In a season that has seen Troy Parrott make his Premier League and Republic of Ireland senior debut, and Aaron Connolly announce himself on the scene with a brilliant brace against Tottenham, one could be forgiven for letting Norwich’s Adam Idah slip slightly from view.
The 18-year-old had impressed with the Ireland Under-21s and made the first-team bench on a number of occasions for the Canaries. But his turn in the spotlight had yet to truly come.
On Saturday at Deepdale, as Norwich met Championship stalwarts Preston in the FA Cup 3rd round, a mixture of injuries and opportunity meant that Idah would finally get his chance.
90 minutes, three goals and a 4-2 win later, Idah reminded everyone that the conversation surrounding Ireland’s new wave of attacking talent will not take place without his name firmly in the mix.
“I watched the game,” said Idah’s former coach at both College Corinthians and Douglas Community School, Kevin Ronayne.
“He’s finally getting the chance to show what he can do. We’ve known for a long time that he’s ready. I thought he was exceptional.”
The last couple of days have seen highlights of Idah’s exploits against Preston shared across various forms of social media with Ireland and Norwich fans fawning over a goalscoring display rarely seen from a player of his age.
Idah’s second goal, in particular, caught the eye. He controlled a loose ball from the North End keeper with his right foot and effortlessly lifted it over him with his left, celebrating then as if the ease at which he made the finish look was the ease at which he executed it.
“Everyone’s talking about the second goal,” Ronayne explained, “but I thought the first one, where he made the outside to inside run, was almost Thierry Henry like, hanging out on the left and cutting in.
“The run he made and the finish was brilliant. The second goal then showed everything. It looked easy but to kill the ball dead with his right foot and then to chip it with his left foot. It showed supreme confidence. Then there’s obviously the penalty. He showed his full array of skills.”
To suggest his hat-trick was a surprise would arguably be doing Idah a disservice – it wasn’t expected certainly, but the 18-year-old has always had an exceptional knack of finding the net, and at the right time too.
The Cork native scored on his competitive debut for the Irish Under-17s, Under-19s and Under-21s -notching up an impressive 20 goals across those three age groups.
Ronayne coached Idah at Under-14 Under-15 and Under-16 level during his time at Cork’s College Corinthians as well as with Douglas Community School and always knew that the 18-year-old’s eye for goal and in particular his attitude meant he was destined for success.
“With Adam, the one thing that set him apart was that he was always a phenomenal goal machine. He just loved scoring goals. He did it at the right time too.
“It was clear that he was special but there are loads of special players out there who don’t work hard enough or don’t have the right attitude. He used to train and do extra himself. Even when he came home from Norwich last summer in the very first week of his time off he came and asked me for a bag of balls saying he wanted to practice his shooting, so he had that attitude.
“That’s what you need. Loads of coaches will tell you this, they’ve seen so many talented players but you can never be sure they are going to make it, even guys who you think are supremely talented other managers might not think the same. Adam had to work extremely hard. He’s had to bide his time.”
Corinthians had an extremely impressive side during Idah’s time at the club with 12 of the squad going on to play in the League of Ireland and the star striker moving over to Norwich. While at school level, the 18-year-old picked up seven trophies during his three and a half years.
Ronayne is still close with Idah. The pair have regularly stayed in contact since the striker’s move to Norwich. He remembers one game in particular during their time together where, with a number of scouts in attendance, Idah delivered a goalscoring masterclass.
“The one game that really sticks out, we played Greenwood who would’ve been an exceptional team at our age group, and we played them in a top of the table clash.
“Adam had been informed that there were scouts at the game and he scored five that day. He hadn’t scored any with his left and I told him during the game so he got the ball on the right wing, cut in and was about to shoot with his right, dummied, brought it onto his left and then stuck it in, á la Cantona vs Sunderland. The scouts were just amazed. He was on the radar then.”
If that game was Idah’s first step towards stardom, so to speak, Saturday’s demolition at Deepdale was a giant leap for one of Ireland’s most promising talents.
Those who follow Ireland’s Under-21s will have suspected he was capable of something like this. Against Sweden, in the 4-1 win, he found the net once, while setting up another.
But it was perhaps his dazzling piece of skill to deceive the opposition defence which stood out the most and proved that he is far from a one-dimensional striker.
This reaction from Connor Ronan when Adam Idah roasts the defender is incredible😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/YUDwnJDF5g
— Cian (@Cianaf) November 19, 2019
His captain at U21 level, Jayson Molumby can attest to that.
“He’s always a goal threat,” the Millwall midfielder told Pundit Arena.
“To be honest you forget sometimes when you’re speaking to Adam and you demand a bit more off him that he’s only 18. You think that he’s a lot older from the way he plays and some of the performances he puts in you need to take a step back and go ‘right he’s only 18′ he’s still so young’, so for his age, he has a lot of attributes.
“He’s strong, quick and has an eye for goal.”
In Stephen Kenny’s side, Molumby and Idah have been two key components as the Boys in Green find themselves top of their European qualifying group.
As a midfielder and the captain of the side, Molumby highlights the work rate of Idah off the ball as a huge benefit to playing with the talented striker.
“He works so hard for the team too. If things aren’t going well for us with the ball on the day he’ll run around and he’ll put in a great shift for the team. That’s very important. We know what he’ll do when we have the ball so all around he’s great.”
Ronayne echoes Molumby’s sentiments, highlighting the work of another Irish striker as a comparison.
“I think Jayson has nailed it there,” he said.
“If you watch David McGoldrick with the senior team, I know he doesn’t get the goals he deserves but his hold-up play and his link-up play is so good. Adam plays like that when he has to. He can spin the defender when he needs to too. His first goal the other day, those three defenders had a five yard run on him and cutting in from the left he left them for dead. I think he’s very hard to plan to play against.
“If you’re a Vidic or a Maguire and you relish that physical battle, he’ll drag you out to the left or he’ll drag you out to the right. He’s very game intelligent.”
The irony is that Idah’s next challenge could indeed be that of the aforementioned Maguire, when Norwich come up against Manchester United at Old Trafford at the weekend.
That will likely depend on the fitness of regular number nine Teemu Pukki, a player who Idah outlined has had a huge influence on his game, when speaking to Pundit Arena late last year.
“He’s helped me a lot. Just watching him in training is unbelievable. The way he finishes is world class, he’s so calm and composed, even off the pitch, he’s a excellent professional. Not just for me, for all the younger players coming up in the academy too, he’s a great role model for them.”
Whether Idah’s full Premier League bow comes at Old Trafford remains to be seen, but his time to shine at the highest level is edging ever closer.
All he’s ever needed to impress was a chance.
“If I get more opportunities,” Idah said confidently after the Preston game, “I’ll take them.”