THERE are birthday presents and then there are birthday presents!
Just ask young Liverpool fan Conor Bradley who on his 16th birthday begins a two-year scholarship with his beloved Reds, the six times European champions.
On July 9 the gifted young North Tyrone teenager reports to the Liverpool Academy at Kirkby as he sets out on the journey to realise the dream of becoming a full-time professional footballer.
Bradley, a young attacker with blinding pace, mesmerising skill and an eye for goal, has been on Liverpool’s radar for some time and in the past couple of years has been back and forth to the Premiership outfit for training weekends and extended summer sessions.
The Dungannon United Youth player and Northern Ireland underage international has also been on tour with the young Reds and was named their players’ player in a tournament in Germany after playing against the likes of Barcelona and other top European sides.
Conor, who back in November was captain of the Northern Ireland U16 team which captured the Victory Shield, has also impressed on trips to Qatar, Germany, Spain and Poland as part of the Club NI set-up.
The Killen lad, son of Joe and Linda, admits that football has been good to him but realises that to achieve his ambition of becoming the next Trent Alexander-Arnold or Andy Robertson the really hard work starts next month.
“I can’t wait to get over it’s a great opportunity,” he said.
“But I know that the hard work is only starting.
“I’ll be part of the U18 squad and the good thing is I know the coaches and I know most of the boys in the team.
“I‘m familiar with the surroundings and I’m staying with house parents who I stayed with when I was over before, they are really, really nice.
“I’m not too worried about settling in at all. I’m well used to it now.”
From a very early age Conor showed a real flair on the football pitch, initially with Churchtown and then St Pat’s, Castlederg in the Brendan Keogh Youth League. He, too, had a spell at Maiden City before ending up at Dungannon United Youth.
In recent years he has been part of the Club NI development programme as well as being involved with the Liverpool Academy set-up.
Conor has always shown a focus, dedication and determination to improve and be the best that he can be and admits that he isn’t likely to forget his 16th birthday in a hurry.
“Liverpool is the club I support, so yeah, you could definitely say it’s the dream for me. I can’t wait to get started,” he added.
Conor is one of three Dungannon United Youth players heading cross channel this summer. Sean McAllister is hooking up with Everton and Aaron Donnelly is joining Nottingham Forest. Both Sean and Aaron were members of Northern Ireland’s Victory Shield winning team.
FULL STORY IN MONDAY’S TYRONE HERALD