Euro 2012 will captivate the whole country but two local soccer clubs, St. Michaels in Tipperary Town and Carrick United, will be enjoying the occasion more than most when roaring on players who have worn their club jerseys as schoolboys.
When Giovanni Trapattoni named his Republic of Ireland squad for Euro 2012 on Monday, everybody associated with St. Michaels and Carrick had reason to be particularly proud as former club players Shane Long and Stephen Hunt were named in the squad.
While both players were expected to be named, their inclusion was celebrated at St. Michaels and Carrick United this week as the build up to the championships begin.
Gortnahoe-born Shane Long, the former Tipp minor hurler, joined St. Michaels from Two Mile Borris. He played a number of years in schoolboy and youth teams for St. Michaels before heading for Cork City and then to Reading with Kevin Doyle.
Stephen Hunt, from Clonea Power outside Carrick-on-Suir, played for Rathgormack and Johnville schoolboys before joining Carrick on Suir. While playing with Carrick, Hunt was given the chance to join Crystal Palace and his career took off from there.
St. Michaels spokesman David Hassett said everybody in the club had fond memories of the West Brom striker Long.
“Shane came back her a few weeks ago to do a promotion and he was exactly the same level headed lovely lad that he was when he came here as a fourteen year old,” said Hassett.
He said that everybody in the club was extremely proud of Shane and what he had achieved.
“Shane is an inspiration to everybody at the club. Everybody here look up to him and he is a great example for all our schoolboys and young players. He has really worked very hard throughout his career and he deserves to be where he is today” said David.
Carrick United’s Richard Friend said the club was extremely proud of what Stephen Hunt had achieved during his career and delighted that he had been named in the Euro 2012 squad.
“He spent three seasons here as a teenager before moving into Crystal Palace and everybody admires Stephen because he worked so hard to establish himself at every club he was at,” said Richard.
“It’s fantastic that Stephen is now going to be on this huge stage and it’s fantastic for all the young players in our club to realise that anything is possible,” said Richard.