Eyebrows were raised when Giovanni Trapattoni named three Derby County players in the Irish squad to face Poland. Among them is a 20-year-old midfielder who’s been rocking Ireland’s under-age sides and whose stock is rising at Pride Park. So who is Jeff Hendrick?
Dubliner Hendrick was spotted by the Rams playing for St Kevin’s Boys in the capital and linked up with Derby’s academy side before making the breakthrough to the reserves who captured the regional league title in 2010. From there he stepped up to the senior team and endeared himself to the Pride Park faithful by scoring his first goal, the winner away to closest rivals Nottingham Forest.
Hendrick starred for the Irish U19 side which qualified for the 2011 European Championship, scoring the winner in a 1-0 qualifying win over Portugal. He also featured in each of Ireland’s games in the finals as Paul Doolin’s side advanced to the semi-finals where they were eventually outclassed by Spain.
Joe McCarthy of the Irish Abroad website gives us the low-down on Ireland’s latest prospect.
“Hendrick’s first appearance in the Derby match-day squad was sitting alongside fellow Irish players Mark O’Brien and Ryan Connolly at the age of 18 on the bench in their final game of the 2009/2010 season, a 2-0 win over Cardiff.”
“He went on to make his début almost a year later on 23 April 2011 as a late sub in a home game against Burnley and came off the bench three more times for the Rams as their season drew to a close.”
“Following two more substitute appearances at the beginning of the 2011/2012 campaign, he made his first start away to Blackpool. From then until the end of the season, he started a total of 39 games. His performances were rewarded with the Young Player of the Year gong in the end of year awards.”
“Kendrick’s first goal was the winner for ten men Derby against Nottingham Forest in September 2011 and he scored twice more before the season’s end. He’s already improved on that total this term, netting five times making him the joint top scoring Irish midfielder in the top two divisions in England, along with fellow senior call-up James McClean.”
“Hendrick has been a virtual ever present for Derby this season, apart from a short spell on the bench following a dip in form, with manager Nigel Clough claiming at the time that “Coming out of the team will not do him any harm at all”. Despite this, he is still the midfielder with the second most starts lining out for the Rams starting XI an impressive 26 times. Not only that, he’s completed more matches than any other Irish midfielder, finishing 90 minutes in 23 of the 26 games.”
He has already been linked with moves to bigger clubs, with Derby offering him a new deal to ward off interest from Wolves, West Brom, Fulham, Norwich, and this week, the under-fire Aston Villa so I’d hope to see him move into the higher echelons of the game before long.
“I saw him in action for the U21s in a friendly against Denmark at Tallaght Stadium last May. He formed a defensive shield with Richie Towell to protect the back four, much in the same way the central midfield for the senior side protect the centre halves playing behind them. However, when he plays for Derby, he plays in a similar fashion to Frank Lampard for Chelsea, ahead of the midfield, behind the strikers and looking to make late runs into the box to pounce on loose balls.”
Irish manager Giovanni Trapattoni is reported to have watched Hendrick twice in recent weeks and was impressed enough to select him for the upcoming clash with Poland. The Italian looks determined to shake up the Irish squad and give younger players a chance to show what they’re made of. A senior appearance for Hendrick would cap his rapid rise to Irish prominence with an opportunity to sell himself to possible new club managers and his international boss alike.
Joe McCarthy runs Irish Abroad, compiling appearance data for Irish players in England and Scotland. All goals and sendings off posted in real time