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Northern Ireland's Shayne Lavery on mission to repay his parents' sacrifices


On the run: Shayne Lavery gets into his stride during Northern Ireland training in Central America
On the run: Shayne Lavery gets into his stride during Northern Ireland training in Central America

By Paul Ferguson

Parental sacrifice is often forgotten about as a young footballer starts to achieve their goals and ambitions.

With a sole focus on the immediate progression of their own careers and the new relationship they have formed with team-mates, players - especially those who have moved away from home at a young age - can become insular.

Yet as Northern Ireland's new rising star Shayne Lavery reflected in San Jose yesterday on his international debut in Panama earlier this week, his thoughts immediately turned to the sacrifice, encouragement and dedication his parents, Margaret and Martin, made so that he could fulfil his dreams of playing at the same club as idol Wayne Rooney, making the bench for Everton against Apollon Limassol in the Europa League and representing the Northern Ireland senior team against a side headed for the World Cup finals in Russia.

The 19-year-old from the Co Armagh village of Aghagallon near Lurgan is only too aware that four years ago he was helping Portadown win the Harry Cavan Youth Cup before making the Mid Ulster switch to Glenavon a year later where he was spotted by an Everton scout and offered a trial which then resulted in a contract at the Goodison Park club.

Lavery is playing mostly with the Everton Under-23s but he's impressed so much that he could soon be fast-tracked into the first team - although that obviously depends on new boss Marco Silva.

Now in Central America, he may have only made a brief cameo - thrown on for the final two minutes of the 0-0 draw with World Cup-bound Panama inside a packed Estadio Rommel Fernandez - but it has given him the taste to go back and work hard so that he is selected in future squads.

And when he returns home on Tuesday morning, he plans to present the shirt he wore on his debut to his parents to signify his appreciation for their unstinting support.

"My mum will probably frame it and put it up. I've got a few from the Under-21s that I have framed. This one is going somewhere special," confirmed Lavery. "My parents are my biggest supporters. Mum's always got me to the football, when I was back playing under-ages and all. She's always brought me to football and my dad's got me into football. They've been there forever.

"I think it was six o'clock every Tuesday and Thursday night my mum would be beeping the horn to get me out to football practice because I had just got back from school and I'd be tired. That would have been for Portadown. I was at Sunnyside for a couple of years, went to Portadown and then Glenavon. That's where Everton picked me up."

Northern Ireland's game with Panama kicked off at 2am British time on Wednesday morning and due to a lack of TV coverage and the fact he wasn't sure he was going to earn his first cap, he told them not to stay up.

"I said to my mum and dad just go to sleep! I didn't think I was going to play, so I said just go to sleep, wake up in the morning, you'll be alright!

"I phoned them in the morning but I think my mum might have been on Twitter through the game. Mum would have been on her phone. She never said, however knowing her I think she would have been. She was very proud. I've just been texting my dad and they are both made up."

As a young boy, Lavery - while developing a similar stature - idolised Manchester United and England star Rooney. With his move to Goodison and Rooney's return to the Toffees, he is now rubbing shoulders and gaining valuable advice from his hero.

"When you see him (Rooney) in the corridor, you're a little bit taken aback. He'll talk to the young lads which is good. I've been watching him since I could kick a ball," he said.

"For him to come to Everton was just amazing. All the lads were the same. It's Wayne Rooney. I've never experienced that before with the lads at Everton. You see the first team, but Wayne Rooney, well, he's a football legend.

"He's such a nice guy. He'll not just walk past you. He's really nice."

Lavery has also developed a friendship with Everton and Republic of Ireland skipper Seamus Coleman.

Donegal-born Coleman, who played for League of Ireland club Sligo Rovers before making his big move across the water to the Toffees, was out with a horrendous double fracture leg injury - which he suffered in a World Cup qualifying match against Wales.

Lavery, during that time, was also in the treatment room nursing his hamstring, and he was thrilled that Coleman took the time to give him experienced counsel.

"I struggled with my hamstring this last year and Seamus is always asking how it is. He's really good with the young players, not only me, everyone really," he said.

"We were in over the summer a few times together. He wouldn't not go up to you. He's a really, really nice guy. Everyone says that about him."

Lavery will once again start tomorrow's match against Costa Rica on the bench but there is every chance he could be called again by Michael O'Neill as the Northern Ireland boss believes he is a special talent.

And this time with the match being screened live on the BBC website, mum and dad will be watching.

"Oh yeah, my mum's already said," confirmed Lavery. "I didn't have to tell her, she told me. They'll definitely be watching this one."

Costa Rica vs N Ireland

International Friendly

Estadio Nacional, Sunday, 6.00 pm

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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