Name: Ben Curtis
Age: 15 (will be 16 this week!)
You had a good year with the Under 15s last year; how well do you yourself think you did?
I thought it was a great year for me personally. It was my first League of Ireland year and I was so happy with how I played and how well I fitted into the team. I feel that the training I got throughout that whole year definitely helped my performances and helped me as a player.
Would you say that being an elite player in a set-up such as the SRFC Academy helped you grow more in that year than most boys your age?
Yes, I consider myself lucky to be at an incredible club such as Shamrock Rovers. There are loads of young lads out there who would love to be in my shoes and play for Rovers so I am happy to be a part of it.
You are a valuable member of the squad and play in either defence or midfield; which position do you prefer yourself?
It’s actually a question I get asked a lot. This season I’m focussing on one position to progress and that will be centre half but if I am needed to play midfield at any time I will have no problem with that.
You captained the team last year. How big a deal is it to be the team captain?
It’s a big responsibility in a good way. I felt very proud leading the team out in Tallaght Stadium for the final against St. Pat’s. Coming from a small club in Navan to being captain at the biggest club in Ireland is just amazing.
Do you believe there is an added duty on you as captain to lead by example?
To be honest with you no, I don’t think so. As captain you need to be a leader and lead by example but I think every player should be a leader in their own way and everyone should help each other. That’s the responsibility I set for the lads last year but, of course, a captain should be leading by example and should always help his teammates out.
You are the eldest of four brothers currently playing amongst the ranks of the SRFC Academy; what can you tell us about your younger brothers?
They are all amazing footballers to be honest. All three of them are different in their ways of football but they are all very committed in what they do and are competitive like me. They have all helped me as a player and I am blessed to have the three of them.
The postponement of the beginning of the season was understandably necessary but what are you doing currently to keep yourself fit and fresh?
I’ve been following the programme sent out by the fitness coach Pat (Deans). Every day we get sent stuff to do which keeps us ticking over but I have also been doing my own bit. That means going on a run or going to the nearest green to kick ball with my brothers.
With no football and no school how are you keeping yourself occupied?
I’ve been focussing on being strong and fit for whenever the season starts back and also spending some more time with my family which is important.
You have chalked up quite a number of appearances for the Republic of Ireland. Do you feel a special moment of pride when you pull on the green jersey?
Of course, it’s an amazing feeling to be wearing the green jersey and representing your country. It’s a childhood dream for most kids and it was mine since I was very young so hopefully I can keep it up and stay in that jersey up until first team football.
What’s the most interesting occasion you have had with the international team?
That’s a tough one. I would have to say captaining my country against Spain. I always get nervous before games, especially international games but to be honest when I found out I was going to be captain against such a big country like Spain I had no nerves at all. I just wanted to play and in the end we got an excellent result against them.
Do you have a favourite player in the Rovers’ first team squad?
I don’t personally have a favourite but if I was to pick, I’d say Jack Byrne or Pico Lopes.
How would you describe yourself as a footballer?
I would describe myself as hard working and competitive but mostly a team player. I always want to help my team out in any way possible if that means doing an extra run or covering for someone’s mistake.
What’s your favourite App on your phone?
My favourite app would have to be Instagram.
Who is the funniest team mate on the Under 17s and why?
The funniest on the team would be Sean Jones Carey. He always has something to show in the dressing room and never fails to make everyone laugh.
Team: Under 19
Position: Centre half/left back
Previous clubs: Esker Celtic and Crumlin United
When did you join Shamrock Rovers?
I joined Shamrock Rovers in the summer of 2017
Was there anything in particular that swung your decision to sign for the club?
I went up for a training session, Damien Duff was the head coach of the team, the session was really good, the intensity and on the ball a lot; that was really enjoyable. Damien Duff was definitely a factor.
What was your first impressions of Shamrock Rovers after you joined?
I thought the people that worked there were really nice and I was made feel very welcome into the squad that I was with.
Can you remember your very first game?
My very first game was against Finn Harps, I came on at half time. It was a friendly game and we won 2-0 here at the Academy at Roadstone.
Are you happy with the progress of your development?
Yeah, 100%. I have definitely come as a player, tactically and technically.
What would you say are your strengths as a player?
Passing, speed, good decision making.
Would you say you like to model yourself on any established player in particular?
I would like to be like Virgil Van Dijk, the way he is playing at the moment is unbelievable. He is the best defender in the world at the moment.
You are doing some training with the first team; how is that going for you?
It has been really, really good. The standard is obviously higher than what I have been used to but I’m getting used to it now. All the players have been really nice. The sessions are demanding but it’s benefitting me a lot when I go back and train with my own team too.
How are you managing with your education?
It’s tough but it’s manageable. The hours are longer than my previous school by a couple of hours. I’d be really tired when I get home but I just have to get on with it; that’s what I have to do.
Are you looking to gain any academic qualifications outside of football?
I’m looking to be either a sports scientist or a physio. At present I’m studying Biology in Ashfield College.
You have so far gained eight international caps for Ireland while playing for the Hoops. What has that experience been like for you?
It has been unbelievable. It’s always an honour to represent your country and make your family and friends proud; it’s a feeling you will never forget.
What are you looking to achieve this season?
I’m hoping for success trophy-wise. Any competition that we go into I want to go and win it. Personally, I want to keep on improving and keep on getting better. Hopefully I can get Player of the Year just like I did when I was playing for the Under 15s.
What do you like to do to pass the time when you are not training, playing or studying?
Probably going out with some of my mates. It’s tough not seeing them as much, with training and that I rarely have time so whenever I do have any I go out with my friends.
How many days a week do you go to Ashfield College?
I’m there every single day. On Monday and Tuesday I usually go in late as I’m training with the first team. It’s 9.20am until 7pm Monday to Thursday and 9.20am to 2.30pm on Fridays. On Mondays and Tuesdays when I am training with the first team I don’t start college until 1.30pm. This is my first year at Ashfield. All the teachers are very helpful and all the other students that go there are really nice and friendly so it was easy to adjust to it and to become comfortable in that environment.
Finally, Adam, what would you as a young player say to fans who don’t show enough interest in the underage section to come along to the games?
Throughout the club the standard is really high in the Academy and the first team. I think people should come and get to know us; we are the up and coming players who are going to be hopefully representing Shamrock Rovers in the future. I think it is important that people get to know us.
Team: Under 15s
Position: Centre midfield/left back
Height: 5’ 9”
Previous clubs: St Kevin’s Boys, Aisling Annacotty (Limerick)
Tell us John where exactly you come from? I am from Castletroy in Limerick, in the suburbs of the city.
How long are you playing for Rovers? I am playing for Rovers a year and nine months, since January 2018. My first game was a friendly against Corduff Under 15s in Roadstone.
How did you do that day of your first game? I did well that day and I scored too; it was good to get a goal on my debut.
How did you come about to play for Rovers? I was approached by them after a tournament.
What’s your normal position? At the moment it’s left back; I have played there for my country as well.
You haven’t always played there though have you? When I came to Rovers I played as an attacking number 8. In the summer of 2018 the Ireland Under 15 manager Jason Donohue spoke to Rovers Academy Director Shane Robinson and said he thought that I could be a good left back. Shane worked with me on the position and I made the Irish squad as a full back. Thanks also to Glenda Curtis and her family who let me stay with them while I was in Dublin at that time. I did well playing at left back with Ireland and I have continued playing there sometimes with Rovers.
What school do you attend? I am in Castletroy College. I’m in Transition Year. I did my Junior Cert in June.
Do you model yourself on any particular player? Centre mid I have always admired Kevin DeBruyne; at left back Andy Robertson.
How many appearances have you made for Ireland? 11 including Under 15 and Under 16.
What was your first game for Ireland? It was against Poland Under 15s in Poland.
What are the countries you have travelled to with the Ireland squads? Poland, Spain, Cyprus, Czech Republic and England. I have also been to Finland with Rovers.
What’s it like for a young lad of your age to travel away as part of an Ireland squad? It’s a really good experience. I knew most of the lads before I went away for the first time so it was easy enough to settle in. It’s good to get the opportunity to go away and it’s important to enjoy it. There are many kids around Ireland that would wish they were in my place so I’m grateful for it.
Do you think you learn from playing against foreign opposition? You do, they are the best of the best in their country so you learn every time you play; you pick the key points from each game as to where you need to improve and bring it into the next one.
What has the experience of playing in the FAI Under 15 League been like for you this year? It’s been incredible really; it’s been great to have the opportunity to play for such a big club as Shamrock Rovers. The league is a higher standard; I wish it had started younger, it’s class. I had always expected it to be very competitive.
How much do you think you personally have developed this year? I think I have developed a lot, especially at left back. I just need to keep working hard and keep on improving.
Your team had a super win against Dundalk in the league semi-final; what was the mood in the camp following that victory? We were delighted. As our coaches said we just need to keep the momentum going. We plan to do that and keep on working hard for the final.
How do you travel for training and games? My dad. I don’t know what I would do without him. Sometimes if he is unavailable I would get the bus during school holidays but mostly it’s by car.
What bus would you get? The green bus, the Dublin coach, that drops me off at the Red Cow and I get collected there by a parent or by Shane (Robinson). I get the bus back home again from the Red Cow.
Then you have to get up for school in the morning. How do you do it? Just working hard and dedication. As well, we always drive to training during the school year to make sure I get home as early as possible. I do all my gym, individual fitness and ball work in Limerick.
Team: Under 19s
Previous club: UCD
Position: I would say I am an attacking midfielder. I played a more defensive role at the start of the year but I prefer the attacking role and I am playing there now.
Describe yourself as a footballer: I am a player who likes to attack and defend as well. I like to run and pass the ball around. I like to take on opponents 1 v 1 but I don’t mind defending, every player has to do that.
Describe yourself off the pitch: I’m a relaxed person. I like to spend time with family and friends, watch TV and play a bit of football with my friends during the off season.
What’s your earliest memory of football? I went to see Rovers play Real Madrid in 2009. That would be my earliest memory of going to a big match. It was a big deal at the time and my dad organised the tickets for him, me and my brother Daniel to go. That was my first time to see Shamrock Rovers.
What was your own first game for Shamrock Rovers? I played in a pre-season friendly this year for the Under 19s against Athlone Town’s first team. We won 3-2.
Whereabouts are you from? I’m from Knocklyon. I have always lived there.
What are you currently doing education-wise? I have just finished school at St. Colmcille’s in Knocklyon. I am going to college in September to study an Arts Degree in Spanish and Business.
What kind of music are you into? A bit of everything really. My favourite is rap; I’d listen to it before games or on the bus travelling to away games. I don’t have a favourite artist as such but I like Post Malone; I like to listen to him.
What do you like most about playing for Shamrock Rovers? Being around the best players in the country every week and for every game. Rovers are the biggest club in the country; it’s great to be a part of it. I feel I am lucky to be a part of it.
What’s your favourite meal? Chicken curry
Who do you think is the best player from another club that you have come across in the Under 19 league? I haven’t seen much except when I play against them but one I would say is Colm Whelan, the striker with Waterford. I saw him playing in Dublin earlier this year and I thought he looked good.
Finally Darragh, your team have qualified for the final of the Enda McGuill Cup. What are your thoughts on that? I am really looking forward to it. We will be playing against Bohs in the final. I haven’t played in many finals before so I hope to get the opportunity to play in this one. Playing against Bohs you couldn’t really ask for more. It’s great to be involved.