Seamie proving doubters wrong
Watching a player you've supported in the League of Ireland try and make the jump to the big time in England can be a fraught experience. And ever since Seamus Coleman moved from Sligo Rovers to Everton, the Showgrounds faithful have kept an eye on his progress with the nervous anticipation of parents watching their kids attempt to star in the school show.
That's why it's been so gratifying in the past few months to watch the lad from Killybegs make the enormous step from being a good Premier League player to becoming an outstanding one. If the PFA Team of the Year were picked tomorrow, Coleman would be an overwhelming choice at right-back. There is talk of Everton offering him an improved long-term contract and of Arsenal wanting to pay £10m for him, there are comparisons with Gareth Bale and even one with Lionel Messi on the Everton site.
OK, so the last one is a little far-fetched. But there's no doubt Coleman has been one of the best players in the Premier League this season, a clutch of Highlight Reel goals confirming him as the top Irish performer in the top flight since Robbie Keane and Damien Duff were doing the biz at Spurs and Chelsea.
Which isn't bad for a guy discovered seven years ago when his local junior club played a friendly against Rovers. Of course he's following in the footsteps of Roy Keane, Paul McGrath, Ronnie Whelan, Jim Beglin, Mick Martin, Gerry Daly, Kevin Doyle, James McClean, Wes Hoolahan and a host of others who got their start in the League of Ireland.
Coleman won't be the last player to make this move and he's paid tribute to the crucial role Rovers' professional set-up under Paul Cook played in his development. So when I hear cheap shots from cheap hacks about the League of Ireland, I think of Seamie Coleman, which is who he'll always be to those of us who watched him before the barstool Sky devotees even knew he existed, and I smile.