At fifteen, the only cup I’d ever won was the local youth league with my Sunday team and – more impressively – the Division 1 crown on FIFA Pro Clubs.
It takes hours of hard work and dedication combined with a serious amount of skill and plenty of sleepless nights to achieve such a feat.
Then trying to live as a bonafide champion while being tested with the rigours of day-to-day life on top of that? Some people just simply aren’t built for it.
Only champions are capable of lifting an honour as valuable as the top prize in Pro Clubs while maintaining excellent grades in school, battling hapless WiFi connection and desperately trying not to launch the Xbox controller at the bedroom wall. Separates the elite from the weak.
Here is where I’d make the point that myself and Sam Curtis weren’t so different at 15 years old. Two exceptional talents showing skill and resilience in abundance to shatter the glass ceiling.
The reality, though, is that while I was seeing an unhealthy amount of screen time and racking up a frightening pile of GCSE revision to catch up on, Curtis was out making actual history as he became the youngest player to ever debut in the League of Ireland and, shortly after that, lifting his first FAI Cup.
Humbling. It’s hard to see why I didn’t make the cut, looking back. Must’ve been an injury or bad luck.
On a more serious note, just casting an eye over Curtis tells you all you need to know about the enigma that is the 17-year-old stealing the headlines at St. Patrick’s Athletic and smashing down age barriers for club and country.
Captaining the Republic of Ireland under-15s at just 13 years old was the first step in a string of impressive feats, including his LOI First Division debut with Shamrock Rovers II in 2020 aged 14. Curtis then moved to St. Pat’s a year later and another record-breaking debut would follow at just 15 years old.
It’s been a frighteningly steep upward trajectory ever since for the young right-back who epitomises the modern-day defender and combines the core skills with a wicked cross that would have you easily mistake him for David Beckham, but who will naturally draw comparisons to Denis Irwin due to the interest he’s attracted and of course his nationality.
He’s just lifted his second FAI Cup with St. Pat’s after a stellar campaign and is already a fully-fledged Irish under-21 international, prompting interest from notably Manchester United and Liverpool among plenty of other top English sides, according to 90min.
Watching him strut his stuff, there’s absolutely no surprise that two of the biggest clubs in football want to snap him up off the back of a campaign so good that he earned a spot in the PFAI Team of the Year, despite only being born weeks after the Xbox 360 released.
Yeah, he’s that young – and still this good.
What’s most striking is how physically capable Curtis already is at just 17, along with his obvious technical attributes. A bullish presence with the aesthetic to match.
Potential is a trait that has to be worked on in order to be fulfilled, but given his story so far, it’s difficult to see a world where Curtis doesn’t make good on his.
He just feels like a trademark United or Liverpool signing of yesteryear, doesn’t he? Slotting in seamlessly and flying the flag for Ireland on the world stage.
With over 50 league appearances in senior football already to his name and two major trophies in the Irish game, whoever wins the race for Curtis is securing not only a top prospect, but a quietly experienced player, wise beyond his years.
From Irwin to Damien Duff, to Seamus Coleman and now Evan Ferguson, Curtis feels nailed on to become the latest in a string of Irish talent primed and ready to leave their prints on the Premier League.
United, Liverpool or beyond, don’t be surprised to see Curtis make a sizeable step up soon and establish himself among the mainstream.
By Mitch Wilks