Dylan Murphy speaks to Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Paul Corry about how he has reaped long-term benefits from delaying his move to English football, in favour of taking up an offer of a soccer scholarship with UCD.
Every year, a couple of dozen starry-eyed Irish teenage footballers take the boat cross-channel to join English clubs. The majority return home disillusioned, often without an education and subsequently little prospect of employment.
They gamble on their futures and more times than not, they lose. Most will claim that the opportunity is too big to miss, with very few possessing the mental strength to turn down these golden tickets to English academies.
However, Paul Corry is one who did manage to resist the said temptation. The Sheffield Wednesday midfielder, who is currently on loan at Carlisle United, refused several chances to go abroad in his teenage years in order to complete his education. His decision took commendable self-assurance, extreme restraint and immense foresight. He was confident that another opportunity would come his way in the future and was proved right when he signed for the Owls from UCD in 2012.
''I was very close to signing for Burnley,'' admits the now 24-year-old referring to his teenage years.
''The lure of signing for a Premiership team was massive and I knew that by turning it down I was rejecting an offer that may not present itself again.
''I didn't feel as if I was really 100% mentally ready to tackle the task of leaving my friends, family and home.''
Corry instead accepted a place on UCD’s soccer scholarship system, where he was soon drafted into the then Martin Russell managed first-team.
''In UCD I had the perfect opportunity to improve my game under Martin Russell and at the same time, put myself in a better position off the pitch by obtaining my commerce degree,'' he explained.
''There was interest from a fair few other League of Ireland clubs including Bohemians, who would've been the top side in the league at the time, but I knew that I would be granted far more first-team opportunities at UCD and that with them I could properly manage and juggle both my football and my studies.''
Furthermore, the former Republic of Ireland underage international believes playing under Russell did much to aid his development, insisting that the former St. Patrick's Athletic ace's strong commitment to playing attractive football benefited him greatly.
''As a ball playing midfielder you want the ball to be played as much as it can be on the floor and not over your head, and this was something Martin practiced. Him being a midfielder and a left footed one at that, he played a massive part in my footballing education while I was at the club.''
Corry did eventually get the coveted opportunity to play full-time abroad, but only after successfully completing his commerce degree. He acknowledges the difference in physicality between playing part-time in Ireland and playing professionally in England and confesses that he had ground to make up on the players already established at Wednesday.
''To an extent there was a part of catching up to be made when I arrived in the UK. I had to up my fitness levels as the game over here is played at a higher pace with more physicality. Training every day helped me get myself up to speed and gradually I found myself becoming fitter and stronger, and I guess that was where I had to do the most catching upon my arrival.''
However the Dubliner is ultimately glad that he took the road less travelled by plying his trade domestically before going abroad at an older age and is grateful to the League of Ireland for providing him with the opportunity to play first-team football at a young age.
''I'm happy with how things have worked out in terms of the age I moved cross-channel. Personally it benefited me going over that bit older and that’s not to say it’s the right or wrong way to do it. It just worked well for me. The League of Ireland experience really helped me and instead of maybe playing u21s in England, I was playing every Friday night in competitive games against men where there were three points at stake.
''I can’t put a value on just how much the 100 plus first-team games I played at UCD benefited me and how it helped me become the player I am today.''