristol's set-piece target. "I've two goals so far and had a few half-chances that should have given me a few more."
A goal today could help Bristol into the lucrative third round of the Cup, and alert the scouts to an emerging talent.
AFC Totton v Bristol Rovers,
Setanta Ireland & ITV, 12.30
Sunday Indo Sport