By Ciaran O’Donnell
High-flying Republic of Ireland international, Ronan Curtis, certainly can’t be accused of forgetting his roots.
The 23-year-old St Johnston man, who helped Portsmouth to victory in Sunday’s Checkatrade Trophy final, made sure his old club, Swilly Rovers would be represented at the Wembley showpiece. The striker invited his former Swilly Rovers coach, Jim McCahill, and former team mate, James McCahill, to be among his guests at the famous London stadium.
The pulsating decider ended 2-2, with Pompey winning 5-4 in the penalty shoot-out.
Speaking to the Donegal News, Jim described Ronan’s invitation as a lovely gesture.
“We met Ronan’s parents, Dave and Marie and we had a big weekend with them,” he said.
“Ronan played for our under-16 team that reached the last four of the national cup back in 2012. I was part of the coaching team along with Seanie Mooney, Ciaran Boyle and Denis McHugh,” Jim explained.
“He went to Derry City from Swilly and the rest is history. Ronan’s parents were always big into Swilly. Marie used to come and make the tea while Dave would fix the toilets or the heating when the need arose. They’re just really, really good people and were always so supportive of the club.”
Jim and his son, James, were given the VIP treatment for the weekend by the Curtis family.
“I never expected to be in Wembley in my life. To be among the crowd of 85,000 for such a big occasion was something to treasure. The banter was good and the crack was good.”
Jim recalled the first time he met Ronan.
“Ronan landed down to Ramelton with his mother and father and it just took off from that. We signed him straight away – we knew to look at him that he had something special. He was always out kicking ball when the rest had left. He was just football mad. While we didn’t think we did anything out of the ordinary for Ronan, his father said they were always grateful for what Swilly did for Ronan. In London at the weekend, Ronan’s family made a point of telling people who we were,” he commented.
“It was a great experience for both myself and James and it’s a weekend we will always look back on with so many fond memories.”
Jim believes even bigger and better things await for his former academy recruit.
“I see Ronan pushing on because he’s got a great attitude and is able to take things in his stride. He’s filled out a lot, too. It was hard to believe when I was sitting there on Sunday that a young lad who played underage at Swilly Park was out playing in front of a crowd of 85,000 at Wembley.
“We met up with him after the game and it was nice to share his success and see it first-hand. He’s well got at Portsmouth and it’s not hard to know why. Ronan deserves all the success he’s getting and it’s great for his family. Neither Ronan, nor his parents, forgot where they came from and that’s what makes it all the more deserving,” added Jim, an avid Celtic supporter.
With Portsmouth pushing hard for promotion – they’re sitting third, five points off the second automatic promotion spot currently occupied by Barnsley who have one game more played – Jim is hoping to see Ronan play again soon.
“After the weekend, I’d really like to see Ronan and Portsmouth again before the season’s out. They still have a lot to play for. We’re all delighted that Ronan has made it to the top. It couldn’t happen to a nicer lad, or a better family.”