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Thursday 22 August 2019

Travers teen sensation

McCarthy picking Cherries' 19-year-old keeper a much-needed bright spot in current bad climate

Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy, Tom Kelly, Cathaoirleach, Meath County Council, Mary Murphy, Manager of Meath Local Sports Partnership, FAI Vice-President Noel Fitzroy, Barry Ferguson, FAI Football Development Officer, and Republic of Ireland women’s team manager Colin Bell at the launch of the 2019 FAI AGM and Festival of Football. Pic: Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy, Tom Kelly, Cathaoirleach, Meath County Council, Mary Murphy, Manager of Meath Local Sports Partnership, FAI Vice-President Noel Fitzroy, Barry Ferguson, FAI Football Development Officer, and Republic of Ireland women’s team manager Colin Bell at the launch of the 2019 FAI AGM and Festival of Football. Pic: Sportsfile

Teenage kicks have been very hard to find, never mind beat, for the managers of the Republic of Ireland senior side for some time now.

So the sight of an Irish-born player, still in his teens, playing in the Premier League will give Mick McCarthy something to smile about as Kildare native Mark Travers, who kept a clean sheet on his Premier League debut for Bournemouth last weekend, has done enough to keep his place in the Ireland squad.

"He was excellent, and Shay Given made his debut at 19 so it's not age that is the barrier if you are good enough," said McCarthy, who included Travers in a 30-man squad named for a training camp in Portugal later this month.

Travers has already been with the senior squad in March and McCarthy was pleased with his attitude. "Having turned up and trained with us, nothing fazed him there. It's not Premier League football, it's international football and he's in amongst his peers," he said.

"He's jumped into that and he was very, very comfortable, just a really nice young fellow. A very respectful young guy, trained really well and impressed me, the staff and the rest of his lads. So it's no surprise that he did well."

Given that the trend in England's Premier League is for Irish players to be more rare (just 15 Republic of Ireland-eligible players have played in Premier League this season, an all-time low) and older, Travers' emergence with Eddie Howe's side, albeit in a dead rubber at the end of the season, is a badly needed dose of good news.

It's a grim time to be an FAI employee these days, as McCarthy has admitted recently, the Ireland boss joking from his last visit to FAI HQ in Abbotstown that staff would only whisper, not loudly admit, that they worked for the under-fire association.

McCarthy has been in Ireland for a couple of days now, spending time with the U17 squad during their European Championship campaign as well as attending their match against the Czech Republic in Waterford on Monday night.

He was in Trim yesterday for what the FAI billed as the launch of their "AGM and Festival of Football", hosted by the Co Meath town in July. At the previous five launches of that AGM event, the presence of then-CEO John Delaney loomed large as he was one of the key speakers while he also engaged with the media.

Delaney's name was not mentioned once by the four speakers at yesterday's launch, though a senior official from the local body, the North East Football League, Gerry Gorman, made it clear that Delaney still had his backing and it was "a shame" that Delaney was unable to attend events like the AGM launch or the U17 Euros.

FAI vice-president Noel Fitzroy, the most senior official at the event, did not speak to the media as it was again left to McCarthy to front up for his employers and face the cameras and the questions.

Former League of Ireland player Barry Ferguson, now an FAI coach in the region, spoke of the work done and McCarthy referenced that in his speech as a positive from the what he called the "much-maligned" FAI.

With a delegation from UEFA in town to discuss "progress" with the FAI and further court action by the ODCE in their bid to get full access to all documents supplied to them by the FAI as part of their probe, it's a busy time.

McCarthy will be relieved to get back to football, with a new Premier League goalkeeper in tow.

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