Belfast Telegraph

How new Portsmouth signing Gerard Storey is Northern Ireland's latest two sport talent

New Portsmouth signing Gerard Storey scored as County Antrim beat GPS Bayern in the final of the 2017 SuperCupNI Junior final.
New Portsmouth signing Gerard Storey scored as County Antrim beat GPS Bayern in the final of the 2017 SuperCupNI Junior final.
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

We all know somebody who has that natural talent mixed with an inner drive that leads them to seemingly inevitable success at just about any sport they try.

There's Gerry McElhinney, the former Northern Ireland international who also starred for Derry's gaelic football side in the 70s and 80s.

Then there's David Dennison, an Irish international cricketer and a big name for Glenavon, whose current striker Andrew Mitchell plays the same two sports.

There's also the story of former Wolves goalkeeper Daniel Wright, who became a golf professional just a few years after taking up the sport when his football dreams were ended by a heart defect.

Now there's Belfast teenager Gerard Storey.

Not only is he a County Antrim champion boxer, he's also on his way to becoming a professional footballer after agreeing a deal to join League One side Portsmouth.

The 17-year-old and Portadown clubmate Harry Anderson will move to the English south coast next month to kickstart their bid to become the next big thing in Northern Irish football.

So where has that potent mix of skill and desire come from in Storey's make-up?

Well it's easy to see the talent side of things. His dad is former Irish International boxer Gerry Junior, his grandfather the highly respected Holy Family Boxing Club trainer Gerry Senior and his uncle Sam a former British Super-Middleweight champion.

And what about the passion? While that, of course, is an integral part of the Storey boxing dynasty DNA, it's helped in no small part by Gerard's mother Marguerite.

"My mum loves football - she knows more about it than my dad and my granda put together," he laughed.

"Football was always number one for me. It was probably an easier route than boxing because you don't get punched in the face every day.

"My dad and my granda have been really supportive with me choosing the football rather than boxing as well but in saying all that, if the football ended today, I'd be down at the gym tomorrow to start into the boxing again."

He's really hoping, however, this is just the beginning of his career.

It's really a second bite at the cherry already. Storey had been set for a move to Peterbrough after first training with the side then managed by Grant McCann when he was only 14. With a contract lying in wait once he came of age, it was all thrown up in the air as former Northern Ireland international McCann was axed in February last year.

But it didn't take long for Portsmouth to recognise the midfielder's potential.

"I was playing for Northern Ireland U17s in a couple of friendly games earlier this year and it was in the second one, against Greece at Shamrock Park, that they noticed me," he explained.

"I had quite a good game and after that, they contacted Portadown and asked if I could go over for a week-long trial.Before I'd even gone home again, they had told me that they wanted me to sign.

"It was unreal. It's obviously a lot more professional than playing here. You're training full-time and you're just playing football flat out."

This time last year, Storey turned down the advances of Linfield, among others, to sign for Championship side Portadown on a promise of a fast-track to senior football.

"Obviously everyone likes to know that Linfield is interested in them so that was a draw but Matthew Tipton (Portadown manager) promised me first team football," he said.

"I knew that's what I needed to progress so I signed at Shamrock Park and, after starting well, I got called up to the first team, starting seven games in a row. That was great for me and, even though an injury set me back a bit after those games, it was such a great season.

"Matthew was absolutely class. I was almost like his blue eyed boy. I was only 16 when I got brought in and he would always take me out to the pitch before the game to tell me where he wanted me to be in different situations and to explain things to me."

The former Edmund Rice College student will go straight into Pompey's academy programme, including one day per week education.

"It's going to be a big change, adapting to full-time football," he says. "Hopefully I get off to a good start and, of course, my ultimate dream is to reach the first team but I know there's a lot of hard work to go before I can get near that stage."

So what can Portsmouth expect from Storey and their other new signing, County Armagh man Anderson?

"Matthew Tipton says that my strength is my long passing but I'd say I'm a box to box midfielder," he said. "I played more attacking when I was coming up but when I got into the Portadown team, I was used as a defensive midfielder. I'm happy anywhere in there.

"I'll be living with Harry so that takes a lot of the pressure of, us going together. Then (former Cliftonville player) Eoin Teggart is over there as well so that's another Belfast lad.

"Harry's a striker - he's a big guy for his age but he's very quick too. I'd say he's an all round striker, he can play as a target man but then he's got the pace to run in behind as well."

It's an exciting new start for Storey but if it all doesn't work out, he can still turn his eyes to becoming the next Carl Frampton rather than Steven Davis.

That's where such a mix of talent and desire can get you.

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