Above: Denzil (left) in action.
Denzil Fernandes from Drimoleague, has recently become the first ever product of the WCSL (West Cork Schoolboys League) to play in the UEFA Youth League, Europe’s elite youth soccer tournament for Cork City FC’s U19’s team. The Rebel Army faced a tough HJK Helsinki side away from home in the first leg but came away with an impressive 0-0 draw at the Sonera Stadium in the Finnish capital. The 18-year-old picked up a league winners medal in his first year at the club and was also part of the team that won the Enda McGill Cup beating St. Pats 2-0 in the final in September. Denzil talks to Ciaran Johnson before the second leg.
Describe your time away in Finland with Cork City, What were your highlights of the trip?
“My highlight of the trip was definitely the professional experience. The dressing rooms and the stadium were absolutely top class. Walking through the airport with your gear bag made you feel something special, just like a professional footballer.
How were you feeling going into that first leg…was it like any other game or was their added pressure on the team?
“Very nervous to say the least. Playing my first youth Champions league game was a bit chilling for me but I was very excited at the same time. We took it as a game as any other game, we drew up a game plan and it worked perfectly. There was a small bit of pressure on the team, but we ended up with a great result.”
Did you notice a difference in class from Helsinki compared to other teams you’ve come up against in your league?
“Oh most definitely, Helsinki play some eye-catching football. Very calm on the ball, something we need to improve on, not panicking on the ball and just taking your time and using your natural ability to play the game well.”
Cork City’s U19’s are the first Irish team to compete in the UEFA Youth League, do you feel youth soccer in Ireland is progressing?
“I think Irish soccer is progressing but there needs to be a lot of changes made still, such as providing finance for young teams. Some clubs are struggling and it’s sad to be seeing this. It was great feeling for Cork City to be the first Irish soccer team to participate in the UEFA Youth League and for myself too, being the first West Cork Schoolboys graduate to play in this competition.”
What sort of people do you look up to, who are your inspirations?
“I look up to the two main players in the world, that is Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. I try to learn how they play and how they work hard. I try to learn the hard work and trickery by Ronaldo and the dribbling and twist and turns by the little magician Lionel Messi. And don’t forget about the goals.”
Conor Hourihane from Bandon has recently been named captain at Barnsley. Do you think we’ll be seeing any lads from West Cork follow in his footsteps?
“Oh I hope so, and I hope I’ll be one of them. It’s a dream come true, hopefully I keep working hard and make it happen. Conor Hourihane is doing great for himself, he’s making his native club Bandon proud and it’s great to see. It’s something for West Cork soccer to learn from and gain from it as well.”
What do you hope to achieve in the next few years?
“I think you already know the answer; to be honest, to become a professional footballer. That’s been my dream since day one, and I hope to God I’ll achieve it one day.”