Kieran McKenna got to scratch a five-year itch over the course of the pre-season period when his native Northern Ireland staged the UEFA European Under-19 Championships.
Sadly, for the midfielder and his teammates, home interest did not continue past the group stage as luck did not join forces with the Irish.
A 1-0 defeat to Greece in their opening game followed by a similar reverse against Serbia & Montenegro saw Northern Ireland needing to beat Germany by three goals in their final Group A game. It was not to be and the host nation departed from the competition following a 2-1 loss to the Germans.
Kieran, the 19-year-old captain of the side, stated the results did not do justice to the quality of performances and said his team have much to be proud of.
“We did go out in the group stage and the results were disappointing but, all through the week, we felt our performances were excellent,” he insisted. “In every game we lost out by a single goal and I don't think we got a decision all week! It just didn't happen for us but we were proud of the way we played in our games.
“It is a bit strange now it's over, it is a big tournament and it was the first time it has ever been held in Northern Ireland. Our last game was against Germany - who beat us 2-1 - and it was sad when it was all over for us after looking forward to it for so long.”
The conclusion of the tournament did not signal the end of Kieran’s summer of national service and, after a short stint back at Spurs Lodge, he was off again and up an age group to take part in the Milk Cup — also staged in Northern Ireland. This time around his team did reach the final after claiming a notable scalp along the way.
“I came back for four days and then was off to the Under-20 Milk Cup. We played Serbia and Montenegro in the first game and won 3-1 before playing Brazil and winning 2-0, which put us through to the final. Unfortunately we were beaten 4-2 in the final by the USA. The Milk Cup is one of the best tournaments I have played in.”
“The Brazil game was good and they were technically superb. I think we did them physically, to be honest, but they are a top side and it was a really good result for Northern Ireland to beat them 2-0,” continued Kieran.
Now back in the Spurs fold after his hectic summer, Kieran has clear objectives for the new season and feels our reserve team group have the quality to put in a big challenge for the Premier Reserve League South title.
“I just want to get back into it here now, working and training hard and hopefully impressing in the reserves.
“I definitely think we have a chance when you look at the squad we have at the club with the young players. I think the reserve squad every week will be full of talented players and we must have a chance of winning the league.
“For me it will be about trying to impress the manager now and making that next step up. I will be looking to do the business now.”