Rovers Matchday Magazine, RTID, caught up with young Irish footballer, Evan Finnegan who spoke about his first team debut, International football and life at Doncaster Rovers.
Evan is a current Under 19 Irish International and is looking like a good prospect for the future. Since joining Rovers from Home Farm FC, he has developed into a good young player who is looking to follow James Husband into the first team.
Evan, tell us a little bit about where you started in football.
I just started playing for my local Sunday league team with a few of my mates and then I went to the big club in Ireland called Home Farm FC and stayed there, apart from going to a few clubs for trials, until I came here. I love it here so I’m here until my contract comes up again.
A lot of people over here won’t know what the Irish youth football scene is like so what was it like playing for Home Farm?
From schoolboy up to under 16s it is very good; it’s nearly up to the standard of over here. After that over here is different class; at home it nearly dies out after 16. Home Farm was really good for me and taught me a lot before I came here - I’m really grateful for the chance they gave me to make a career in football.
What impressed you about Doncaster Rovers?
I love the set up, the people here are very nice and I really enjoyed it when I came over here for a trial. Everyone at the club has supported me, especially as I am a long way from home. This has been important to allow me to concentrate on my football rather than worry about settling here. I am training with a great set of lads in the youth set up but also the first team players have made me feel welcome and help me, especially when I got chance to feature in the game at Crewe.
What have been your highlights so far?
Winning the Football League Youth Alliance Cup last year at Exeter was good. We had a great cup run with great lads and a great team. To play for the Republic of Ireland last year was massive and to get called up again, with the European Championship coming up next year for the Under 19s, is huge for me. I also did well when I went away and played two games in Switzerland for the Republic of Ireland.
What is it like travelling with the Irish Under 19s? What it was like on the trip you went on to Switzerland?
It was unbelievable! We were playing away in Switzerland so that was amazing. We flew over, stayed in the Swiss Alps and trained every day. We were treated like kings with cameras there whilst we were training with everything going on Swiss TV. The games were covered extensively in Switzerland and were attended by good crowds.
Was it a big change to playing youth football here to suddenly being at that level?
It was mad to just be there with the other players, to be a part of it and play well. The manager was happy with me so hopefully I will be able to stay in there. There were players from Europe’s top clubs such as Ajax.
Following on from that, you actually made your first team debut for Rovers when you came on against Crewe in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. What was that like?
He [Dean] told me I was coming on after 10 minutes but then with the way the game was going it was hard for him to bring me on at that time, so it was just before the end when I came on. In the last minute I got down the wing and sent over a cross that Chris Brown managed to bundle in for an equaliser, which was great for me.
You made the goal but what was going through your mind with the ball at your feet in the very last minutes of the game?
Just to send the ball in to a good area and then Chris Brown got his foot to it. We were unlucky to lose on penalties but it’s the luck of the draw really.
You’ve been part of the first team a few times now, what’s that been like because it’s a big jump from youth level?
It’s a lot different but if you want to be there, you want to be at the top, you just get on with it. The lads treat you great so it’s just good to be part of it.
You’ve got great coaches with Stan and Paul Wilson but what about Dean does he talk to you and coach you a little bit?
Yes he does and before the game the other night he was telling me to relax, play a normal game and get forward. He reassured me and told me to forget about it if I make a mistake, to just get on with it and play and just do what I can - He’s very good with all the youth players.
You played in that game; it was a great match. Has he told you if you will feature again?
He’s talked about it but I have to keep moving forward and take the chances when they come. He said well done to us and that we were a credit but he’s focusing on the big games. Hopefully though, if there are any injuries, I can get back in.
Is it hard to then drop back down to a youth player when you’ve been a first team player? Is it easy to go between the two?
Yes last weekend we were supposed to play a big game against the youth leaders, Hull, but that’s been called off so that’s disappointing but other than that it’s alright playing with the lads. Paul Stancliffe brings you back down to earth and I will just get ready to take the step up again if it happens.
Do you get any stick from the lads because you have been in the first team?
Yes, I do a bit but it’s just banter. It’s nothing serious.
As a young lad what do you do as you’re not near home? Do you lodge and do you get out much?
I stay in digs with three of the other lads from Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Scarborough. I go up to their houses or go home on some of the weekends that we have off and my dad comes over once a month. We go to the cinema every Wednesdays as a team so it’s not as bad as people would think.
Are you hoping for a home Irish international game so you can go back for that?
There was one last year so I got to spend a few days at home and my friends and family came so that was good but I’ll take whatever comes really as long as I’m in it, I don’t really mind.
Has the Irish manager said that you are part of his plans for the European Championship?
Yes, he talked about me on the Irish FA website after the game and said that me and a few of the lads played well but he mentioned me a lot so hopefully I can keep in it for the next season for the European Championship Under 19 Finals.
What do you think about Doncaster?
I think it is a great place with great people. People support me and make me feel very welcome. I understand that a lot of people have joined the Rovers Alliance to help fund the youth team and academy here at Rovers, which I feel is a great gesture to help young lads such as myself develop for the future. Please continue to support us this way as there are lots of local lads coming through the academy and every penny helps. Thank you once again for giving me this chance of a career in football.