A wealth of talent from county over the decades

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All youngsters who play the beautiful game aspire to playing it at the highest possible level, but only a small percentage of these reach the Holy Grail. It is a dream for most young boys to play at professional level but that is extremely difficult to accomplish.

ack in the 70s and 80s it was easier to get trials with League of Ireland and cross channel clubs, but now there is much more competition with the big clubs looking towards Europe, Asia and South America to recruit players.

Good contacts in the right place is an advantage, but a bit of luck along the way is required also. Of those who are fortunate get cross channel trials only a few make it to the big time. It is difficult to make a living from the sport unless you are lucky enough to be given a chance to play in the Premiership or EFL clubs in lower divisions.

It is very hard to make it in the professional game as demands are huge, expectations are high and fans expect to be winning competitions. Of course, any of those who are lucky to make the grade must have their head on their shoulders also as life as a professional footballer is short and they should have something lined up when they retire from the game.

Young players have a better chance of signing for League of Ireland clubs, but here again demands are high and players must be up to the grade if they are to do well. Here in Kerry the standard of the game has improved significantly over the past two decades and luckily a good few players have gone on to play cross channel and play League of Ireland football.

Among those who have played and are playing with cross channel clubs include John Egan, Billy Dennehy, Darren Dennehy, Diarmuid O’Carroll, Brendan Moloney, Paul While, Shane McLoughlin, Seán Broughton, Rian O’Sullivan


Paudie Quinn. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

Paudie Quinn. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

Among those who have done in League of Ireland include, Brian Fitzgerald, Billy and Darren Dennehy Bryan Murphy, Paudie Quinn, Seán Brosnan, Gary O’Neill, Shane Guthrie, Derek O’Brien.

John Egan doing well at Sheffield United

John Egan is a player who is doing very well for himself in the UK and it etching out a successful career with Sheffield United.

His success there has opened a window of opportunity for him and now he is slotting in very nicely playing at centre half with the Republic of Ireland team. Egan started his career with Greenwood FC in Togher and is the son of former Kerry Gaelic footballer John Egan.

He played hurling and Gaelic football for Bishopstown. His mother is a native of Abbeydorney has also played football and has a League of Ireland medal under her belt. He began his career at Sunderland and he had loan spells with Crystal Palace, Sheffield United, Bradford City and Southend United.

He joined Gillingham, in 2014 and was named Player of the Year in his first season, and voted in the League One PFA Team of the Year in his second. In July 2016, he joined Brentford, where he was captain of the club in his second season. He re-joined Sheffield United, in 2018 and was part of the team that got promoted to the Premier League.

Internationally, Egan has represented the Republic of Ireland at under-17, under-19 and under-21 level. He made his debut for the senior side in March 2017.

He has come on the senior International scene out of the blue as he was 26 before he got onto the Irish team but he looks like he has a bright future ahead of him both in the Premiership and with the Republic of Ireland side.

Sheffield are in a struggle to avoid relegation this season and no doubt should they go down which seems likely there are many Premiership Clubs who would be anxious to sign Egan.

Shane McLoughlin doing well at AFC Wimbledon

The talented Castleisland man is the product of the later Georgie O’Callaghan school of underage football and is making in big splash in the English Football League.

He started his playing career with Castleisland AFC and went from there to Killorglin AFC and then onto St Brendan’s Park with the movement of coach Tim Collins who had non-league experience in the UK influencing his switches.

He went on to captain the Kerry team in the Kennedy Cup helped him along the way towards Irish Under 15 recognition and overseas interest. It was the Irish camps that convinced him that he was able to make the step up, regardless of the perception of where he came from.

He was born in New York, but his family moved back to Kerry and he was only 16 when he moved cross channel to join Ipswich United on a 2 year scholarship in 2013. This was extended to a third year and he signed a one-year contract with the club in 2017.

He was finding it difficult to get a regular place on the Ipswich side and joined Bromley on load in 2016/17 and made seven appearances with the club. He was getting itchy feet at Ipswich and on January 2019 he signed up with the Dons.

He made his debut with the club a year ago in a 1-0 win away to Walsall. In the current season the Dons are 10th in the table and should have a good mid table finish.

Paul White

The Castleisland man has been making a name for himself on both sides of the Irish sea with a number of years and is regarded as a goalkeeper of a very high calibre.

He has all the traits of a good keeper as at 6ft 4in he has the capacity to dominate everything in the air and is a prolific shot stopper. He has played for Cork City, North Leigh, Gloucester City, Frome Town, Forest Green Rovers, Boreham Wood and Kettering Town.

This season he moved tp play with Hereford Town. Her also has a Republic of Ireland Under 18 cap and joined Kettering Town in September 2016. He soon established himself as the Club’s number 1 with a string of excellent performances that made him a firm fans favourite.

He witnessed the ups and downs of modern football as he was a member of the Kettering Town side that was relegated but he was there when they gained promotion again. He left Kettering town last season and joined Hereford.

A lad with a good pair of shoulders on him he is looking after his interests when he retires from football and has proved himself to be a good business man setting up his own food firm in the UK and it is doing a thriving business. He is also very heavily engaged in coaching players.

His Dad Noel in making a name for himself also as the new secretary of the Kerry Schoolboys/Girls League.

Derek O’Brien

Tralee Dynamos has produced many really gifted players over the years and quite a few went on to play with League of Ireland Clubs while more went cross channel and done very well for themselves.

One of these was Derek O’Brien, who originally came from Shanakill in Tralee. He played with a whole host of clubs around the county and finished up playing with Galway United. He always had the desire to play in Kerry again and collect silverware before he hung up his football boots.

This came to fruition back in 2015 when he came back to join Tralee Dynamos and was a member of the Dynamos team that qualified for the Munster Junior Cup Final. They went into the final with high hopes after their great win over Janesboro in the semi-final but they went down 3-0 to Waterford side Carrick United.

However, a week later Derek did get the silverware he craved for with Dynamos being crowned Premier A Champions after defeating Castleisland. O’Brien is a former winner of the ‘Galway United Player of The Year He was also picked alongside the best players in the domestic game when he was selected on ‘PFAI Premier Division Team of the Year in 2007.

Derek tasted European competition in 2008 playing for St Patrick Athletic against Hertha Berlin in the UEFA Cup. He played League of Ireland football for 15 years and was very highly regarded by everyone who played against him.

Stephen Conway

The Tralee man is a defender of exceptional talent and is the best full back I have seen in Kerry over the past 20 years. In every game he turns defence into attack at every given opportunity with his long penetratin g runs out of defence.

Even though he is small in stature he does not shy clear of tackles. He starred for a number of years with Lisselton Rovers and in more recent years has found his niche at the other side of the Atlantic Ocean in America.

As well as Tralee Dynamos he has played for The Park, Fairview Rangers, Lisselton Rovers, Limerick FC. After serving Kerry soccer so well for many years and winning many accolades Stephen is now carving out a great career for himself in the USA in the field of coaching 

The highly talented Tralee man has played for Boston Bolts USL, San Francisco City FC, Lansdowne Bhoys NYC, Jersey City Eagles, Thomas University, St Brendan’s Park.

The list of honours he has won includes Sun Conference Championship (2013 Thomas University), 2013 All American East Selection, 1st Team All-Conference, 3 KDL Premier (2 x Lisselton, 1 Tralee Dynamos), Greyhound Bar (Lisselton) Castle Bar x 2 (Lisselton), 5-6 MJC Kerry Are Finals. 2015 Named in Thomas University’s All Time XI.

His favourite International player is Cafu of Brazil.  He has some great memories to reflect upon but none came close to that feeling he got playing for Kerry. Coaching and working with the best players at the highest level will always be a desire he aspires to.

He says he is very fortunate to wake up every day to work for one of the best soccer clubs in the US at Boston Bolts FC.

Gary O’Neill

Gary O’Neill’s soccer career reached dizzy heights when he scored the goal that won the FAI Junior Cup for Shamrock Rovers two years ago.

The game was 1-1 at full-time and with parity remaining after extra time it went to a penalty shoot – out and The Hoops won 4-2 with O’Neill scoring the penalty that won the game. Gary began his career in England with Port Vale, Southport (on loan) and Hereford United before joining UCD in 2015.

He played in their Europa League campaign that season. The following season Gary was again the lynch-pin in UCD’s midfield and finished top scorer in the First Division with 13 goals. His nine goals helped the Students to promotion as Champions in 2018

Gary joined UCD from Hereford United in February 2015 and made his senior debut for the Students away to Dundalk in a Leinster Senior Cup tie on 10 February 2015. He then scored on his league debut, a 3-0 win away at Cobh Ramblers and went on to make 25 league appearances, scoring three times in the process, as UCD claimed a play-off spot.

He also played in all four Europa League games for UCD that year and in both promotion play-off matches, which the Students lost to Finn Harps.  In 2016 he scored 13 times in 27 league appearances as well as hitting the net three times in Cup competitions.  In June 2019, Gary signed for Shamrock Rovers where he knitted in glove on a hand and has already added to his silverware collection with the top Dublin side.

Billy Dennehy back to manage Kerry Under 19 side

The Tralee man is the product of the Tralee Dynamos and St Brendan’s Park underage structure and he had a real roller coaster during his cross channel career playing with many different clubs and the interest shown in him reflects just how highly regarded he was by domestic and cross channel clubs.

Essentially a midfielder Billy was a very versatile player who has a habit of scoring goals. Dennehy began his soccer playing career at local club Tralee Dynamos. He has played with Republic of Ireland at under 17, 19, 21 and 23 level.

After trials with Nottingham Forest, Aston Villa and Southampton, Dennehy was brought to Sunderland by Mick McCarthy after the midfielder impressed during a trial at the Stadium of Light he signed for the club in January 2005.

His success story has been documented in this paper a number of weeks ago,

Brian Fitzgerald

The Tralee man excelled at a young age and used his physique to good effect and was an excellent centre back who controlled everything in the air and got in the crucial tackles when required.

Brian represented the Kerry League sides that competed in the 2008 and 2009 League Cup competitions. He also played for the Tralee Dynamos side that reached the fourth round of the 2009 FAI Cup. In January 2013 he signed for Cobh Ramblers ahead of their readmission to the league after a four year absence. He made his debut for Cobh in a 5 – 0 win over Wexford Youths at St Colman’s Park.

He made 20 league appearances that year, scoring once, in a 2 – 2 draw with Finn Harps. He returned to the Intermediate ranks at the end of the season and in 2014/15 he lined out with MSL side Cobh Wanderers. 

He spent time in the United States on a soccer scholarship at Pennsylvania University also.

Paudie Quinn

Listowel Celtic’s Paudie Quinn has got a taste of cross-channel football after being signed on a 3 year scholarship with Fulham FC a decade ago. Fulham boss Roy Hodgson was in Listowel for the official signing.

He played with the Fulham Under 18 team, but after two years he decided to return home. Since then he has played for Waterford FC, Limerick FC, and Limerick District League side Janesboro, as well as Listowel Celtic and Dingle Bay Rovers.

A great midfielder wo can also play up front has scored some fantastic goals over the years.

Bryan Murphy

The Listowel man made his presence in the game tell at a young age and after starring for the Republic of Ireland in an International under 16 game v Germany at Pat Kennedy Park interest began to appear from cross channel

He went on to feature at international level earning caps at Irish U16 and U17 level in the process, before stepping up to a Tralee Dynamos side competing in the League of Ireland A Championship at the time. He went on to play for Limerick and Fairview Rangers before signing for Cobh Ramblers in 2019.

While injury hampered the beginning of his season, he became a firm fixture in the Cobh squad in the latter half of the season. He made his debut in an EA Sports Cup win over Limerick and went on to make 13 appearances scoring four goals.

Grabbing two goals in the stunning 4-3 win away to his former club Limerick was a particular highlight.

James Sugrue

Now in the twilight of his playing career Tralee Dynamos James Sugrue is one of the very best midfielders that ever came out of Kerry.

His work rate and commitment is phenomenal. Sugrue has been one of the most consistent performers in the Kerry League has been one of the key players on the Tralee Dynamos side. He started out with the Kingdom Boys and has played for Kerry at U-14, 16, 18 and U-21 level. He has also excelled with the Kerry Eircom U-21 team under manager Tom McGiff.

He has given most of his playing days with Tralee Dynamos but he has also played with Lisselton Rovers and Killarney Celtic. His favourite cross channel club is Liverpool and his aim is to player soccer at the very highest level.

Rian O’Sullivan

This precocious talent comes the from West Kerry village of Camp and has played his underage football with Tralee Dynamos. He signed for Brighton and Hove Albion at the tender age of15 and has experienced life at cross channel and International level.

It all began for Rian at the Kennedy Cup where he was spotted by English scouts and he was offered a trial with Brighton and Hove Albion which he gratefully accepted. The 17 year old defender was named man of the match for his performance against the Netherlands on Thursday and on Sunday he scored the opening goal in the first half to give Ireland the lead against Germany. However, despite Ireland taking a 2-0 lead, they conceded three goals in the last 16 minutes to lose the game.

After completing his Junior Certificate at the age of 16 he joined Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club then a Championship side. His talents hadn’t gone unnoticed and he had offers from other English clubs and League of Ireland clubs to go on trial again.

He decided to take a step away from the intensity of being a full-time footballer to focus on other areas of development. He came back to Ireland and focused on obtaining a Commerce Degree at University College Cork.

This is a wise decision as a footballers playing days are short and they need something to rely on when they retire from the game. He has access to the very best of sporting facilities at UCC and will have the opportunity to combine his educational studies with doing well for himself at football.

He is now playing with UCC and hoping that when he gets his degree there will be opportunities out there for him to play at the highest level possible. He is still a young man so the world is his Oyster and with a positive attitude like his he should have the opportunity to play at a good level in League of Ireland.

Peter McCarthy

Killarney Celtic’s Peter McCarthy was one of the best strikers to come out of the county and he was a member of Celtic teams that won a whoa huge amount of silverware.

Every season for over a decade he was able to score between 20 and 30 goals every year and was one of the most feared strikers in the Kerry District League.

He had all the attributes of a top class tally-man and he was exceedingly quick, was able to provide trickery to deceive defenders and when he found a pocket of space he had a habit of finding the net.

He was also very good in the air. He spent a short period of time with Limerick but was released in 2007. In 2008 and 2009 He played for the Kerry League sides that competed in the League Cup. He also played for the Tralee Dynamos side that reached the fourth round of the 2009 FAI Cup. Having beaten Salthill Devon 2-1 in the third round, Tralee travelled to Wicklow where they were beaten 2-0 by Bray Wanderers.

Unfortunately Peter was plagued with injuries during his career and was forced to retire earlier that envisaged.

Ladies make waves also

The men don’t have it all their own way when it comes to shining at the beautiful game as in more recent years a few Kerry girls have done well for themselves in the game

Listowel Celtic’s Savanah McCarthy has had a great career so far excelling at the game both at local, national and cross channel level. The highly talented centre back served her time with Listowel Celtic winning many honours at underage level. She went on to win numerous International Caps at under 17 and under 19 level and gained caps at senior level also.

He prowess did not escape the eagle eyes of football scouts and she has played for a number of clubs around the county. She also had a spell with Glasgow City. She has played with UCD Waves, Cork City and is presently playing with Galway FC.

Listowel Celtic sisters Rebecca and Aoife Horgan have also been in the limelight with Limerick Women’s FC.

Great credit must go due to Dominic Scanlon for all the great work he has done for girls and ladies soccer in Listowel.

Eventhough there is no Women’s Soccer League in Kerry Dominic entered Listowel Celtic in the Limerick League and they have won many accolades over the years.

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