Move Over Freddy Adu, There’s A New 14-Year-Old Phenom Getting Minutes In Europe

Glenavon FC goalkeeper Conner Byrne made his senior debut at the age of 14 on Monday.

AC Milan’s Gianluigi Donnarumma, Toulouse’s Alban Lafont, Benfica’s Mile Svilar and Glenavon’s Conner Byrne: while all are teenage goalkeepers playing senior football in Europe, only one stands alongside Freddy Adu as having made their professional debut at age 14 (and perhaps as also having an insatiable thirst for Sierra Mist, but that’s totally unfounded at this point). That’s Glenavon’s Conner Byrne.

On Monday, Byrne made his competitive debut with the Northern Ireland club’s senior side in the Mid-Ulster Cup semifinal. Glenavon have won the competition a record 24 times, and they remain on course for a 25th after defeating Portadown 2-1 at Shamrock Park.

According to the head of Glenavon’s academy, Ryan Prentice, club first team manager Gary Hamilton has been monitoring the progress of the youth closely for quite some time now.

“Gary Hamilton has been aware of him for about a season and a half, he regularly watches our games and has been aware of his progress,” Prentice said. “Conner has been doing very well, he has played with the under-20 team before and has been training with the senior squad for a number of months. He has always played at a level ahead of his age.

“You don’t want to speculate at this stage, it’s easy to get ahead of yourself. If he continues to work hard, it would be nice if he could make a living out of football.”

As well as making his competitive debut for Glenavon, Byrne has been called in by Northern Ireland’s under-16 team for a match against Poland this week.

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