Ali Reghba and Andy Lyons

Andy Lyons is often referred to as ‘one for the future’, so he must have been heartened to hear Keith Long’s assertion in the opening weeks of the season that he is no longer just a ‘prospect.’

He is ready for the cut and thrust of first-team football and is giving captain Derek Pender a real battle for the right-back berth – no mean feat.

His exploits in the green of Ireland of late certainly bears this out. A prospect he may be, but the present is looking pretty good too.

The Naas man does not turn 19 until August and, along with striker Ali Reghba, has spent the last 10 days away with the Irish U19s in Krasnodar in Russia at the elite stage of qualification for the European Championships to be held in Armenia next summer for which they have now qualified with a game to spare.

The pair are just two of seven Bohs players away on international duty over the past 10 days with Darragh Leahy and Danny Mandroiu becoming the first serving Bohs players to represent Ireland at U21 level in ten years when Stephen Kenny’s men beat Luxembourg 3-0 at Tallaght Stadium on Sunday.

Lyons, who was part of Kenny’s domestic-based Ireland U21 training camp last month, played a big part in getting Tom Mohan’s Ireland U19s to this stage having played the full 90 minutes in the victories against Holland and Bosnia and 25 minutes against the Faroe Islands last winter.

He has been integral to the team’s efforts in Russia too, starting and playing 84 minutes in their opening game, a 5-0 mauling of Romania and playing the full 90 minutes on Saturday in a 3-1 win over Azerbaijan. That result, coupled with Russia drawing 0-0 with Romania, means the Ireland U19s will be on the plane to Armenia.

Ahead of today’s final game against hosts Russia (2pm Irish time), Lyons said: “It is a huge honour and a massive thrill every time you pull on the green jersey at any level.

“It is a huge achievement for me and my family but also for the club and how we bring players through. Myself and Ali have really enjoyed our time away in Russia. I’m hugely thankful to Tom Mohan too for showing such faith in me and giving me so much game time.

“I loved being away with the group and it was a source of pride to me to be able to represent Bohs on an international stage. It is so different to club football with players from so many leagues coming together and it really furthered my footballing education, that’s for sure.

“It was some culture shock with the food, the traffic, the slow WiFi and the travelling involved! But we have loved every minute of it.

“It is something you dream about all your life, to play for your country. When you get a chance like that, you have to take it. Last November we beat Holland, Bosnia and the Faroe Islands to top our group, so we were in the elite phase on merit and were top seeds in our group here.

“Only one team goes through to the finals in Armenia next summer so we are delighted to have qualified. We believed in ourselves and we still want to get the result against Russia, the host nation. They are going to have big support with home advantage and though we had huge respect for them, we won’t allow ourselves to be intimidated or shy away from the challenge.”

Andy has been making tremendous strides with Bohemians too of course. He has starred for Craig Sexton’s Bohs U19s, winning back-to-back U19 league titles, the Enda McGuill Cup and representing the club in the UEFA Youth League last season.

He made his first-team bow against Dundalk i a 3-1 Leinster Senior Cup defeat Oriel Park last June with his league debut coming the following month in a 6-0 rinsing of Bray Wanderers at Dalymount Park.

And Lyons, who sits his Leaving Cert this summer, is quick to pay tribute to his current manager and coach as being a big part of the reason he has been making such notable strides.

He said: “Keith Long and Trevor Croly have been huge influences on my career and I owe them so much. Keith called me into the first-team squad when I was only 16 and he has never been afraid to give young players like myself a chance and always shows great faith in us.

“I have loved every minute of my time at Bohemians. It is a great club to be a part of and as a young player, it is the perfect place to be as we can all see a clear pathway from underage football at the club to the first team.

“I wake up every morning with a smile on my face looking forward to going into training and the dressing room at Dalymount is just a great place to be a part of. There is such a welcoming culture at the club and a real sense that we’re in it together.

“That spirit has brought us through some tough times and there is a great mix of youth and experience now too so you’d think that will stand to us going forward. The development of players at this club is the best in the country. The people at Bohs deserve so much credit for the way they nurture talent and the the alliance with St Kevin’s is going to make that even better.

“No other club has what we have, such a sense of community and such a rich crop of young players getting a chance at senior level.

“As long as your attitude is right, as long as you keep learning and as long as you keep your standards high, the management believe in you and your ability to do a job for the first team.”

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