Chris Higgins is the FAI's Junior International Player of the Year
Tipperary soccer player Chris Higgins was celebrating on Sunday night after he was chosen as the FAI's Junior International Player of the Year.
The St. Michael's star got the nod ahead of Clonmel Celtic's David Joyce and Newmarket Celtic's Eoin Hayes.
He was rewarded for his performances for the Irish junior team that reached the final of last year's UEFA's Regions Cup Final in Zagreb, where they were beaten 1-0 by Croatian representatives Zagreb.
Brighton and Hove Albion's Shane Duffy was named as the Senior International Player of the Year at the awards ceremony, which was televised live.
Chris Higgins' journey to captaining Ireland followed a stellar underage career in soccer and GAA. Higgins signed for St. Michael’s in 1993, excelled as a defender throughout his teenage years and won his first international cap in 2011.
The Bansha man won soccer and GAA Munster titles at St. Ailbe's School in Tipperary Town, and represented the county at underage. The full-back was selected to train with the Tipperary minor footballers, but then made a big decision regarding his sporting career.
“I pulled away from the Tipperary minors because I was more dedicated to soccer and wanted to play for the county youth team. At the time in my village and at Galtee Rovers they saw my dedication to soccer and didn’t put any pressure on me.
“It has worked out very well for me and I have been lucky with my career,” he says.
Higgins, who also had a spell with the Tipperary senior footballers, recalls the "unbelievable" atmosphere in the Irish camp at the UEFA Regions Cup finals in Turkey.
“It was so professional. We trained every day at the Turkish Football Federation grounds and had the best facilities at our base in Istanbul.
“You really find out what professional football is all about. You’re gone for two weeks at a time, it’s very intense coming up against top quality European teams and it brings the best out in you.
“At club level you could go to a pitch at the side of a mountain, whereas at international level the pitches, referees and opposition are at a high standard,” he explains.
Chris, who has won almost every medal at junior soccer level in Ireland, says winning the Junior International Player of the Year award is the ultimate achievement.
“It’s the highest award a junior player can get and it’s a good identity of a player when you hear they have won that award."