I’m here to soak it all in and am raring to go. We met up on Tuesday and flew to England the following day so everything is geared towards this first game against a tough Belgium side. It’s crazy to think that over a couple of years I’ve come from the U15 international squad to this stage and the experience is something I want to take in.
It was great getting the nod from the manager Colin O’Brien for those matches and I’d like to think that I played my part along the way to these finals. This has been a major team effort and that will be needed again in a difficult group.
Well, the squad were tested when we fell a goal behind in the first stage against Ukraine. We never doubted ourselves and came back to win 3-1. Also, the last game against Poland was a decider for which of us would progress to the finals at top seeds and we managed to beat them. There was a lot of pressure on us because Poland had a home crowd behind them but we got over the line and that can only be a good thing.
We’ll be up against a quality team. You only have to look at the names they have at big clubs around Europe, but we’ll be ready for the challenge.
It was huge. My dad (Noel) won some titles in his time for Nenagh and my sister (Maeve) plays camogie. Last year, my brother Andrew was appointed captain of the Tipperary Under-21s and spent time on the senior panel. Hurling is the bread and butter of Tipperary sport and I enjoyed playing it while growing up. Even nowadays in Glasgow, I’d get the hurl out and have a puck around.
For me, though, football was the game I fell in love with. There was never any decision to make between the two codes and my family supported me on that. You only get a small window of opportunity to go into professional football and I set my sights on that goal.
I went on a few trips with different clubs to see which place suits me best. I never felt out of place on any of them, however big the club was, and developed bits of wisdom for each trial. I got to play against some of Europe’s best teams but didn’t get caught up in the occasions. I was able to add things to my locker and it drove me on the make the right choice.
I supported Celtic growing up and they made me feel very welcome. The first-team manager played a part but there was other staff like Willie McStay who helped me make my mind up. I’ve been there a year now and haven’t suffered at all from homesickness.
It helps that he knows me from the time I decided to join and he’d also be available to have a word. Most other managers of clubs in the Champions League would concentrate solely on the first-team but I’ve seen Brendan attending the training sessions of our U13 squads. It does motivate you that he’s going to stay there because he can see how much work you’re putting trying to get a shot at progressing.
I was always a big lad growing up and never afraid to play above my age-group. My managers Shay Coffey and John Delaney gave me confidence to perform at that level by putting me into the team and the experience still stands to me. Winning the national cup for my hometown club was the icing on the cake before I came over to Celtic.
To be honest, I haven’t seen that nor the Ireland games at last year’s finals but that’s because I always try to look forward. What happened in the past is gone and we’ve to concentrate on this tournament. Due to this being held in England, we should get a lot of family and friends over to support us. Now that we’re here, we’ve to make the most of it.