FORMER West Cork Schoolboys League Kennedy Cup and Dunmanway Town goalkeeper Aaron Mannix was capped for the first time at U15 international level in Poland last week.
Mannix was part of the 18-man Republic of Ireland squad that travelled to Poland to face the host country in two friendly internationals.
It has been a long but worthwhile path for the former Dunmanway shot-stopper who currently plays for Douglas Hall in the Cork Schoolboys League.
Spending a week away with the Irish U15 international team gave Mannix an insight into what being a professional footballer is all about. Receiving his first international cap was a proud moment for a player capable of building on his experiences with the Irish setup.
‘We were presented with our international caps the evening before the Poland games,’ Mannix explained.
‘Personally, it was a really proud moment just to get the actual cap and hold it in my hand. I was very happy but had to turn my attention towards the game itself immediately after. We were in Poland for almost a week having flown over early on the Sunday morning and not returning until the following Thursday.
‘It was a really good experience training every day and preparing for the international matches but I am very tired after it. It was a good introduction to what being a professional footballer might be like; all the training and preparation that goes in to every match you play.
‘Jason Donohue is the Republic of Ireland U15 head coach and was in charge of our squad. We also had our own goalkeeping coach, Richie Fitzgibbon and another coach, former Irish international player, Sean St Ledger. Sean was sound and all the coaching staff was very good to us while we were in Poland. I would have spent the most time with Richie (Fitzgibbon) and enjoyed working with him as I learned a lot.’
As well as conducting daily training sessions, Jason Donohue’s side played their U15 equivalents in two internationals during their time in Poland. Ben Quinn scored the only goal of a tight encounter to seal a terrific 1-0 victory in the Republic’s first outing at Kolobrzeg.
Mannix was selected in goal for Ireland’s second game two days later in Ploty. The young goalkeeper was powerless to prevent a 4-2 defeat despite Michael Leddy scoring twice for the visitors.
It proved a productive week for head coach Jason Donohue who told the official FAI website ‘We’ve given 18 players their international debut, with all of them starting a game for their country. We’ve educated the players over the past week. It’s a huge stepping stone for these players in their career.’
Mannix got his chance in the second game against Poland, a proud moment for the goalkeeper, his family members and friends who made the trip to Poland to see the youngster in action.
‘The match that I was involved in, our second international against Poland, had an 11am kick-off, which meant we all had to get up earlier that morning,’ Mannix said.
‘After breakfast we travelled to the stadium for 10.15am, did our warm-up and then the match kicked off. It was a very fast-paced game but our coaches had warned us it might be one hundred miles an hour at the start as players tried to settle. As a goalkeeper, that didn’t make much difference to me but the outfield players said it was very fast going alright.
‘Poland were very good in the two internationals but it was disappointing to lose our game 4-2. One of the goals was my fault, another was a penalty, a third came from a defensive mistake and they got one excellent goal alright to be fair. We had plenty of chances to score ourselves and I think it 2-2 draw would’ve been a much fairer result.
‘Once the game was over, we did the usual warm down and the coaches said well done to everyone. There wasn’t really much spoken about the game that night as the coaches were off going over their video footage. On Wednesday, the entire squad and coaches sat down and did a full match analysis of the game which was very good.
‘One of the main things I picked up while we were in Poland is the fact so much preparation and analysis (before and after games) goes into internationals. Hopefully, I can get back involved again in the New Year when the Irish squad heads to Spain for an U15 tournament.’
Mannix has come a long way in a short period of time since his U8 Futsal days in the Dunmanway Community hall. The young net-minder has all the attributes to progress his career in the coming years.