Bohs up Talbot Street
James will end GAA career to focus on Gypsies
James Talbot knows that he's got big gloves, as well as big boots, to fill when he lines out for Bohemians next season in the wake of Shane Supple's retirement.
The 21-year-old has had big challenges before, like trying to compete for the goalkeeper's jersey at Sunderland with Jordan Pickford, the man who would become England's No. 1
But Talbot is keen to get his soccer career into gear with Bohs next season, already making a sacrifice by putting Gaelic Games on hold.
"I couldn't turn down the chance to sign for Bohs, I was happy to sign for them as it's my local club, I would have gone to the games as a kid and I went to a few games last season," says Talbot, who has joined Bohs following a seven-month break from soccer since his exit from Sunderland.
"I am looking forward to giving it a go here at Bohs. I have heard about the atmosphere and what it's like at Dalymount and I can't wait to taste that next season.
"It's going to be hard for anyone to replace Shane. Supps helped me out a lot, even before I went to England he had a chat with me, gave me a few tips about what it's like over there.
"I didn't know him at the time, he was just a stranger but he was willing to help me out, and then when I came home from Sunderland earlier this year, Paddy Christie and Shane were the first two on the phone to me asking what I was doing and if I needed any help so I owe people like that a lot."
If he'd taken a different path, Talbot could be trying to impress Jim Gavin, not Keith Long, ahead of the 2019 season as the Ballymun Kickhams player was a hot prospect in Gaelic football, even though his manager with Kickkams (Paddy Christie) moved him out of goal and into midfield early on.
"I always enjoyed Gaelic, I was in a few representative panels before I went away but I can't say if I would have made the Dublin senior squad if I'd stayed and not gone to England, a few lads like myself and Jack Tuite, Dan Casey as well, had a choice of both and we went away," he says.
Sunderland signed Talbot and so began a five-year spell which didn't lead to first team football but was still a good spell.
"I had a decent time at Sunderland and I learned a lot, on and off the pitch. I don't look back with any regret, it was all an experience, it was the stuff of dreams at times," he says.
"I got to travel with the first team, when Big Sam (Allardyce) was there he'd seen me do well in training and when we played Arsenal away in the FA Cup (January 2016) I travelled with the first team.
"As a kid all I'd wanted to do was wear the Dubs jersey but here I was in the Emirates, walking past players like Giroud in the tunnel for the warm-up, me a lad from Dublin with all these great, world-class players.
"Jordan Pickford was ahead of me when I went over to Sunderland, even then I knew he was a top class keeper as he was a confident lad."
A spell on loan to non-league side Darlington earlier this year ended prematurely when Talbot was sent off in his second game but he'd already realised that Sunderland would not happen for him.
"By that stage I was sick of it, I was living on my own, I wasn't enjoying it, there were keepers ahead of me and I knew I wasn't going to play so I asked to come home early, before my contract was up, I knew from before Christmas that I wanted to leave and do something different as by this stage I wasn't getting much out of it," he says.
Arriving home in April, he snubbed calls from League of Ireland clubs to go training and hooked up with Ballymun Kickhams, and this weekend is a big deal as he plays today, for the last time, in the semi-final of the Dublin U21 championship, as he needs to park GAA to focus on Bohs.
"I spoke to Keith about the GAA, I know that Shane Supple played GAA for St Brigid's while playing for Bohs, but he played in goal for both and I play in midfield for Kickhams so it's tougher, it's more physical and you're more likely to pick up an injury.
"We have the semi-final today and I think that will be it for me. Kickhams are in my blood but I need to focus," he said.
"It's not going to be easy at Bohs but you have players who will want to work hard and do well. I know Keith has lost players but he will still have a good squad that can compete. And I will fight for that shirt."