From winning cups to earning caps, Mark Travers has packed plenty into his young career, he picked five turning points that have seen him reach this point as a footballer.
Celebrating his 21st birthday today, the Maynooth native was winning silverware back home in Ireland before his move to the south coast of England aged just 17.
After graduating through the under-21s squad Travers made his Premier League debut in a man-of-the-match performance in the 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur at the end of last season and less than six months later put a shamrock on the cake with a senior international debut for Ireland.
Travers joined afcb.co.uk in chronicling the challenges he’s faced so far and his taste for plenty more to come.
1. All-Ireland Teenager
When I was with the under-16s at Cherry Orchard, I had a big moment winning the All-Ireland title, which led me to joining Shamrock Rovers and giving me a bit of a platform. I then went on to win the All-Ireland under-17 with Shamrock, that was the breakout year for me in Ireland before I came over.
Winning two All-Irelands in six to eight months was something special. That year with Cherry Orchard was big for me, it gave me the chance to get some trials and then winning the All-Ireland put me in a good position to sign with Shamrock Rovers, I had a good year there, trained with the first team and the senior lads pushed me.
2. Hard knocks on arrival
Signing for Bournemouth was great but moving here made me realise that it’s about more than just football. I had to be professional off the pitch, and I was dealing with missing home as well. I learned a lot in a short time, growing up as a person.
My first ever game for Bournemouth, we played Stoke away with the under-21s – and drew 5-5! I didn’t have the best of games, it had taken me a few months to play for the team, there were a few first teamers playing and there were a few goals I should have done better with. I wasn’t too happy on the bus back home.
I’d been quite successful, playing internationally at home, but that’s when I realised it wasn’t the same. I was in at the deep end so I had to learn and grow up quickly, being at the level you’re expected to be at. I’ve always had in the back of my head that I would play in the Premier League and I would be a senior international, even after that game I still believed in myself.
3. Men’s football and a dream debut at Weymouth
There were a few important points for me there during the loan, let’s start off with the goal – scoring on your debut’s always good! It was 2-2 at the time late on and I came up, took the free-kick and got the winner, a dream debut.
It was a great start in men’s football, but then I had a tougher patch, perhaps not performing to the level I wanted to. Gareth Stewart was with me at most games, it was about learning to take criticism and if I made mistake I had to learn from it to get better and not sulk and feel sorry for myself.
And then my last ten or 12 games there was definitely the turning point. I was only 17 or 18 at the time and I thought I’d just be going to play football, but actually the mental side came into it, dealing with setbacks and that it’s not always going to go as you expect it to be. I felt I was mature off the pitch but on it there’s a different side you need. That helped me when I came back to the first team at Bournemouth and trained with the first team.
4. Teenage Premier League debut
We’d had a few days off leading up to the Tottenham game, getting towards the end of the season. I came back into training, felt I was doing well and had been third choice all year. I wasn’t expecting the call to be honest, I thought I’d be happy to get on the bench.
Then the gaffer pulled me on the Friday before the game and said, “Mark, we’re going to start you.” He filled me with confidence, saying I deserved to play. Weirdly, there were no nerves, it was just excitement. I’d dreamed of it since I was a kid, so many people would dream of being in that position, so I just took it in a good way and tried to show everyone what I could do the next day.
It was an early kick-off which helped, I was up and straight into the club. I just wanted to prove myself and show that the gaffer could trust me – and it probably went better than expected. You expect to be busy against the Champions League finalists, and I loved every minute of it. I enjoyed the build-up, didn’t think about being on TV too much. I had my family there as well which was class, a big turning point in my career.
Neil Moss and Ant White liked the saved from Lucas Moura and standing up at the near post from a technical side of things, but I’d say the last one from Dele Alli was my favourite. That may have given them the idea that they couldn’t get past me, I felt so confident throughout the game, thankfully they didn’t get past me right to the end.
5. A first Ireland cap
I went into the camp off the back of a few cup games with Bournemouth so I felt with the friendlies coming up I might have a chance for a few minutes. It happened quickly, the night before I was told I’d be starting. Darren Randolph was there so the gaffer didn’t have to start me, a 20-year-old ‘keeper. He showed that faith in me, it was a friendly with Bulgaria but we still wanted a positive result.
It was a massive point in my career, to say I’m a Premier League ‘keeper is great of course but to be a senior international as well makes it even better. Playing at under-16s all the way up to under-19s, skipping the 21s and then making my debut, having two caps now, is massive. It’s a huge pride for me and my family, now I want more. I’m looking to the future, not settling, two caps isn’t enough, and it’s the same with Premier League appearances.
When I go home we don’t speak about it too much in my family, we still have the same fun as we had when I was younger, nobody sees me any differently to how I was before.