Sixteen-year-old Kyle Callan-McFadden was certainly rubbing shoulders with the stars when he was named as FAI U-16 International Player of the Year in Dublin on Sunday night.
The Ramelton native, by his own admission, was a surprise winner of the award but as he met with former Czech Republic international and Juventus midfielder Pavel Nedved and the Republic of Ireland’s most capped player, Shay Given, afterwards the realisation of Kyle’s steady progress was confirmed.
The former Swilly Rovers clubman is on a three-year scholarship at Premier League Norwich City, hoping to make the grade as a professional, having made the move to East Anglia in July, whilst also continuing the impress in the green jersey of Ireland.
The central defender is the Irish captain at U-17 level and will lead the team into battle in the Netherlands later this month for the Uefa U-17 elite qualifying phase.
“I had found out a couple of weeks beforehand that I was nominated and mum Donna and dad Paul had to send a confirmation that I would be attending the awards,” Kyle said this week “So away I went and to be honest I didn’t have a notion I would be getting it at all.
“Both of the other boys (Sam Byrne of Manchester United and Jack Grealish from Aston Villa) that were nominated are older so I was delighted when I heard. Even being nominated was a great honour. I met with Nedved afterwards and although the Irish senior squad headed off, Shay stayed around and I said hello to him and he congratulated me on my award.
“The national side is good. I got the captaincy there so will be skipper for the European championships. I started U-14 and am now up to U-17 level. We’re off to Holland to play Serbia and Albania, with the top team going through. We’ve a good side.”
Kyle already frequents the Carrow Road side’s reserve and youth teams, with Ricky Martin taking control of the second string. And although former Shelbourne midfielder Wes Hoolahan is the only other player born in Ireland at the club, Kyle is comfortable in his home from home.
“It’s going well, thank God, and I’ve been playing beside the likes of first-teamers Zak Whitbread, James Vaughan and Marc Tierney, who have been with us in the reserves,” Kyle continues. “Sometimes Paul Lambert would come over and train us and he’s a great manager. He really knows his stuff.
“I love it over here. It took me about two weeks ago to settle in and the manager advised me to stay in the digs at the weekends as I might not know the lads but now we’re all friends and I spend a lot of time with them. Wes is a good lad as well and a tidy player. My housemate got a pro contract and he’s on the fringes of the first team, a fella called Matt Ball that plays as a central midfielder.
“Norwich treat us very well and we’re taken to every home game so things are good. The hope is to stay clear of injuries and gain a professional contract so fingers crossed.”