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Killian Phillips thought he’d ‘never play for Ireland’ as he eyes under-21 cap



ON ONE side of the Snugborough Road in Dublin 15 stands the Corduff Sports Centre.

A hefty goal kick away on the other lies the National Sports Campus where the Ireland international teams train.


Killian Phillips of Republic of Ireland U20’s during the friendly match between Republic of Ireland U20’s and Republic of Ireland Amateur Selection at Home Farm FC in Dublin.Credit: Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

You cannot go from one to the other as the crow flies and, sure enough, Killian Phillips has had to carve out his own route to get recognition.

Yesterday, Phillips teamed up with the Ireland Under-21s, hoping to win his first cap against Iceland at Turner’s Cross on Sunday.

Before he did, he called in on the Transition Year football course jointly run by Fingal County Council and the FAI at the sports centre.

With council director Robert Burns a driving force, one for girls is due to be launched next week.

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For course coordinator Denis Hyland, the Crystal Palace midfielder — on loan at Shrewsbury Town — is the perfect example of a late developer for whom hard work has paid off.

In front of the class, Phillips recalled how he moved to Palace from Drogheda United in January of last year with just €300 to his name. Since then, he travelled to Singapore and Australia in pre-season, playing against Liverpool and Manchester United, before making his competitive debut for the Eagles in a Carabao Cup tie against Oxford United.

In January, he joined Shrewsbury on loan and has scored once and provided two assists in ten League One appearances for Steve Cotterill’s top-half side.

An Ireland cap would be further evidence of his progress, with a call-up to an Under-19 training camp last summer his first international involvement.

Recalling his own secondary school days, Phillips — who turns 21 next week — told SunSport: “I probably thought I’d never play for Ireland.

“I was in Nessan’s in Baldoyle, came here in fourth year and I was one of only two who were in the DDSL. Everyone else was in the League of Ireland.

“I used to want to be where the international players were, when they were going away for two weeks to play for their country in Euro qualifiers.

“The course gave me a lot of confidence to say, ‘I’m not too far off international players and players playing League of Ireland’, push on and actually have a crack at football.”


His mother, Cora, made sure he returned to Nessan’s, where he received predicted grades for a Leaving Cert disrupted by Covid-19.

The ITEC fitness instructor and FAI coaching qualifications obtained on the course were something else to fall back on but, really, there was no Plan B.

He said: “I think my ma saw how hard I worked at football, so she knew that if I was going to do it at least I was going to give 100 per cent.”

Phillips told those looking to follow in his footsteps how he worked to improve his technique simply by hitting a ball against the wall of The Foxhound Inn in Kilbarrack — which featured in the film adaptation of The Van.

He cited his former Drogheda Under-19 manager Wayne Groves as a big influence but recalled how he risked the wrath of Tim Clancy by playing full 11-a-side matches with mates the day after lining out for Drogs’ first team.


Class-mates on the course — which he says should be replicated around the country — included Drogheda’s Evan Weir and Ben McCormack of St Pat’s. And Phillips reckoned going to England with some first-team ­experience helped make up for some of what he missed out on by not being in a full-time academy all the way up.

He said: “They might be more technical than me but then I’d be more tactically aware. You can’t replicate men’s football, you have to go out and play it.”

That is why he asked to go out on loan, having spent his first few months in England playing Under-23s football.

He explained: “I went from playing League of Ireland where you have the flares and all the buzz, and then there’s no fans and it’s a little tough to get up for the games. Now I’m back playing in front of thousands every week and I love it.”

He believes that experience will see him return to Palace — where he has one year left on his contract — a better player.

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There has been talk of a new deal but also of interest elsewhere, with Swansea City said to be keen.

But Phillips will cross that bridge in due course, just like he has the Snugborough Road.

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