BY KIERAN McCARTHY
CONNOR Ellis spent last Sunday evening mingling with international soccer stars.
On a special night for the Kealkill teenager, as he won the FAI Schools’ International Player of the Year award, Ellis rubbed shoulders with Republic of Ireland players bound for the European Championships in France this summer.
Seamus Coleman and Richard Keogh presented the Cork City U19 striker with his award at the FAI International Football Awards in Dublin on Sunday night, and Ellis also met Jonathan Walters, Robbie Brady and Shane Long.
It capped off a wonderful night for the former Bantry Bay Rovers underage starlet who was honoured by the FAI for his role in leading the FAI schools’ team to the Centenary Shield last year – the first time in five seasons that Ireland won this particular competition.
Ellis scored twice in the 3-2 win against Northern Ireland last March and he goaled again in a 1-1 draw away to Scotland.
‘It’s nice to win anything but to get an FAI award is special. I was honoured to even get nominated, and it was a flick of a coin between the three of us who were nominated,’ Ellis said.
‘When you spend so much time training and up and down the road from home to Dublin, it’s great to get some recognition like this. It’s nice too for my parents (Steve and Norma) who give up so much time travelling with me and who have supported me from the start.
‘It was a great evening at the awards. To be in and around stars like Jon Walters and Shane Long and to be able to meet them and see the life they have, it gives you more motivation and drive to get to that level some day.’
The Republic of Ireland underage striker was thrilled to share a few words with Southampton and Ireland attacker Shane Long, who left Cork City for Reading in 2005.
‘It was great to meet Long as I look up to him as a benchmark. We play in the same position, he played for Cork City as well and then last Sunday, before the awards, he was playing in the Premier League against Liverpool, so it shows how far he has come,’ Ellis said.
‘I’m very happy with Cork City at the moment and my aim is, after the Leaving Cert, to get into the senior team and hopefully get noticed from there – like Brian Lenihan did before his move to Hull.’
On Monday night a big crowd turned out in Kealkill for Ellis’ homecoming, and he is very thankful for the support and good wishes he has received locally.
In action for Cork City U19s these weeks, Coláiste Pobail Bheanntraí student Ellis – who made his senior debut for John Caulfield’s Cork City last season – is planning on taking May off to concentrate on his Leaving Cert exams.
After that, he will return to full-time training in July, and step up his attempts to break into Cork City’s first team.
Ellis is also a former Celtic Ross Youth Sports Star of the Year (2014).