With most eyes on the matches at Euro 2020, it may have slipped by a few Irish football people that 20-year-old Irish centre-half Nathan Collins transferred a couple of days ago from Stoke City to Premier League Burnley for a fee of €14million.
At last, a top-flight club in England has bought a young Irish player and see plenty of upside in him. Having spent the money on Collins, canny Burnley boss Sean Dyche is likely to give the young lad plenty of time on the pitch in the new season that is now just six weeks away.
Dyche will know too that if he can develop the player further, a move to an even bigger EPL club might be on the horizon in two or three years time. A move from which Collins and Ireland would profit professionally and Burnley would profit financially.
A Dubliner by birth, Collins played on the same Irish under-age teams as Troy Parrott and Adam Idah. But since we are better stocked at centre-half than centre-forward at senior level, neither Mick McCarthy nor Stephen Kenny ever felt the need to rush Collins into the adult set-up.
Yet, Collins might now be the one Irish centre-half who starts the 2021/22 season as a Premier League regular, since the short-term outlook is that Dara O’Shea, John Egan and Shane Duffy would all need to move clubs to attain that status.
But for every gain there is pain for Irish football. If the move to Burnley is great news for Collins, it must cast a shadow over the futures of Kevin Long and Jimmy Dunne, two Irish centre-backs now at Turf Moor.
The pair surely join the band of Irish professionals in Britain we wrote about last week, who face the harrowing choice of staying at in the Premier League, on a good contract, but knowing they will not play many games next term.
Or do they drop a division, and drop wages too, just to play football in the Championship and try to re-ignite their careers once given a chance to show what they can do on the pitch?
If Euro 2020 is the glamour side of football, their fate, and those of half a dozen other quality Irish players, is the cruel side. The game spits you out and moves on.
Unless the answer to ‘what can you do for me tomorrow?’ is ‘a lot’, professional football is not a place for the faint of heart.