BY JOHN O’SHEA
CHARLIE Lyons is currently gearing up for the 2020 League of Ireland season with Cobh Ramblers.
The Innishannon native returned to Ireland from Preston North End ahead of the 2019 domestic Irish campaign and he decided to make the move to Ramblers to play regular first team football.
Last year saw Lyons get a full campaign of regular first team football under his belt in the League of Ireland with Ramblers, making his Cobh debut in the Munster Senior Cup tie against Cork City.
The 19-year-old went on to become a regular fixture in the Ramblers first team, making a total of 25 first team appearances in total.
He looks back on the 2019 campaign at the St Colman’s Park club with The Southern Star.
‘Compared to youth team football over in England, the League of Ireland is way more physical. You wouldn’t be used to that over there,’ he says.
The intensity of the games, with three points so you are actually playing for something, whereas in England it is more development side of things.
‘I think I just have to learn my trade, especially as a centre half. It is what you do off the ball.
‘I am learning now, learning the position and trying to master it, so last season was a good experience up against a good enough standard of strikers. You learn a lot in first team football.’
At the helm at Ramblers as the current first team boss is Stuart Ashton, a man who has an excellent track record with working with young players in Cork, including the likes of Irish internationals Alan Browne, David Meyler and Kevin Long.
Discussing how he has found working with Ashton at Ramblers in terms of developing, Lyons says: ‘Stu (Stuart Ashton) played centre half himself, so he is very detailed with the centre halves positional-wise.
‘He had trust in me and was playing me once he took over. I am happy out under him, so I cannot complain.
‘Stu gives opportunities to young players. But as he was saying, you need to earn the right to play, he is not just going to hand you the jersey.
‘He keeps you on your toes as well in that way.’
Cobh had big displays in them last year, defeating the First Division winners Shelbourne twice, who now have Denzil Fernandes on their books.
But there is a sense that there is more in this group of young players at Ramblers and they will be seeking to find a greater level of consistency this year.
As for what he is targeting from the 2020 season, both from an individual and a collective standpoint, Lyons feels that Cobh can be in contention for the promotion playoffs.
‘To be honest, I think if we can just stay competitive and get consistent results every week, I think that we will be up there,’ he says.
‘In the First Division, anyone beats anyone, so I think it is very important to win your home games anyway and see how you get on away from home. But we’ll try to win our home games and see what happens.
‘In the big games last season we turned up, but there is no point in only turning up every three or four weeks. I think that was our problem last year. We would be good one week and we would slack the next week.
‘I suppose it is down to the players really. If we can just consistently put in a good 90 minutes, then I think we can finish strong anyway. A realistic goal for us is to definitely be finishing in the play-offs, weather that is fourth or second place, if we can get a good squad together, which the lads have now.
‘At training we are looking sharp enough so if we can get a good squad together, the playoffs would be a realistic goal for us as a team.’
During his time with Preston, Lyons would have played with Irish underage international Adam O’Reilly, while there were numerous Irish players in their first team set-up. Looking back on his time with Preston, Lyons recalls: ‘When I first went over you had Alan Browne, Greg Cunningham and Daryl Horgan.
‘Adam O’Reilly is a year younger than me. He moved over from Cork and I was living in the digs with him for two years. We settled each other in to be honest. During the weekends it would only be the two of us in the house. We looked after each other to be fair. You look after your own as they say.’
The skills of Lyons also were seen on the GAA field with Valley Rovers while his days as a soccer player commenced with his native Innishvilla.
‘Innishvilla were always very good to me. The club is very well run at the moment, they are after getting an AstroTurf in, which they were looking at for the last few years,’ he says.
‘I head down the odd time now if I can to get up and coach up there, help out with the academy. They have always been very good to me.’
Lyons and his Ramblers teammates are currently in the middle of the pre-season programme ahead of the 2020 League of Ireland campaign which kicks off next month with a home tie against Drogheda United.
He will hope to play his part in Cobh challenging at the top end of the First Division table and keeping the club in contention for the promotion play-off spots to the Premier Division.