By Jimmy Rhatigan
Pics: Donal Foley
THE WORD is often over used and is bandied about far too liberally.
But, make no mistake about it, a young pupil of the junior infants’ class at St Brendan’s National School, Muckalee truly is unique in his native city and county.
Although Alex Corcoran from Ballyfoyle, County Kilkenny is a mere five and half years old, he has already led a Premiership Soccer Club to victory in the top division of the English game.
It is a feat that may just be worthy of a mention in the Guinness Book of Records and it will certainly be included on Alex’s curriculum vitae
The story of how Alex came to be part of the Burnley team that beat Swansea City at the famous Turf Moor Ground in Lancashire is one of family beauty, a tale that was born some 70 years ago but wasn’t played out until recent times.
The seeds of what could blossom into a wonderful football fairytale were sown over half a century ago when Alex’s grandmother, Helen Corcoran, formerly Helen Delahunty of Curraghmartin, Carrigeen in South Kilkenny trained as a nurse in Burnley in the late 1940s.
Over the years, Helen often spoke to her son Paul, Alex’s dad, and his siblings about her time in Burnley, mentioning that the club had won a major trophy and the team was paraded around the town during her internship there.
Little did Helen know at the time that a lifetime later a grandson of hers would walk out on the hallowed Turf Moor, holding the hand of a Republic of Ireland international star and be central to another Burnley celebration.
From listening to his mother’s story, Paul Corcoran began to take an interest in Burnley Football Club and, naturally, the happenings of another time were passed on to little Alex who began to speak of Burnley as his team.
The boy was encouraged by his parents, by his granny, Helen and also by grandad Tommy Corcoran of Rossinan, Mullinavat who, sadly, passed away last year after 61 years of happily married life during which the couple reared nine children.
Alex followed Burnley from a distance, spoke about it to his classmates in Muckalee and was promised a trip to see his team in the flesh for his fifth birthday.
Dad Paul applied for a VIP Mascot Scheme for his son and was successful. A huge day of football beckoned for Alex and his parents, the former Helen Brophy and Paul Corcoran.
Unfortunately, Alex’s May 5 birthday fell during the off season in soccer so a maiden voyage into the heartland of English soccer was rescheduled for before Christmas, a journey that proved to be the trip of a lifetime for a young enthusiast.
Alex was a mascot at his very first game in Burnley and was well and truly bitten by the football bug.
“Now he wants to go every week,” Paul told The Reporter.
A full Burnley kit was part of a mascot package and Alex also enjoyed pre-match coaching at the Burnley Soccer Academy.
“We were treated royally,” recalled Paul. “Helen and myself were in the VIP section and Alex was brought to the dressingroom to meet the players. He loved every minute and was given a choice of which player he would like to walk out with.
“He picked Republic of Ireland player, Jeff Hendrick, who, along with Robbie Brady and Sam Vokes is one of his favourite players.
“Alex had his picture taken with the Burnley captain, we were brought out onto the sideline before the game. The hospitality was amazing, truly professional but welcoming and down to earth.
“We were among real football fans and that was a privilege. Burnley is not one of the millionaire clubs but Turf Moor is regularly populated by devoted and very passionate fans who love their local club and appreciate the great work that manager, Sean Dyche is doing there.”
Paul said the family was delighted that Alex was taking such an interest. He had become a fervent fan and the family buy club gear from the club’s online store.
“Burnley has now become fashionable among more Kilkenny youngsters and we are happy that Alex’s interest has played a little part in that.
“When he came back to us before the kick-off, we asked Alex how he had got on with Jeff Hendrick. ‘He was a very nice man, he was very good to me and showed me what to do’ was the prompt reply.”
It is easy to understand why Alex and his parents are looking forward so much to their next trip to Burnley in March.
And Alex will of course be sporting his claret and blue hat and scarf for what has become his Match of the Day.
And he just may get an opportunity to show off the skills he has honed in his regular kickabouts with his school friends.
At half time of course!