It can be very gratifying when your long-held personal opinion suddenly aligns with pretty much everyone else's opinion. For those of us watching Ireland take on Serbia in the World Cup qualifier on Tuesday night, there can be little doubt who the man of the match was. And most people’s opinion aligned with the RTÉ commentary team on the night when they dispatched Tony O’Donoghue to present 19-year-old goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu with the award after the final whistle went. And while Tony got to talk to the man himself, Ray D’Arcy got a hold of his mum, Cara Farrelly on the line and told her that, not only is her son an excellent goalkeeper, he’s also charming and articulate – you know, the sorts of things a parent can be proud of. It was a sentiment Cara could get behind:
"We’re definitely very, very proud of him, on and off the pitch. He’s a superstar to us, that’s definitely right."
To which Ray replied, "Well, now he’s a superstar to everybody else." Cara was in the Aviva stadium on Tuesday, two rows from the pitch, watching what was a nerve-wracking game. Ray wondered if she got nervous during a match. Yes. Yes she does:
"Especially as he advances towards the other goal, it does get rather nerve-wracking at times. But, do you know what, we’re getting to see his brilliance, I suppose and learning to see that he knows what he can do and we trust him."
In the post-match awarding of the man of the match, Tony O’Donoghue asked Gavin if he was sure he was 19 – a reference to the 'keeper’s impressive emotional maturity. Ray pointed this out, asking if Gavin has always been like that. He’s grown into it, Cara told him:
"It’s probably grown over time as well, but he’s very grounded and he’s humble and he’s extremely focused on what he wants to achieve in his career. So, you know, he’s got his eyes on the prize."
As a younger fella, Gavin never walked past a football. He played in outfield positions and was a top striker at under-8s level, according to his mum. But he went into goals at an early age (age, of course being relative, when talking about the career of a 19-year-old) and it was during his second stint at Shamrock Rovers in his early teens that things began to heat up:
"The academy director in Rovers pulled me aside and said, ‘I don’t think you realise, Cara, how much potential this boy has.’"
Gavin is a Manchester City player, on loan to Portsmouth and all the praise coming his way following his performances for Ireland won’t get in the way of Gavin’s preparations for his next game: he’ll be between the sticks for Portsmouth in their League One match away against MK Dons. But Ray echoed co-commentator Stephen Kelly on Tuesday night when he suggested that Gavin should be playing in a better league than the third tier of English football. That’s the plan, Cara says:
"His ambition is to get there and be Man City’s number one goalkeeper and that’s why he signed with them, but I think he’s also conscious that it’s very important to get game time. And it was a brave move by him to go out on loan last year and I think that’s paid off. He played over thirty matches for Rochdale last year and [that] gave him the experience and the game time he needed to be ready then when the big opportunities came for Ireland."
You can hear the full chat between Ray and Cara Farrelly by going here.