Kyle Callan-McFadden admits he’s “still buzzing” after his Norwich City side defeated hot-favourites Chelsea to win the FA Youth Cup on Monday night.
The Ramelton native played centre-half in the 3-2 win at Stamford Bridge - a result that ensured a 4-2 aggregate win for Norwich and sealed their first success in the competition on 30 years.
“I’m still buzzing,” Callan-McFadden said yesterday. “It’s still not sunk in yet. We are going to be parading the trophy around Norwich at the end of the week and we will be joined by the first-team, as they’re safe in the Premier League now.”
Cameron McGeehan’s stoppage time penalty a fortnight ago had given Norwich a 1-0 first-leg advantage at Carrow Road, but Chelsea’s Jeremie Boga levelled the tie at Stamford Bridge in just 15 minutes.
However, the Norwich side managed by Neil Adams were extremely well drilled. Content to essentially sit back and absorb Chelsea’s pressure for the most part, the front trio of Carlton Morris, Jacob and Joshua Murphy were a constant threat on the break.
Norwich went 2-1 up on the night following an Adam Nditi own goal and another McGeehan spot-kick. Joshua Murphy’s tap-in killed off the contest, although Boga did strike again three minutes from time.
“We didn’t play well at all in the first leg as there were a lot of nerves,” 18-year-old Callan-McFadden said of the first leg match in Norwich, which was attended by 21,595. “We’d never played in front of a crowd that big before but were glad to get something to take to London.
“Everyone thought one goal wasn’t enough and Chelsea would hammer us. But the lead gave us something to hold on to.
“We had worked hard on what we thought would stop them. We knew they would come at us more but we worked hard from midfield back and let the top three play when they could.
“We handled what Chelsea threw at us but for the whole second half I was looking at the stadium clock and wishing it would hurry up and move a little faster.”
To put the size of Norwich’s task into perspective, Chelsea’s U-19 side finished second in the NextGen Series - an underage European competition featuring a host of the continent’s top teams.
Callan-McFadden had never played at Stamford Bridge before, just like he hadn’t played at Nottingham Forest’s City Ground before the semi-final and Everton’s Goodison Park before the quarters.
Before kick-off, he noticed something furling from the top tier.
“I could see three Donegal flags there so knew that was where my dad and mum, Paul and Donna, were sitting with my brother Shay,” the former Swilly Rovers defender continued. “I went over after the final whistle and one of the flags was thrown down from the upper tier. It managed to somehow get to out to me from the crowd.”
When Bradford City defeated Aston Villa in the semi-final of the Capital One League Cup in January, Lettermacaward’s Carl McHugh celebrated with the flag of the All-Ireland football champions. Callan-McFadden followed suit.
“I actually only switched onto the fact Carl did the same when he tweeted me the day afterwards,” Callan-McFadden added. “Even at one stage during the match there was a chant from behind the goal. The crowd were singing ‘One man in Ireland.’
“I just gave them a little wave after that! We had 3,000 fans there and I never heard the Chelsea supporters once all night. The Norwich fans really kept us going when our backs were against the wall.
“I never got to meet mum and dad and my uncles after as they had to rush to catch a train but spoke to them on the phone and will be home for a few weeks in summer.”
Since 1997, six Irishmen have won the FA Youth Cup and earned senior caps - Alan Maybury and Stephen McPhail were winners with Leeds United in 1997, Everton’s Richard Dunne in 1998, Arsenal’s Graham Barrett in 2000, Wayne Henderson of Aston Villa two years later and Paul McShane of Manchester United in 2003.
Callan-McFadden has captained Ireland from U-16 to U-18 and was part of the U-19 squad earlier this season year. Paul Doolin’s side take part in the Uefa U-19 European Championship Elite Qualifying Round.
Ireland will take on hosts Serbia, Slovakia and Switzerland in June for a place in the finals in Lithuania a month later.
Whether he is in Serbia or at home in Ramelton for his summer break, he will return to Carrow Road for pre-season on July 1 having signed a semi-professional contract only last month.
“Things are going great at Norwich and it’s great here,” Callan-McFadden said. “Winning the FA Youth Cup for the first time in 30 years was a great finish to this season and I already can’t wait for next season.”