Saints duo moving on up

by Gazette Reporter

ST FRANCIS FC will continue to enjoy its recent successes at international level this May when two of its current Under-16 footballers, Cian Hughes and Jack Connolly, pull on the green jersey to represent Ireland in a UEFA development tournament held in Hungary next month.
Both players have represented their country before; Hughes having played international football at every age group from Under 15 upwards, while Connolly received his first call-up for April’s set of friendly games versus Turkey.
Connolly has played at St Francis since the age of six, while Hughes was snapped up two years ago from the NDSL leagues. Both play in the middle of the park, with Hughes usually playing in a number ten, attacking role while his team-mate sits further deep in front of his defensive line.
Paul Osam’s side will play all of Switzerland, Slovakia and host Hungary in the final set of games at Under 17 level for this group of players.
St Francis Under-16 manager Mark Connolly said that he is delighted with two of his players getting the call-ups to represent their country, explaining that they work effectively as a midfield duo for the club.
“The two of them play very well together. Jack has been with St Francis since he was six so he is a Francis lad through-and-through.
“This is Cian’s second year with us, but they definitely complement each other very well. They won the league cup playing with each other last season and have had another good season this year.”
Connolly picked up a serious injury following a Kennedy Cup game and missed a large majority of the Under-15 age bracket but worked his way back to full fitness and has earned himself a move to Premier League side Sunderland on a three-year deal in June.
Meanwhile, Hughes will remain in Ireland in order to complete his Leaving Certificate, leaving his options open to play League of Ireland Under-17 and make the switch to England in the near future.
Manager Connolly said that this current crop of St Francis players is one filled with extraordinary talent which reflects the philosophy and playing style echoed down from the top, starting with director of football and current St Patrick’s Athletics captain Ger O’Brien.
“The team itself is a golden generation of players coming through at that age group. Parents see that things are being done right at the club.
“They aren’t chasing glory and bringing their kids somewhere where they win leagues every year.
“These kids might not get anything out of it in the end – they’ll have a lot of medals but in the long-term they aren’t going to get the rewards that our lads are – getting contracts and international call-ups.”

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