When it comes to whirlwind years, the past twelve months in the life of Ireland under-17 striker Adam Idah will take some beating.
This time last year, the young Corkman had just helped the Boys in Green to qualify for the UEFA under-17 European Championships with a 100% record in the elite round in Cyprus.
In the year since, Idah was in the side that reached the last eight of the aforementioned finals, signed for Championship side Norwich City, made his mark in the FA Youth Cup, signed a boot deal with manufacturing giant Adidas and taken this year’s qualification by storm by finishing top scorer with eight goals.
Colin O’Brien’s side rounded off their campaign with a 1-0 victory in Poland, and Idah praised the work-rate of the entire squad on what was a hectic seven days in Poland in last week’s elite round – but insists that their strong performances and results were not a surprise to the group:
“It was excellent. Getting three wins from three, in such high competition, all the boys put in a great shift. Each game was tough, with three in seven days.
“Even in the last qualifiers, we were really great. We also got nine points there and the performances have been great. Some of us have been together since the under-15s , and we know we’re a good group, so I don’t think [the 100% record in the elite round] was much of a surprise to us, to be honest.”
In terms of the European Championships themselves, Ireland will be desperate to better last year’s quarter-final finish – and Idah feels that the confidence is so high in this group that they could, in fact, go all the way in the tournament:
“There are five of us, I think, from last year, and being able to come back this year and tell the boys what it’s like, that’s really good because they’ll know what to expect from it.
“This year, I think we have a chance of going all the way, to be honest. I think we’ve a really good chance of winning the tournament.”
In terms of his own performances, the former College Corinthians man finished out in front with eight goals from the six games, claiming the honour of top scorer just as Aaron Connolly last year. While that is obviously a brilliant achievement, the humble striker chose instead to shift most of the praise to his teammates:
“Yeah I’m really happy with myself, but if it wasn’t for my team I wouldn’t be able to get all of that. I just finish off the job that they all do, but I’m really happy.”
Excellent performance from the boys to top the group with 9 point’s, delighted to qualify for the finals in England, also happy to still come out and be top goalscorer of the tournament ????
— Adam (@adamidah1) March 27, 2018
The Ireland senior side’s exit from the World Cup qualifiers last November brought the country’s youth development structure into sharp focus again, as the argument that the country isn’t producing young players of a high enough standard reared its ugly head again. Having been fully involved in the youth setup as a player for the past few years, Idah feels that Ireland tend to be underestimated at youth level, both internally and externally:
“I think people do underestimate the youth level, to be fair. Going into competitions I think we really do surprise teams. We have a lot of quality youth players, I think with a lot of them playing over in England, that helps, that makes a difference. Soon enough you’ll see big teams in Ireland.
“What surprises other teams the most is that we don’t really work on long balls nowadays, we focus more on keeping the ball and with the players we have we have no problem in doing that. We’re starting to do that more now at youth level.”
In terms of his own development, Idah has seen the likes of Seani Maguire enter the ranks at senior level recently and knows that while the pathway up the ranks will be full of competition, it’s a challenge he’s more than ready for – though, for now, he’s fully focused on the Under-17 side:
“There is a pathway there, but with the likes of Seani Maguire coming through, there’s a great bunch of strikers there. In years to come, there will be a bit of competition, but everyone loves a bit of competition in their position. It’s a great thing to have.
“But I haven’t spoken to [under 19-s manager Tom Mohan], I’m just concentrating on the under-17 at the moment, with the way we’re going, just concentrating on the Euros.”
If and when Idah does start knocking on the senior door, he can take heart from the thriving Cork contingent around the squad right now. The likes of Alan Browne, Conor Hourihane, Kevin Long and David Meyler were all called up for the friendly against Turkey last week and it’s reassuring to see the spotlight being shone on the talent that the county is producing:
“Yeah, massively, with the likes of Browne and Meyler in there. A lot of people from Cork look up to them. It does have a stairway for people playing local football back home, for progression and trying to get into the [Ireland] team.”
Idah took the plunge by crossing the pond to join Norwich City last summer, and it’s been so far, so good for the 17-year-old. In addition to the under-18 side, he has featured for the under-23s, trained with the first-team squad and had a starring role in the Canaries’ FA Youth Cup campaign.
While some players, particularly that young, have dealt with bouts of homesickness, that hasn’t been much of a problem for Idah – partly down to the fact that he had been travelling so much at international level in the past couple of years anyway. In terms of breaking into the Norwich first team, however, the forward is prepared to bide his time and wait until he catches manager Daniel Farke’s eye:
“I think the year has gone really well, especially in the Youth Cup with that hat-trick [against Barnsley in December].
“Settling into Norwich I thought was quite easy, to be honest, because I’d been going back and forth, with under-15s, under-16, two years before I’d actually moved away. That helped me a lot, and then settling in quickly helped me to perform better.
“I think I’m still a bit too young [for the first team], especially with the way Norwich are going right now. They’re in midtable so I don’t think many will be getting their debuts this season, but you never know. If I keep socring goals, sure why not.”
To further underline the progress he has made (and continues to make), Idah recently signed a long-term deal with Adidas, the latest milestone in a career that is really starting to blossom:
“Yeah, it’s really special. Such a big brand like that signing me, it’s great. For them to be looking at me, it’s a great thing.”
Adam will be in action with the Ireland under-17s in England in this summer’s Euros, where, if he can maintain his fantastic international scoring form, who knows how far the Boys in Green can go?