Paul Corry could be forgiven for casting an envious glance at a name included on the Derby County team-sheet today.
The Sheffield Wednesday midfield player emerged from the local Dublin football scene at the same time at Jeff Hendrick.
The pair travelled over to England as teenagers, spending a week together on trial at Nottingham Forest.
East Midlands rivals Derby then took a gamble on 16-year-old Hendrick, who was playing for St Kevins Boys, and six years later is a full Republic of Ireland international and a fixture in the Rams’ midfield.
Premier League scouts have been tracking the 22-year-old attack-minded player and his stock can only have risen with back-to-back goals in Derby’s first two games of the season.
While Hendrick’s star has soared, Corry, 23, is still struggling to make an impact in the English game.
He signed for the Owls in 2012, with glowing reports from his time at University College Dublin (UCD).
But he had made just nine appearances for Wednesday – he also spent a loan spell at Tranmere Rovers – coming into this season.
So Corry was relieved to make a rare Hillsborough appearance in Tuesday’s 3-0 Capital One Cup win over Notts County – a late substitute cameo – and he hopes to impress Owls coach Stuart Gray and make up for lost time.
If he needs any incentive, Corry only needs to look at the Rams’ starting line-up today.
“I am not good friends (with Hendrick), but I went away on trial with Jeff when I was younger,” Corry told The Yorkshire Post.
“Jeff is Irish, and played the year below me in Dublin, and, as you can imagine, it’s quite a close-knit community.
“So I knew Jeff from just being around. We spent a week together on trial at Nottingham Forest, and his game has progressed massively since then. He is doing really well at Derby.
“I watched the game the other night when they played at Carlisle. Will Hughes was sitting and Jeff had the licence to bomb on, make runs into the box and that’s how he got his two goals.
“When you are scoring goals I guess that’s when people are going to start noticing you.”
Corry certainly looks fit after employing a personal trainer over the summer to bulk up and fight for his Hillsborough career.
Alongside former Rangers midfielder Rhys McCabe, the pair have undoubted quality but need to add defensive duties to win over coach Gray.
“All the likes of myself and Rhys McCabe can do is keep pushing the lads. It’s always good to have healthy competition in and around the team,” said Corry.
“Albeit frustrating, you just have to keep yourself ticking over and, hopefully, when an opportunity arises you grab it.
“It’s been massively frustrating. Maybe this season I might have to go out on loan to get a few games. My CV is mainly based over in Ireland, I haven’t played the 50-60 games over here that I probably need to do.
“If that means going out on loan, I will go out on loan, and try build my CV because I want to be playing first-team games, not reserve-team football. While I am here, I will just have to keep pushing.
“I have spoken to the gaffer and he is looking at the likes of myself and Rhys McCabe regarding our work off the ball, maybe in terms of winning the ball back. It’s an area in my game which I need to improve on.
“I came over to England to play first-team football, so when you are not, it’s sometimes disheartening. You do not lose your head but you lose a bit of confidence in yourself.
“I guess that was the case last season, when I wasn’t really featuring that much.
“But when I went home I went to a personal trainer, got myself well geared to coming back this season. I feel I have done well, played a few reserves games this pre-season, too, and am just building on that.
“During the season it’s hard (to use a personal trainer) because of games and training. But when I went back, I just went straight to using a personal trainer.
“I was in there three times a week, just an opportunity to add a bit of bulk to your system and maybe work a bit harder in the gym because you have that extra time with no training the next day.
“I think it’s benefitted me, made me stronger physically, and I feel stronger in training, so maybe it’s something I will keep doing over here during the season.”
Wednesday have made a good start to the season, winning both their opening games without conceding a goal.
With Sam Hutchinson, Giles Coke, Jose Semedo and Kieran Lee all battling for central midfield slots, Corry accepts he has to stay patient.
“It’s hard at the moment, especially the way the lads are playing, you can’t be really knocking on the gaffer’s door asking to play when we have just beaten Brighton away and thumped Notts County,” he continued.
“I just have to be patient and prove to the gaffer in training and the reserve games that I am good enough to play.
“I have a lot of confidence in my own ability and I think I am capable of playing at this level, so when I get an opportunity I need to show that.
“There is a buzz at Hillsborough after the first two games. Wins breed confidence and, although it’s early days, we want to keep that momentum going.”
Corry believes the Owls’ fine start to the campaign – it took them 14 games to win a match last season – is partly down to a settled squad, which has only been tweaked over the summer.
“The work which the gaffer did last season has carried into this season. The bulk of the team have been together for a year now, so there’s a bond and togetherness in the team, maybe an understanding on how to play to our strengths and nullify our weaknesses.
“A combination of all that has set us up really nicely for this season,” concluded the young Irishman.