Portsmouth's Ronan Curtis hailed an '˜inspiration' for young Derry footballers
RORY HALE has described his former Derry City and Republic of Ireland U21 teammate, Ronan Curtis as '˜an inspiration' for young footballers in Ireland.
The 22 years-old Portsmouth forward earned his first call-up to the Ireland senior squad for last Tuesday night’s friendly against Poland in Wroclaw as a late replacement for Jonathan Walters.
He had netted a magnificent late equaliser for the Republic’s U21 side in their UEFA Euro 19 qualifier in Kosovo the previous Friday as his stock continues to rise since making his summer move from Brandywell to Fratton Park.
And his Republic of Ireland U21 teammate, Hale believes Curtis’ elevation to the Irish senior set-up is encouraging for young League of Ireland players.
Hale and his brother Ronan were two of FIVE recentLeague of Ireland representatives involved with the U21s for the double header against Kosovo and Germany and the Belfast man believes the league should be getting the credit it deserves.
“After Friday night’s game, when he had an absolute stormer, a few of the boys were realising Curtis is actually a good player but Curtis has always been good,” said the Derry midfielder who is hoping to follow in Curtis’ footsteps.
“People just weren’t taking him that seriously because he was at a League of Ireland club. Now that he’s playing for Portsmouth people are starting to realise how good he is because he’s over in England.
“It just shows how far he’s come and he can be an inspiration to any young boy in Derry or even in Ireland. It proves you don’t have to go to England to start your career off,” said Hale, who was released by Aston Villa despite captaining Kevin MacDonald’s under-23s side.
“He started at 17 with Derry and at 22 he’s on the verge of becoming a full international,” continued Hale. “It’s what every boy dreams of and hopefully everybody looks up to him because he’s a good lad as well.”
There was a host of former League of Ireland players involved in Tuesday’s friendly against Poland including Curtis (Derry City), Matty Doherty (Bohemians), Kevin Long (Cork City), Enda Stevens (Shamrock Rovers and St Pat’s), David Meyler (Cork City), Daryl Horgan (Dundalk), Graham Burke (Shamrock Rovers) and Shaun Williams (Drogheda Utd).
Under-21 boss, Noel King isn’t afraid to give young League of Ireland players a shot either with Dundalk’s Jamie McGrath the latest to earn an U21 cap in the 6-0 hammering by Germany at Tallaght.
“More and more Irish League and League of Ireland players are starting to come into the international set-ups north and south,” added Hale.
“You can see that with full-time football in Ireland is progressing and more players are starting to come through and players are coming back from England as well and starting to realise how good the league is.”
The recent international break was a frustrating one for Hale who watched both games from the bench. Top spot in Group 5 is now out of reach for the Irish with two games to go and the final qualifier away to Germany. However, Hale is hoping to finish the campaign on a high .
“It’s been very frustrating for me. I thought out in Kosovo we could’ve won the game and I’m just glad Ronan got a few minutes. We probably deserved more than that but I was hoping to get a start but it is what it is. It’s the manager’s call and Germany were just a different breed. You can see that with a 6-0 hammering.
“We had hopes of winning on Friday night in Kosovo which would’ve left us going in level with Germany to this game.
“We needed to win and it didn’t happen. We’ve got Israel away and Germany away to try and get a second placed spot which is the best we can aim for now.”