SAM Boylan is already a household name in local sport.
But the 16-year-old who hit the headlines as an all-conquering judo player is now hitting the heights in another discipline.
For the talented Loreto College student is preparing to face Australia as part of the Northern Ireland Under-18 football squad.
Sam, whose family has been heavily involved with Coleraine Judo Club for a number of years, took the decision to hang up his Judogi last year to concentrate on his football - and he hasn’t looked back.
A number of sparkling performances for Coleraine Colts earned him a call up to the Reserve team where he proved to be an instant hit. And reserve team boss Aaron Forgrave had no hesitation in putting his name forward for the national squad.
Sam is now in the remarkable position of representing his country in two different sports, although the easy-going Coleraine lad told Times Sport that it hasn’t really sunk in.
“A lot of people have said to me that it’s a big achievement but to be honest I haven’t really thought about it,” said Sam. “I just grew up with Judo because my dad (Terry) and brothers and sisters were always involved with it.
“I did well in the sport, but football has always been my first love and I decided last year to put Judo to the side to concentrate on football. It’s going really well, but to be honest I can’t really believe how far I’ve come in such a short space of time.”
Sam is one of the youngest members of Bob Ramsey’s 18-man squad and he told Times Sport that he was shocked when he got the text last week to confirm his place for the Australia game.
“I’ve gone through a number of trial games right through to the final 23-man training squad,” he said. “I really wasn’t expecting to get the nod for the final squad as I’m only 16 and sometimes felt I was punching above my weight. So when I got the news last week I was shocked to say the least.
“It’s been a great season for me though. I’ve played five times for the Reserves and scored five goals and I’ve come up against teams like Linfield, which has helped me as a player. But we’ve some great young players at Coleraine and Aaron has always encouraged us and helped us become better players.
“The club had three players in the 23-man squad – myself, Stephen Dooley and Karl Steele. This is great and it really helped me as it can be daunting going to meet up with squads when you don’t know any of the other players.”
Sam and the rest of the squad held their final training session on the 4G pitch at Ashfield Boys School on Sunday in preparation for Wednesday’s clash at Seaview. The Northern Irish boys are expecting a tough encounter with the Aussies and Sam joked that maybe his Judo background would come in handy.
“The manager told us that they are a physical side so it might be good that I’m used to the rough stuff,” he laughed. “Training has gone well and I’m looking forward to the game especially with it being on Crusaders new pitch.
“I’m not expecting to be in the starting 11 but it’s great just to be involved at this level.”
Both Sam and Stephen Dooley are pupils at Loreto College in Coleraine and this week their principal, Brian Lenehan, congratulated them on the accolade and said that the talented duo were ones to watch in the years ahead.
Wednesday’s match at Seaview will kick-off at 1pm.
REPORT: Steven Crawford