In a year when the national team performed dismally at a European Championship, there’s a lot of reflecting going on amongst the Irish football team and fans alike but for Seamus Coleman at least, the end of 2012 marked some notable highs.
Coleman was given the perfect 24th birthday present when named in the starting eleven against Germany at Lansdowne Road in October, his first competitive start. Despite the massacre that ensued, Coleman was one of the few Irish players to emerge from the game with his reputation enhanced.
Although injury has curtailed his recent appearances for Everton, he was rewarded by manager David Moyes with a new five-and-a-half year contract signed on New Year’s Eve.
The Donegalman enters 2013 seemingly having cemented his place in the plans of Giovanni Trapattoni in what is a huge year for the Republic of Ireland.
Nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year in season 2010-2011, Coleman, the former Sligo Rovers star, won the club equivalent at Goodison Park. He was the Irish U21 player of the year in both 2009 and 2010 and was handed his Irish début in the Carling Nations Cup tie with Wales. While Irish fans clamoured for his inclusion in the Republic’s starting line-up, the full-back/winger was placed on the stand-by list for Euro 2012. He has bided his time to make his mark in the green jersey.
It was this late arrival to the professional game that has meant Coleman still appreciates the road he’s travelled.
“You see young lads playing in the Premier League now at the age of 17 or 18 and I was playing Gaelic football at that age. It’s crazy. I look at them doing so well and it’s mad thinking about me playing a different sport on a Saturday afternoon back then,” Coleman told the Liverpool Echo newspaper.
Not having gone through the usual route of being snapped up as a teenager, Coleman has a different perspective to most.
“Because being at a top club is all some academy kids have ever known perhaps they do take it for granted in some cases. I’m not criticising them. I understand that because it’s all they’ve ever known but it’s one thing you’ll never see me doing.”
Coleman is one in a long line of recent Irish internationals to come through the League of Ireland having lit up the Showgrounds with Sligo Rovers.
“When I first signed it was a two-year contract I think and I just looked at it as more of a long-term trial. I was here to try and prove myself and that I was good enough to take the massive step from the League of Ireland to the Premier League here,” he says. “It was difficult making the transition but I just went out and tried to play my game and thankfully had a good year of it. It was something I’d always dreamed about so I just tried to grab it with both hands.
“Since I’ve done it James McClean has come over as well so it proves it can be done.”
And Coleman sees similarities to his time in Sligo.
“I love Everton because this is a family club in a similar way to Sligo,” he says.
“There certainly weren’t as many staff at Sligo but they were brilliant and here it’s the same. “A lot of my friends back home are United fans but when I play they’re Everton fans. “It’s great and when I go back to where I’m from and I see a kid in a Coleman jersey it’s still mad.”