The time has almost come for one Kilkennyman to leave the classroom and go East with his footballing education - but first he has to reach his fund-raising goal.
Graignamanagh native Dean Broaders, a BA Sport & Exercise (Soccer) student at IT Carlow, has been named in the Irish men’s football team to compete at the World University Games in Gwangju, Korea, and has called on the help of the sporting community to help him get there.
“This is the opportunity of a lifetime,” he said of the games, which kick off in July. “Some people might think it’s not that big of a deal, but it’s massive - you have the chance to represent your country at an event where 10,000 athletes will be competing.”
Broaders has been busy raising money since he cemented his place in the squad, but that will kick into overdrive when he holds his main fund-raisers this Friday. He’s not the only one who will have to pay for the bulk of his trip - the success of IT Carlow is also their downfall.
“Between the men’s and women’s teams there are 10 students from IT Carlow who’ll be heading to Korea for the games on the football teams,” said Broaders. “It’s the biggest amount of any college in the country. The college is giving money to each student towards the trip but, with such a number of students going, they can’t give as much as others.”
Making the squad is an achievement for Broaders, who has battled back from injury to seal his place in the side.
“I’ve had an Achilles injury since January,” he said. “Initially I thought it was only a three or four-week injury, but about two months later I played a game with the Irish colleges team, then played 20 minutes with Wexford Youths and it still wasn’t right. I got a scan in Kilkenny which showed there was still a tear.
Make it to Korea
“The specialist told me I was out of the tournament,” said Broaders. “I told him there was no chance of that - I didn’t care if my leg fell off, I was going to make it to Korea!”
With help from IT Carlow, Broaders has undergone radical treatment to be ready for the games. A series of PRP (Platelet-Rich Plasma) injections designed to heal muscle and accelerate recovery has helped him bounce back in time for the competition.
“You’re in a boot for 10 days before and 10 days after,” he said, thanking IT Carlow and Donal McNally for their assistance in getting him back to top shape. “I’ve already started my rehab and feel no pain, so now it’s a case of getting my fitness levels back up to where I want them.”
Getting to the root of the problem has been a big relief to Broaders, who was left frustrated as his injury kept flaring up.
“The real problem was that after I thought the injury had healed I pushed myself back into training really hard,” he said.
“That wasn’t helping me; it turned out I was putting extra stress on the Achilles. I was playing through a bit of pain but didn’t know if it was all in my head or what - the area the tear is in has very little blood flowing through it so it would not heal. The injections have helped so it’s getting better now.”
In terms of injury, it’s the worst the Wexford Youths player has suffered - not just physically, but mentally too.
“I have been out before with a few knocks, hip injuries and things like that, but this has been going since January,” he explained. “I’ve only played 80 minutes of game time since, which has been a killer, but in fairness Wexford Youths have given me a few weeks to get back to 100% ahead of the tournament.
“I was very down over the whole injury,” he added. “It was a case of thinking I was back, then I’d get a strain which would force me back. Ideally when you get an injury like that you’d want to go for a scan straight away, but as I didn’t know what the story was straight away I left it for a month and could only guess as to what the real trouble was.”
Now over the worst setback in his playing career, Broaders spoke about how he made it into the Irish squad. The plan to get to Korea was a while in the making.
“When we started our course Paul O’Reilly (course director and assistant manager to the men’s soccer team) told us what was in the pipeline and what we should be aiming for.
“Straight away that’s what I wanted - it’s been at the back of my mind for the last two years but it was before Christmas 2014 that things stepped up pace. We knew there would be a trial for the squad straight after Christmas and then more trials every three weeks after that. We were playing games before the selectors named a preliminary squad of 25 which was then cut to 20. It’s been a quick process in that terms, but it’s been a target to aim at for some time.”
Playing in the League of Ireland has been a help to Broaders, who will have some familiar faces when it comes to team-mates in the squad.
“There are five players from Wexford Youths in the squad,” he said. “Manager Shane Keegan has been great - it’s a problem that he has five players in the squad - but the club knows it’s the chance of a lifetime for us.”
The Irish squad has been steadily working away ahead of their trip to Gwangju - the team jets off to Korea on June 26 - with team manager Danny Crowley getting in plenty of games to test his side.
“We’ve played Wexford Youths and Dundalk in friendly matches, then took on the Northern Ireland amateurs,” said Broaders.
“We have a game against the Republic of Ireland amateurs in the next week, with one more game before heading to Korea.
“There is a good atmosphere to the squad, while having a number of players from IT Carlow and guys who play with Waterford United means a lot of us know each other,” he added. “There is a good buzz and everyone gets on well.”
The men’s team have been given a tough task in Korea, with their tournament kicking off against Uruguay on July 2. Ireland have been drawn in Group D with Russia and China completing the quartet.
“We’ll have a few days training, but the group games come thick and fast once the competition begins,” he said.
“We’ll have a rest day between the games, but our last one is on July 6. Hopefully we’ll get through to the knockout stages but it’ll be tough - Russia, for instance, have a lot of players who play in professional leagues - but the management have picked a squad with players of equal ability in different roles. If you don’t play one game then there’s a ready-made replacement who can fill in straight away.”
Making it to Korea will be the final step in what has been a lengthy journey for Broaders. Right now he is in the thick of things with fund-raising, the bulk of which he is hoping to achieve with his five-a-side tournament and cabaret this Friday. Despite that, he has enjoyed every step.
“It’s been a bit tough raising the money but I’ve enjoyed getting out and meeting people,” he said. “The people of Graignamanagh have been great, especially Highview Athletic - I played with the club from the age of seven to 18; they’ve been brilliant to me and really helped out. Both they and Martin Kelly from The Globe Bar have been a huge help to me throughout.”
Dean Broaders will hold be holding his fund-raising night in Graignamanagh on Friday. A five-a-side soccer tournament will be held at Duiske College from 7 to 10pm, followed by a fund-raising cabaret in The Globe Bar in Graignamanagh this Friday.
Tickets for the cabaret are €3, with a number of spot prizes up for grabs.
Alternatively, people can make a donation through http://www.gofundme.com/w73h2ts