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Killarney boy chasing the American Dream

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In Ireland there’s a standard path to becoming a professional soccer player and it goes like this: get spotted by a scout, get a trial for an English team, and, if you’re lucky enough, get signed. But what happens if the old way doesn’t work for you? 99.9% of boys simply give up on their dream.

18-year-old Micheál Devlin from Muckross is one of the 0.1%. The Killarney youngster still has ambitions to play sport at the highest level and, with little prospect of making that happen here in Ireland, he’s taking an alternative route to get there. This Sunday he’s saying goodbye to friends and family and shipping off to Washington DC where he hopes to make his mark with the Georgetown University soccer team.

Micheál, who lined out for the Kerry U-17 footballers and was part of the St Brendan’s College team who won the Hogan Cup in 2017, says he considered playing Gaelic football in a college closer to home but, in the end, it didn’t seem like a good fit.

“I did a tour of UL and I wasn’t really blown away with it, and I didn’t think I was good enough to get on the UCC U-20 football team, so I started looking at soccer. I didn’t really have a strong background here – I didn’t make the Kennedy Cup team – so my dad (Mike, originally from Tyrone) suggested the idea of going to America.”

Trevor Nagle, who coaches the soccer teams at St Brendan’s College, put Micheál in touch with Stephen Murray from Pass4Soccer, a company that secures soccer scholarships in US universities for players from the UK, Ireland and further afield.

Micheál went up and played a trial game in Dublin and Stephen suggested that he do the American tour. The Pass4Soccer hopefuls travelled to North Carolina in March to play against five college teams in seven days and to say Micheál was impressed would be an understatement.

“Everything was just a million times better than what we’re used to here. Even the poorer colleges have state of the art facilities. It’s absolutely crazy. I was lucky enough to play in Croker and on the tour we played on the main pitch of one of the D1 schools. It was just as good.”

The standard, too, was much higher than he anticipated.

“We played against the University of North Carolina and the level of soccer was unreal. I kind of went over thinking, “yeah, Americans playing soccer…” but they were class.”

The Killarney Celtic right back caught the eye of more than one coach over the course of the week but one was particularly interested: Coach Brent Chase at Georgetown University. He told the Devlins that he’d better any offer they received from other colleges and he was true to his word. Micheál will be on a full scholarship at one of the most highly rated schools in the country.

Many youngsters might be daunted by the prospect of moving so far away from home for four years but Micheál jumped at the opportunity.

“It wasn’t really a tough decision to make. It just seemed right. My family were very supportive as well - they can’t wait to get rid of me I’d say! I’m a small bit nervous now. It’s getting tougher by the day. Last Sunday at five o’clock I realised, ‘Jesus, this time next week I’ll be on a plane…’ But I can come home for a month at Christmas and that’s only 12 weeks away. It’s not too bad.”

College athletes don’t always play in their freshman year but Micheál is hoping to get a chance straight away. Chase, who was named Nike National Goalkeeper of the Year during his playing days at Columbus State Community College, was given the Hoyas job earlier this year and he is clearly a big fan of the schools’ first ever Irish player.

Looking to the future, Micheál’s eyes are firmly set on getting his accountancy degree first and foremost and, if things go well on the field, the prospect of declaring for the MLS SuperDraft is something that really excites him.

“If I got the opportunity, I’d take it. Growing up you dream of playing for Manchester United or someone like that… But I think it’d be unreal to play in the MLS.”

It might not be the normal path for Irish players but America’s biggest league is growing in size and popularity and with an average wage of $6,000 per week, it should certainly be an enticing option for any would-be pro.

It’s a fantastic opportunity for Micheál and from what I’ve seen of him he has the determination and talent to make a real go of it. And even if he doesn’t end up realising his American dream, an accountancy degree from one of the top colleges in the United States isn’t exactly a bad thing to fall back on…

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Dancing classes set to unite communities

By Michelle Crean There’s no language barrier when it comes to dancing – which is why one local group is organising classes to unite communities. KASI, the Killarney Immigrant Support […]

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By Michelle Crean

There’s no language barrier when it comes to dancing – which is why one local group is organising classes to unite communities.

KASI, the Killarney Immigrant Support Centre, has teamed up with dance instructor John Moriarty to teach both Ukrainians and multiple cultures living in Kerry Irish set dancing steps from next week.

The first class will take place on Tuesday evenings, starting next week (September 27) at St Mary’s Parish Hall at 6.30pm and all are welcome to join.

The idea is to help Ukrainians living in Killarney and Kerry to come and have fun and get to know locals better, KASI coordinator, Marilyn Catapat-Counihan, explained to the Killarney Advertiser.

“We have a women’s group for all ages where we do crochet, sewing and art and crafts, where they can talk which is good. I had the music on and they were dancing. I asked if they would like to do dancing classes so I organised it with John Moriarty who is well known in Killarney.”

She added that the women are very excited to learn set dancing and get to know other people from the area.

“Sometimes when you meet new people the language can be a barrier and when you’re dancing everybody is moving. He will open it to everyone so there’ll be integration, it’s fun as well. They are all very excited.”

To find out more contact John on 086 1579381.

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Multiple Sclerosis Walk celebrates 20 years

By Sean Moriarty The rising cost of fuel is already having a negative effect on charity events with some limiting numbers. On October 9, the annual Multiple Sclerosis South Kerryv Walk […]

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By Sean Moriarty

The rising cost of fuel is already having a negative effect on charity events with some limiting numbers.

On October 9, the annual Multiple Sclerosis South Kerryv Walk takes place over the Old Kenmare Road.

First run in 2002, this year’s event will celebrate 20 years since its foundation but two years were lost as a result of the pandemic.

This year’s walk will be limited to 150 people – three coach loads – so event organisers can cut back on running costs.

It will only be possible to participate in this year’s event if walkers pre-register.

“Walkers must raise at least €40 to make it worthwhile,” organiser John O’Shea told the Killarney Advertiser.

“Spaces are limited, 150 people equals three coaches and we need smaller coaches to get into the start of the Old Kenmare Road as that is just a bog road. We have limited numbers for cost and operational reasons.”

Mr O’Shea thanked event sponsors O’Callaghan Coaches and The Gleneagle Hotel for their support of the event.

Registration forms can be obtained by calling John on 087 2348824.

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