Two talented young Buncrana footballers were the toast of the town this week after shining on their international debuts.
Hearts pair Aaron McDaid and Mark McFadden were part of the Ireland home-based U18 squad that lifted the John Coughlan Cup last week, an annual two-match competition against Wales.
Winger McFadden provided the assist in the first match that clinched a 1-0 victory for his squad, while midfielder McDaid was the hero of the hour in the deciding final game when he fired home the winner to secure a 3-2 win and overall victory for the boys in green.
And the pair, who were selected for the 18-man squad after a month of trials, said the experience is one they will never forget.
Mark, 17, told the Inish Tmes: “It was a class feeling going out onto the pitch. It was kinda nervewracking because you’re playing for Ireland and you don’t want to let anybody down.
“But it didn’t take long to settle in. You play better because the players around you are better and the whole set-up is so professional, and I was really pleased that I did my bit for the winning goal in the first match.”
And 18-year-old McDaid will also have a memory to cherish forever after claiming the winner in the all-important second match.
He said: “It was 2-2 and our striker cut in from the left and pulled the ball across. I had to bust it to get into the box and I got there just in time to poke it home.
“I didn’t know what to do after because I was so hyped up, but after a few seconds I started shouting - it was an unbelievable buzz.
“The whole thing was a pure different feeling, one that I’ve never had before.”
And the pair expressed their gratitude for the support shown to them by their home club Buncrana Hearts throughout the whole experience.
Said Mark: “Crock (teammate Kieran McDaid) has played for Ireland himself and he text us, telling us to go out and enjoy it and wishing us luck.
“And Mark McLaughlin (club secretary) was very helpful in the build-up to it all, keeping us right with the training arrangements and all the rest of it.”
And there are more thrills in store for the dazzling duo, who are both in the Inishowen Academy U18 squad that have made it through to the semi-finals of the FAI Youth Inter-League tournament.
“Things are going well,” said Aaron. “We’ve been getting a good bit of game time with the Buncrana first team as well, so we’ll see what happens- we want to play at the highest standard we can.”
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