Dylan O'NeillComment

PAUL CORRY: IRISH FOOTBALL'S NEXT BIG THING?

Dylan O'NeillComment
One for the future from the League of Ireland.

I got my first glimpse of Paul last season when I saw UCD entertain Derry City at the bowl towards the end of the season. Not too keen a League of Ireland follower at the time, I resigned to let a mate of mine drag me along to a game which he was going to regardless. As the game wore on, I began to notice a certain player in midfield moving the ball swiftly and making lumbering runs through the middle quite frequently. All I knew him as was a 'No.6' at the time. No name, just number 6. Even my mate, who I was convinced was a die-hard, failed to conjure up his name. (He claimed it was difficult to memorise all the UCD players' name's considering the squads constant reshuffling). Thanks to a quick google search, I later discovered his name was Paul Corry. 

What many don't seem to know about Corry is that when he was 18 he was scouted by the high-flying Premier League Burnley, who were lead by the tutelage of a certain Owen Coyle at the time, but he decided against the temptation of English football to remain at home in Dublin and continue studying for his commerce degree, a degree which has already presented him plenty of opportunities, including a job offer form Dutch firm KPMG.

'I was over at Burnley for two weeks in July last year. I trained with the youth team for one week and the first team after that,' he explained. 'I remember the first day, Chris Eagles came in with a brand new Lamborghini and his legs were waxed, and I also remember nutmegging Graham Alexander.'

'The thing I really liked about Burnley... was Owen Coyle. In training, he was always encouraging me, always giving me that bit of confidence. But I was always told, don’t sign for the manager, sign for the club.'

Corry was so sure Burnley was the club for him that it resulted in him receiving a deferral for the commerce course he was doing at the time: 'I remember on the deadline day for the CAO, I went out to UCD and got a deferral for my course as I was so certain that I was going to go to Burnley. But at the last minute, I changed my mind,' said Corry.

This sacrifice, at an age where players die to ply their trade abroad, conveyed that there was more to life than just football for Corry. Despite turning down Burnley, Corry remains adamant that he'll get another chance: 'I still see myself playing abroad, I think that I’ll get there eventually so if I can get my degree and get my job offer from KPMG I just think it be will an ideal situation for myself.'

He was smart in planning for a future without football -- a tactic which many footballers tend to ignore when they enter the sport as professionals. Corry, at least, has something to fall back on immediately if it doesn't work out for him in England, something which seldom occurs in English football today.

Corry first signed for UCD in 2009 and has so far made over fifty appearances for the Students, scoring a modest six goals from his deep-lying midfield position. However, it was ante-UCD that he first rose to prominence on a national stage. Corry, as captain, had marched his Belvedere side to the final of the FAI Umbro Under 17 Challenge Cup in 2009. Inspirational as ever, Corry masterminded the turnaround to Kilmalock's dismay as his two goals in the second half, plus a late strike from teammate David Lodola, gave Corry the first piece of silverware of his career. The win was dedicated to the recently deceased former FAI Senior Coach Noel O'Reilly, a man who proved instrumental in establishing 'Belvo' as the household name it is today.

After that virtuoso display he was picked up by UCD and immediately offered a scholarship of his choice. That first season with the students included him making many first team appearances as UCD won promotion back to Ireland's top tier, finishing a point clear of Shelbourne, who had been breathing down their necks the majority of the campaign. Prior to the 2010 campaign he was featured in Daniel McDonnell's Independent article 'Top Ten Commodities to Watch', which rose his stock even further as he continued to feature heavily for the Students, continuing to perform consistently and add the odd goal or two in helping UCD maintain their status in the League of Ireland Premier Division for the next two years.

In the programme for the 2012 season opener against Cork City, manager Martin Russel spoke of how he hoped for 'continuity' in terms of keeping the majority of the previous seasons' squad as many in the past tend to depart when other clubs come knocking. The club's seen just as a stepping stone for most players. However, with just three players having left during the close season Russel was understandably delighted, none more so than managing to keep his number six, Paul Corry.

Corry's contract was due to run out at the end of the 2011 season and despite the playmaker sitting down with various coaches over the Christmas period - 'It seemed to me that the more managers I met the more confused I became!' - he fortunately remained at the Bowl, where he said it was the 'best move' to stay with the College 'for another year'.

Now that Russel had secured Corry's services for yet another season everybody was raring to go for the opening night where UCD would host newly-promoted Cork City, a fixture which the College would end up winning 1-0 thanks to a goal from Mark Langtry. Corry was unable to take part that night due to an ankle injury on which he was anxiously awaiting the results on.

He was again absent for the next game, away to Sligo Rovers, but returned for his season debut at Oriel Park against Dundalk. He managed to play the whole game but unfortunately re-injured himself in the process and was out for a further two games, again an injury in the same area.

Three weeks after the Dundalk fixture he was finally fit enough to take part as UCD were chasing their third home win from four. Corry played well, cleaning up and distributing the ball well, but it wasn't enough as a resurgent Bohemians grabbed their second win in a row, holding on for the final few minutes after a late penalty from UCD's top scorer Graham Rusk.

Corry's style of play mirrors that of Sergio Busquets. He's employed by Russel mainly as a deep-lying midfielder, asked to make tackles, interceptions and pick up on any loose ball within UCD's half and find the nearest man to offload it to. The 21-year-old also has an impressive left-foot, as he has a tendency to shoot from long range, and has found the net with quite a few during his short career thus far.

While it hasn't exactly been an ideal beginning to the campaign for Corry, things can only get better from here on in: "Why I changed my mind [about not joining Burnley], I don’t really know. Maybe it’s something that I will end up regretting, maybe it’s not. My ambition is to play at the highest level, so obviously I want to go and play in England some day. Hopefully something like that will come up for me in a few years. But I haven’t regretted my decision one bit, as all I’ve had is good times with UCD."

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