“He doesn’t really look like a goalkeeper”. This is something you would typically hear about Ballymun Kickhams and Dublin minor football goalkeeper Evan Comerford. At just under six-foot and of an admittedly slight build, Comerford isn’t the conventional goalkeeper.
Having won a Leinster Minor Championship with Ballymun in 2015 and served as starting keeper for the Dublin minors for the last two years, his pin-point kick outs and decision making, make him stand out as what could be described as a modern goalkeeper.
Initially playing as a wing-back for Ballymun, Comerford found himself putting on the number one jersey in an under-16 club league game after the regular keeper didn’t turn up.
“I used to play soccer for Verona when I lived in Blanchardstown and the coaches knew this, so when our keeper wasn’t around I had to hop in and I didn’t really play outfield again after that.”
The next season Evan recalls the Dublin minor selector calling him about potentially playing with the team:
“I was actually in the car going to the outlets in Kildare Village when my Ballymun manager Anto McCaul called me saying I’d been asked to come and play a trial match with the minors. It might sound like a typical answer to give but it honestly felt surreal that I would have the opportunity to play for Dublin.”
A match, which he played against Ballymun Kickhams, playing impressively to secure a starting spot with the Dublin minors. Comerford seemed surprised at hearing the news that ahead of other keepers in the league he is considered to have greater potential.
“There were two other keepers there from Sylvester’s and Lucan and I remember seeing them and thinking ‘shit these lads are good’ because we were all fighting for the one spot.”
Two members of the management team were former Dublin players, Ballymun club mate Paddy Christie and former fan-favourite Ciaran Whelan. Both of whom are players who Comerford looked up to growing up.
“Paddy has been a massive support to me the whole way up. It’s mad like, I used to sit in the Cusack with my dad watching Paddy and Dublin play and now he’s one of my coaches and one of the main people helping me.”
During his Leaving Cert last year, Evan commented on how Paddy, being head coach for both Ballymun and Dublin, helped him find the right balance between study and training.
“There would be times where I was training a few times in a week. I would try get my study done early in the week but there was no problem getting rest days when I needed them.”
Now in his first year of Athletic Training and Therapy, he talked about how the prospect of a sports scholarship wasn’t going to let him ease up on study.
“Lads in school kept saying ‘ah you’ll get reduced points on your course if you’re playing football’ but I couldn’t rely on that I still needed the best result I could get.”
Having made his senior debut with Ballymun against St. Vincent’s in the Dublin Club Championships in 2015, Evan spoke about how the other players affected his performance.
In a defence consisting of All Ireland winners James McCarthy, John Small and Philly McMahon, Comerford found it difficult at first to give directions.
“I wouldn’t have told the backs what to do at first like I usually would, but Philly came over to me and said ‘we don’t care what age you are you just tell us where to go and we’ll go’, which really encouraged me.”
With Stephen Cluxton’s former goalkeeping coach Gary Matthews being involved in the Dublin minor set up, Comerford had the chance to replicate the training drills and style of play, something which he believes is easier said than done.
“I try to copy my training and kick outs on what he does but if you’re getting anywhere near his level you’re doing well. He doesn’t just hoof it into midfield his kick outs are quick and they lead straight into attacks.”
Evan recalled on an occasion when he was too quick in trying to replicate a Cluxton kick out, playing a soccer match for his school St. Kevin’s CBS against Beneavin De Le Salle.
“We just conceded a goal so I quickly put the ball down for a kick out not copping that there was meant to be a tip-off. I was fairly embarrassed and the lads on the other team who I’d know were slagging me about it.”
However, his sharp accurate kick outs for the last two years have gotten him a trial with the Dublin under-21 squad and hoping to secure his place with the Ballymun seniors.
“I’d be hoping to make the 21s (Dublin) this year but there is tough competition and then obviously with the Ballymun seniors I’d want to be making more starts there.”
Evan made his first competitive senior start for Dublin in the first round of the O’Byrne Cup against DCU Doicheas Eireann. He managed to save a penalty mid-way through the first half as well as making a handful of impressive saves.