Had Nevin Spence decided on a different career path his name could have been listed alongside Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli rather than Johann Muller and Ruan Pienaar.
Tipped as a possible successor to Brian O’Driscoll in the Ireland number 13 shirt, Spence also played schoolboy international football in his teens.
And such was his all-round sporting ability that scouts from a number of top clubs were keen on him — including the current Premier League champions.
“Nevin played at right-back in the team that beat England in 2005 — our first win against England in the Victory Shield in 72 years,” said Desi Currie, the Irish FA’s Technical Director and manager of the Northern Ireland under-16 international team.
“He was at Dromore High School at the time and his PE teacher Raymond Hill, who played Irish League football, told me about him.
“In that squad we had Nevin, Sean O’Neill, who is a regular in the Tyrone GAA squad and then Ryan McGivern and Corry Evans who have gone on to play for Northern Ireland at senior international level, so there was a mix of sporting talent in the squad.
“Nevin was offered a few trials and Manchester City were one of the clubs who were interested.
“He preferred to stay at home and help on the farm and by that stage he’d also been offered a place at Wallace High School.
“He went on to play for Wallace in the Schools’ Cup final a couple of years later and I don’t know of anyone else who has played at such a high level at both football and rugby as a schoolboy.”
“He was an absolute joy to be around. So easily handled and he was very popular with his peers,” Currie added.