AT Barnsley since last summer, Bunratty’s Jeff McGowan is halfway through a two-year scholarship with the Yorkshire club.
It hasn’t been an easy season for the 17-year-old striker, who only got to line-out for the club’s U-18 side on a handful of occasions due to bureaucracy.
“It was a tough enough year for me in fairness, I had a lot of setbacks. There was a problem coming over here with international clearance and stuff like that. I only started playing around January because I had to wait a good few months for the international clearance. It was tricky enough,” he says.
Asked why it took so long for the paperwork to be sorted, he says big clubs take priority. “There’s a process that has to be done. The teams like the Man Uniteds and the Man Citys, their foreign players get it first and it kind of works down. There was a hold up with that.”
Because of the situation, most of McGowan’s focus was on training. “I only played about six games but I’ve been training away. I’ve been training with the U-21s and stuff. It’s been difficult enough but it was a good end to the season and I can’t wait for next season.
“After I started playing I had a few decent games. I was man of the match against Brentford, that was the second last game of the season.”
While he has played his last game of the season, his holidays won’t begin until after Barnsley’s first team are finished. That could be as soon as May 8 but, at the time of writing, there is a good chance they will reach the play-offs for a chance to win a spot in the championship.
The side is captained by Corkman Conor Hourihane. McGowan says he finds it encouraging to have one of his own countrymen leading the club, while he likes meeting the first team. “They’re all sound lads, they’d talk to you and stuff like that. It’s good to see professionals like that every day and that’s where you want to be as well.”
McGowan was at Limerick FC before moving to Yorkshire. He quickly noticed the jump in standard. “Fitness is a lot higher over here. At home it’s good as well but the pre-season was very tough over here, there was a lot of running and the quality of football is very high.
“There’s a lot of things I’ve learned since I came over. The game of football is different to back home. I’m enjoying it anyway and I’ve learned a lot.”
McGowan loved hurling and played with Newmarket before going to England. Even now, he sometimes goes out for a few pucks in the evenings, although the other young players he lives with are all English.
They have a fairly structured day, with some menial tasks to do as part of their daily work along with training.
“We’d be in for half eight, we’ve jobs and stuff to do in the morning. We’d be in the gym from 10 to 10.30am and then train from 10.30 to 12 noon. We’d get food, then have a few more jobs to do after that and probably don’t leave until half three.”
He also has to attend classes all day on Wednesday and on Thursday afternoon.
Training full-time takes a physical toll and a young footballer generally has to take it easy when the day’s work is done.
“We might go to the gym if we hadn’t done much that day. There’s a swimming pool in the digs so we might go there. Otherwise I just play FIFA on the Playstation and chill watching TV. We’re normally tired enough after the day of training, so we just relax in the evening time.”
With half of his two-year spell up, he is enjoying himself.
“There’s not much I don’t like about it, I enjoy playing every day,” he concluded.
By Owen Ryan