BY JJ HURLEY
THREE years of hard work at Ipswich Town FC has paid off for Riverstick's Matt Healy who has secured a professional contract with the club.
Reflecting on the news, Matt said, 'Receiving my new contract was a great feeling. I was over the moon.
'I felt proud to get offered a pro contract, but I know there’s a long way to make it as a footballer. Not many kids get such a good opportunity like this, so I need to make sure that I make the most of it.'
Initially spotted by the League One club at the Kennedy Cup in Limerick, where Matt participated with the Cork County team, Ipswich Town invited him for trials. A couple of trips later to Portman Road and the club offered a two-year footballing scholarship to the then College Corinthian player, with the scholarship later extended for another year.
Arriving at the club as a 16-year-old, having completed his Junior Certificate a few weeks previous, Matt had already impressed for the national side at U15, U16 and U17 levels. There were concerns for parents Peter and Bernie, with his mum remarking, 'It could have been a very daunting experience for him as he would have to get used to living away from home at such a young age.'
Addressing these concerns, Ipswich's head of education and welfare officer travelled to Ireland, met with Matt’s parents and his former school to ensure his education remained central to his development. Several extended trips to the club for Matt and his parents, the family were convinced it was the right decision.
Describing those early days at the club, Matt said, 'I was excited when I first went over. The first few weeks were a bit weird getting to know my new dig's lady, getting to know my new teammates and coaches and getting used to the training schedule. After a few weeks, I adapted to the regime. I lived with another Irish lad the same age who just moved over, so having someone else in the same boat helped.'
On the pitch, Matt said, 'The facilities and the professionalism at the club impressed me the most.'
With a hectic weekly regime, the promising midfielder's diary included pitch training and completing a BTEC in Sports Science during his three-year scholarship.
Matt is under no illusion of the tall order in securing a first-team start.
'There are many talented players through the age groups, so you need to work hard every day to get into these teams and then keep your jersey and stay in the team,’ he said.
Matt has accepted the challenge, featuring for the U18 and U23 sides and named once on the senior squad since turning pro. Reflecting on his ambitions, Matt said, 'My future aspirations would be to stay in and around the senior team this year and hopefully pick up some appearances along the way. The more I train and play with these top players, the more I will improve. My aim for this season is to try and stay with the senior team.
'At an international level, I am hoping to get a call-up to the U21/U22 camps this year. However, for this to happen, I need to perform on the pitch.'
Finally, when asked what advice he would have for anyone making a similar move, Matt replied, ‘A good attitude is the most important thing to have to excel. Another important attribute is to back yourself and believe you're good enough to play and thrive at this level.'