Football or golf, Mark Travers happy to go it alone

Quinta Do Lago, Portugal

Spoiler alert for Mark Travers and, more particularly, the other Irish players who will spend part of their day off from training tomorrow by taking to one of the Algarve’s innumerable golf courses.

The goalkeeper, who made headlines by breaking into both the senior Irish squad and the Premier League with Bournemouth this season, has quite a bit of form on the fairways, something he had — until now, at any rate — no intention of revealing to his team-mates.

“I’m going to keep that one to myself,” he said yesterday at The Campus, the squad’s base in Quinta Do Largo. “I may put a bit of money on it and see what happens (laughs).”

The truth is that if the Maynooth 20-year-old hadn’t made it as a footballer, he might well have made it as a golfer since he showed considerable youthful promise in the sport playing out of Carton House.

“That’s all I did up to 14 or 15,” he says. “I played off four when I was 14. That was the lowest I got to. I played the GUI events, loads of them as a kid. My Dad took me everywhere around the country. I was probably going to play golf instead of football, until at U16 level when I started going on a few trials and football took over.

“In the end I thought football was the better decision. I knew golf was a tough sport to go down mentally, just being by yourself all day and a lot of hours practising.

But it also helped me with my football career, getting that experience in front of people even though it was a different sport.

And yet, psychologically, not so completely different, perhaps, to the unique footballing position of being a ‘keeper?

“Yeah, definitely. As a goalkeeper you’re sort of by yourself in games as well. The psychology is quite similar and it can be quite lonely. You have to put mistakes behind you and not be afraid of anything.”

Travers certainly needed to draw on all of his reserves of fearlessness and self-belief when Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe told him he would be making his Premier League debut against Spurs at the start of this month.

“It was only the Friday morning when he pulled me to say to get my family over for the occasion, which was really nice of him,” says Travers.

Did he get any sleep the night before the game?

“I did, yeah. I felt confident. Maybe it took me a while to nod off but it didn’t really affect me before the game, to be honest.”

Or at least not until he came face to face with his World Cup-winning counterpart Hugo Lloris.

“It only hits you in the tunnel when you look across and he’s standing there. But I think it just gave me more confidence to do well. It didn’t make me nervous, I felt I was meant to be there.”

And did the Frenchman have anything to say to him after a game in which Travers’ Man of the Match performance helped The Cherries to a 1-0 win?

“He just said: ‘Well done and keep going’. I’m gutted I didn’t ask for his jersey, but it was just in the moment that I forgot to ask for it. Hopefully another time. Obviously I had my Mam and Dad over so that night I just chilled out with them and then stuck on Match Of The Day at half-10.

"I think it only started to sink in around then. Watching it was a bit surreal. You watch it every week and suddenly they’re talking about you. It was unbelievable.”

Football being football, however, it wasn’t long before the young ‘keeper was brought back down to earth as his very next game for Bournemouth saw him forced to repeatedly pick the ball out of the net as his side lost 5-3 to Crystal Palace.

“It was a crazy loss at the end of the season, there was lots of action, there could have been more goals for us and them — a mad game altogether,” he reflects. “But I said to my family afterwards, it was probably great the way it happened in two different games because you learn so much. I learnt even more from the second game about myself. It’s probably better I had that game because there is now loads of stuff I need to work on going into next season.”

For now, however, his concentration is solely on preparing himself as Darren Randolph’s cover for the upcoming qualifiers.

“He’s had a great season with Middlesbrough, he’s a great goalkeeper and a great guy as well, but I am not here just for the experience, I want to push him as much as I can,” says the man we might call ‘The Greenkeeper’.

“I am going to be ready for the games and see what happens.”

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