Shine Bright Like a Casey

Holly Casey is one of six children, born to Nessa and Bill. She takes her place as the second youngest with only her brother Tom beating her to secure the title as the youngest member of the family. She comes from a long line of footballers and is a happy little individual, always smiling and up for a laugh. I first met Holly when she used to watch her sister, Anna train in the astro cage beside me. One spring day I told my usual white lie ‘’ I am one short for this game, would you help me out and join in ?’’. I figured, she was in her PE gear so was as ready as she could possibly be, minus a pair of shin pads. Her mum asked her if she would help me out but she declined the offer politely so I walked away , leaving the cage door wide open. I began the drill again , traffic lights, but with an added twist of the command number four meaning the girls had to piggy back another team member . There was method to my madness. She saw the mayhem ensue and the shrieks of laughter and walked in to the cage within minutes. She very simply introduced herself to me and asked if she could participate. I agreed and we stopped the game to explain the rules. She understood it straight away and mixed in with all the team with ease. If you had looked into the cage from the outside it may have appeared to be a chaotic mess but they were nine and ten year olds and it was the warm up.

At this point I no idea who she was nor her family history, I regularly saw her mum Nessa walking her dog every evening and she always acknowledged me and kept going ,leaving me to get on with the session. We moved to the next, less chaotic drill. Everyone lined up at a blue cone and took their turn dribbling around six orange cones controlling the ball with the inside or outside of their feet. We did this twice and then had a race. It isn’t easy maintaining the concentration level at under eleven.

Holly was six and a half years old ( the half is important)  when she joined us. She understood the game immediately , she paid attention and simply had a natural flare. What I noticed from the off was that she was physically fit and had no fear.

At the beginning I was apprehensive playing her simply due to the fact that she was three years younger than the rest of the team and she was physically much smaller in stature.

She allayed my fears in the first match and showed she could compete at the level .She fouled the biggest child on the pitch and simply apologised and extended her hand to help the Terenure player up off the ground. She continued on with the game and simply kept moving.

As the weeks turned into months, the new season rolled around and we got ten new players. We made an under tens team. Holly was delighted as was I ( kind of). I now found myself with two teams and no coach. I divided the astro cage in two and would hope Gary Patton would make it from work in town every evening to help me. I managed to co ordinate the sessions as best I could with help from PJ O Connell and Philip Henry with the odd father standing in every now and then .I sincerely hoped someone ( anyone ) would step up and manage the younger team on a Sunday as I simply couldn’t be in two locations at once. One of the parents, Cian O’ Cuinneagain very kindly  stepped in as the Sunday manager and began to build a rapport with the kids. My only challenge now was to coach both teams at the same time with a wide range of abilities and almost twenty five children.

Holly made my life easier. She respected me from the start and so the rest of the team followed suit. On the first day of training as she looked up at me with her big puppy dog eyes and asked’’ How can we win the league?’’ I told her I would think about it and give her an answer next week.

The next week came and she bounced in to the cage , said ‘’ hello , how are you ?’’ , handed me two euro subs and then asked me if I had the answer to  last week’s question. I had forgotten all about the question so I opted for the truth .’’ If you do what we tell you ,you will do well ‘’. I was careful not to use the word win. She was only mildly satisfied with this answer. We pressed on with the session regardless.

I got to know all the girls fairly quickly and Holly stood out as she was so angelic looking and sounding, until you saw her in action. She was no pushover. In our most recent game against Esker Celtic ( Holly plays under twelve and is now nine years old), she tackled a player and won the ball much to the surprise of  the side line. The conversation went a little like this ; Elderly Gent number one : ‘’ Holly I didn’t think you had it in you’’, Elderly gent number two ‘’ She does, she’s a Casey ‘’.

Holly wasn’t shy in telling me what she thought and she reliably informed me that  running laps were an old fashioned way of warming up. I enrolled on my first coaching course only to realise she was in fact correct. So you see, we learn from children just as much as they learn from us. Probably more.

Holly’s best friends are Millie and Sophie. She enjoys Art, English, dancing, athletics and singing. She practices football with her brother Dan (plays for Boh’s) , Tom who plays for St Joseph Boys AFC under eights and her dad Bill. She likes Shane Long’s style but has no favourite team. I asked her if she wanted to be a footballer when she grows up but she has her sights set on becoming an actress.

Personally  I feel she could do both or anything she wishes. I have only been coaching a few years but I have never met such a competitive spirit with a desire to succeed. In all the years I have stood in the cold in Pearse Park she is the only child to ever answer my question of ‘’ How are you ?’’ with a ‘’ Good and YOU’’. She always asks me how I am and every time I am equally surprised when she does.

The children all bounce into the cage regaling me with tales of school or this boy kicked me or look I drew a Panda on my stomach with black marker( Kala Byrne ). I don’t think I will ever forget that one.. ..  but back to Holly.. The future is bright for Holly and I would like to thank her for giving me the opportunity to get to know her.

Come watch 2017’s under ten player of the year sometime and see for yourself.

By Jill McDonald