herald

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Our U-18 hero Jason is content to watch and cheer from Down Under

The hairstyles may have changed, but there's no mistaking the winning smiles of Ireland captain Robbie Keane and defensive hero Richard Dunne.

This iconic photograph of the then up-and-coming soccer stars was taken during the U-18 European Championship campaign of 1998, which Ireland went on to win.

While Keane and Dunne will be instantly recognisable, the man hoisting the future Ireland skipper on his shoulders is familiar only to die-hard fans.

Jason Gavin was one of the standout players of that U-18 squad and was tipped by many for stardom.

However despite promising spells at Middlesbrough and Bradford, his career failed to hit the heights.

Now living in Australia and playing for Stirling Lions in the Football West State League, Gavin fondly remembers his time at the tournament in Cyprus.

"It was one of the highlights of my career. We had a great team back then," he said. "We were only kids, but there was great excitement surrounding that team. As the tournament went on, we kept winning, so they started showing the games live on RTE. Winning that trophy was probably the best moment of my career."

Gavin has known Keane since childhood and became friendly with Dunne during his days at Crumlin United, when the Villa man was a star player for rival team Home Farm.

"Robbie was breaking goal-scoring records all the time, so we knew he'd be big. Richie was always a very good defender, but it wasn't as obvious as Robbie's talent. He's worked hard, though," said Gavin.

As his old friends prepare for kick-off against Croatia, Gavin will be hard at work.

He could be forgiven for feeling envious of his former team-mates, but insists nothing could be further from the truth:

"I still keep in touch with the two lads and I'll be sending them a text to wish them all the best. I've got a good job and a great quality of life in Perth. My wife, Leanne, is Australian and the kids love it, so you won't find any complaints from me."

hnews@herald.ie

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