ONE TO WATCH Leicester City teenager Conor Tee has been compared to Paul Scholes.
A teenager with strong Mayo links is making great strides in English soccer
HE’S one half Northampton, the other half Bangor Erris, but Conor Tee has always wanted to represent the Republic of Ireland when it came to playing soccer.
Tee is on the books of Leicester City, having progressed through the academy right up into the Under-23s, and he’s now on the verge of breaking into the first team.
The 18 year-old, who has already been compared to former Man Utd midfielder Paul Scholes, qualifies to play for the Republic of Ireland through his grandmother, Eileen Deane, who hailed from Main Street in Bangor. His mother, Maureen, is also from the Barony, and moved over to England 25 years ago where she married Tee’s father, Spencer.
So Conor Tee grew up spending summers in Erris, and also in Breaffy, with his uncle Seán Deane and first cousins. He’s always felt connected to Ireland, so when he made his debut for the Under-18 side in a friendly against Romania in April 2018, it was a dream come through.
“I don’t think it really makes a difference,” he told The Mayo News last week in MacHale Park when asked about being an English-born Irish player. “I’ve been coming to Ireland since I’ve been really young, spending whole summers here, it just felt normal to me.
“It [playing for Ireland] is something I always wanted to do, definitely. I got goosebumps before the game, when the national anthem was playing, it just felt different than playing any other game.
“You felt that extra bit of pressure, because you’re playing for your country and it was a great feeling. All my family were there too, which made it even more special.”
An attacking midfielder, Tee was picked up on the FAI’s radar having made huge waves with Leicester City in recent years, which resulted in him being offered a professional contract last season. As a young academy player, he was let develop in the age group below his own because of his small size, with the view that he would see more of the ball and develop better.
It worked too, because he’s now mixing it with Leicester’s Premier League players in training on a regular basis.
“I’ve noticed a lot of challenges this season that I hadn’t seen before,” he said. “When you come up through the academy, there’s equal playing time, but when you get to under-18 it’s more harsh – it’s completely different – because now you have to impress the manager to play.
“When you see the first team guys as a young boy you’re thinking, ‘Wow’. Then when you see them every day in the training ground that kind of changes, you’re thinking that you want to take their place!”
During his summers in Ireland, the teenager has trained with Bangor Hibs and Breaffy GAA, and has also made the journey to Croke Park on numerous occasions to support Mayo. He feels at home in the West of Ireland, but admits it’s a much different landscape to the city life.
“It’s quite windy down there,” he laughed, when asked about playing soccer in Bangor. “Bangor is a lot different. Everybody knows each other and I’m not used to that.
“You’re walking down the street with your family and they know everyone, and then it doesn’t take long before you get to know everyone, so making friends was easy.”
With his Irish family steeped in GAA, Tee has grown up with a grá for the O’Neills Gaelic size five football too. Whether that was by choice or not, he doesn’t know for sure!
He was in Croke Park before he hit his teens, has travelled all around the country following Mayo, and took in three GAA matches from Friday to Sunday last weekend. He’s even got to know a few county footballers along the way.
He’s certainly ticking the right boxes.
“I’ve watched Mayo in Croke Park before I went to my first Premier League game,” he laughed. “I was in Tipperary last year too. The atmosphere was brilliant, and the excitement, everyone is always up for the games, especially because of the physicality, it’s great to watch.
“I saw Aidan [O’Shea] the other day at John’s game [first cousin]. He was asking how my football is and all that. He’s a really nice guy.
“I’ve got him tickets to come over to watch the Liverpool game before, so every time I see him he always talks to me. He’s a really friendly guy.”
By the time this paper goes to print, Conor Tee will be back in England. In the not-so-distant future he’s looking to earn his first team spot with Leicester City and the Republic of Ireland.
Remember the name.