From starting soccer in the back garden, to been called up to the Ireland under 18s soccer squad, reads like a dream for any aspiring young soccer player.
One such player is Limerick teenage soccer star John Ryan who is on cloud nine after an unforgettable few months.
After his double success with Shamrock Rovers where John was apart of the title winning teams at under 17 and under 19 level respectively.
Not only did they win the leagues, both teams qualified for the group stages of the Champions League resulting in John getting selected for the Ireland under 18s squad for his performances.
Mr. Ryan joined Limerick Voice to share what an unbelievable journey it has been for him to date and reflecting on where it all begun at an early age.
John remembers where it all started in his back garden playing 2v2 with his brothers and his dad and puts his rise in the game down to their influences.
He said: “I started playing soccer in my back garden with my brothers and my dad and they have had a big influence on my career so far. My two brothers are older than me, so I always saw them playing and wanted to do the same from a very early age.
“We used to always play 2 vs 2’s with them and my dad and also played a lot of “three goals and in”. These were always very competitive games because everybody hated to lose. If I was playing soccer on the street with my friends, we would always play the same as well as nods and volleys”
The Limerick man started his career at Aisling Annacotty where it provided a springboard to bigger and better things when he signed for St, Kevins in 2017.
He continued: “My first team that I played for was Aisling Annacotty as did my brothers so I would have always been going to their trainings and games from an early age and was always looking to join in there. I have great memories of playing there at a very young age.
“I signed for St Kevin’s in 2017. They had played in a tournament in LIT the year before that, so they knew about me. It was clear that it was the next step that was needed to challenge myself at a higher level in Dublin. In that time, we travelled to the City Football Academy in Manchester to play Manchester City u13’s which was an unbelievable experience.”
John’s dreams soon came a reality as in 2018 when Shamrock Rovers came knocking on his door to sign for the club. Mr. Ryan had a dream debut by scoring.
Two years on from joining Shamrock Rovers, his rise continued as he was nominated for Republic Of Ireland under 15 player of the year.
“When I was nominated for the Republic of Ireland under 15 international player of the year award I was absolutely delighted. I can still remember my dad arriving home and telling me I had been nominated.
“This achievement is something that I will never forget as it is such a privilege and an honour to play for Ireland, let alone be nominated for player of the year.
“The only negative was that the award ceremony didn’t happen due to COVID and is usually shown live on RTÉ so that would have been an unforgettable experience. Nonetheless I was so proud to receive this recognition.”
Although, his dream was always to play soccer at a high level the pressure of balancing school was a huge problem travelling from Limerick to Dublin three times a week.
“Balancing school whilst playing for Rovers was very difficult as we travelled to Dublin three times a week, twice for training midweek and once at the weekend for a game. It was good that Rovers’ training ground is based in Kingswood, just beyond Citywest so it is on the Limerick side of Dublin and was a straight run up the M7.
“I was working towards doing my Junior Cert at the time, so I had to do my homework on a tray in the backseat on the nights of training. I was always told that school couldn’t be sacrificed due to the soccer, so I did all my work. It was difficult at times but I knew the plan, so I just got on with it.”
In recent weeks John capped off a great season by been called up by the Ireland under 18s squad to play Sweden and is looking towards the future.
“In recent weeks I have been called up to the Ireland u18 squad for games against Sweden in Spain. I am so proud to be able to play for my country and am always buzzing when I’m called into squads.
“The standard of training is very high and international games are played at serious speeds. I can’t wait for the future and hopefully will one day play for the Senior national team.” He finished.