CARRIGALINE native Rob Slevin has been awarded for his stellar performances for University College Cork as he was recently named the FAI Colleges and Universities International Player of the Year for 2019.
The UCC student, who is heading into his fourth and final year of Commerce, was among the top young football talent to be honoured following the announcement of the annual the FAI International Awards last week.
But unfortunately due to current restrictions and safety protocols that have been brought in since the outbreak of the Coronavirus, Slevin was unable to receive the award in the normal circumstances like the previous winners.
There was no opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the biggest names in Irish football at a ceremony in Dublin which would have been thoroughly deserved for the 22-year-old.
In fact, he wasn’t even formally told he had won the gong.
“I was scrolling through Twitter and it popped up – I had no idea,” he admitted.
But there was no taking away from how big an achievement it was for the young defender, who now joins fellow Cork native Séan McLoughlin and current teammate Daire O’Connor on the list of winners of this award.
For Slevin though, his own particular journey can be traced back to when he was just six years old and he made the decision to join his local club Carrigaline United.
“I started playing with Carrigaline when I was about six, and I was playing the whole way up with them,” he confirmed.
“I always played locally there, with my friends and stuff. I started to get a bit more serious with it when I was around 16. I stayed with Carrigaline and then came to UCC. It’s a great opportunity, to play at UCC – the training, the facilities, the coaches, the competitions you play in.”
The Ballea Park based club provided an excellent base in which he could build his footballing career but the decision to swap the yellow and blue of Carrigaline for the red and black off UCC proved to be a wise one.
While also studying for his commerce degree - and a potential fallback option if a career in football doesn’t transpire as hoped - Slevin would also grow significantly on the pitch.
It was a partnership that worked for both parties as while he used the aforementioned benefits to his advantage, the club also enjoyed a successful period as they claimed a Collingwood Cup and a Munster Senior League Senior Premier Division title, amongst other honours.
“I’ve played two years there, and we’ve won five trophies – it’s been fairly successful, especially as every year you play with UCC, you lose players because they graduate," he said.
“I went to Italy, representing Ireland at the World University Games last year as well – that’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.
“It is hard (balancing college and sport). I think you can’t really understand it until you’re in it.
“Playing soccer with UCC, you play in two leagues – the Cork league and the university league, and things just catch up.
“You’re training twice a week, and in the gym every other day, so it is full-time. College work is just as important, if not more, so you just need to find a happy medium for yourself.”
The hard work paid off as after playing a major role in UCC's success over the past two years he has since earned a move to Waterford United before eventually being snapped up Neale Fenn at Cork City at the beginning of this year.
This season hasn’t gone quite as planned with City struggling at the bottom of the league while the Coronrvirus pandemic interrupted the beginning to life at his new club.
But while Slevin refuses to look too far ahead, awards like this show his future is certainly bright.
“Obviously, the coronavirus has messed everything up. It’s been weird; I’ve probably trained more on my own than with everyone else," he added.
"It’s still enjoyable – it’s made it even sweeter going back after training so long on my own. You wouldn’t take it for granted again.
“I don’t look too far ahead to the future, because I can find myself getting distracted from what I’m doing at the moment.
"I’m just literally looking forward to finishing my degree, and I’ll re-evaluate things then.
"Things can change so fast – this year has really shown that.”