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Leeds star Peacock-Farrell reflects on 'dream' Northern Ireland debut six years after Middlesbrough heartache

By Paul Ferguson

Northern Ireland should be grateful to ruthless Middlesbrough after a second player who failed to make the cut at the Riverside Stadium has gone on to make their senior international debut.

Leeds United's impressive 21-year-old goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell, who qualifies for Northern Ireland as his grandparents are from Fermanagh, was brought on at the start of the second half to replace Trevor Carson during the 0-0 draw with Panama at Estadio Rommel Fernandez yesterday morning.

But six years ago, Peacock-Farrell's world came crashing down when he was told by Middlesbrough he was going to be let go by the north east club as they felt at 5ft 9, he was too small to be a goalkeeper. He is now 6ft 4.

His international team-mate Jordan Jones suffered a similar fate at Boro in 2016 and needed to rejuvenate his career in Scotland with Kilmarnock.

"I got mutually told to leave," stresses Peacock-Farrell. "I was too small at the time. I'm 6'4" now. I was about 5'9" at 16. I was too small for a keeper.

"The season after, that's when I started growing, but at the time they thought he's not going to be big enough or good enough. Leeds took the chance on me and I grew that following year.

"It was the worst six months to a year. The uncertainty of not knowing if you're going to be a footballer or not. That's at the time when you go into full-time football and the scholarship.

"I was actually planning other avenues of education and things like that, it was a strange one to process as such but I had to have a back-up ready.

"I applied for my sixth form at school and was ready to go in at the start of September but thankfully I got my deal at Leeds done."

Peacock-Farrell has been a revelation for Leeds since being drafted into the team in March and he looked assured between the posts on a hot and humid night in Panama City.

He made a routine save from Ricardo Avila towards the end and, with his big frame, appeared a commanding figure in his 18 yard box.

He concedes his international debut was a dream come true.

"It's not easy coming on at half-time, but to make my international debut, that's what you dream of when you're a young boy," says Peacock-Farrell.

"You want to be playing football on the international stage, that's the level you want to aspire to and thankfully I managed to do that.

"I actually didn't know the plan until I arrived at the stadium. It was just during the warm-up, they said there was a possibility of making the switch at half-time. Like always, you've got to be prepared to play and wait to get that nod.

"I didn't have a lot and it was quite an easy game to be thrown into I guess. Just a couple of routine saves as such and a fair amount of kicking."

Our coverage of Northern Ireland's tour to play Panama and Costa Rica is brought to you in conjunction with BetMcLean.

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