Last week 22 year old Derry born footballer Paul Lowry signed for Trafford Football Club. It’s not glamorous: the Manchester outfit play their football in the Northern Premier League Division One North, level 7-8 on the English football league system. But it’s perfect for Lowry, who is studying in Manchester.
“They are close to where I’m living,” he says, “they train with good facilities and they play some good football.”, he concludes, with a smile.
So how did Lowry find himself playing for Trafford?
At 19 years of age he was considered to be one of the hottest prospects in the Irish League, the same league that has recently exported Rory Donnelly to Swansea. Playing for Derry outfit Institute, he scored crucial goals against the top clubs in the division, including a last minute equaliser against giants Linfield and a tremendous brace which sealed victory against Crusaders. His breakthrough was only a matter of time.
“Institute manager John Gregg saw me playing for the reserves against a Ballymena side that had a load of 1st team players. I scored two goals that evening and then I was called up to the first team.”
However, Institute’s fortunes continued to decline, despite the best efforts of young Lowry and they could not avoid relegation. Weighing up his options at the end of the season, Lowry chose to undertake a degree course in Human Biology at Manchester Metropolitan University. But so keen were Institute to retain his services, that they even offered to pay for his flights back to Ireland as a wage.
He was clearly wanted, so why did he choose to pursue an education instead?
“I was trying to be smart in the sense that even if I were to make it, anything could happen.”, he says, earnestly. “I could break my leg or suffer a career ending injury and where would I be with no qualifications? It’s something to fall back on.”
It seems like a sensible approach, but he isn’t throwing in the towel and is upbeat about the possibilities of forging a career in the beautiful game.
“If you don’t make it at 16, 17 or 18 it’s not the end of the world. My mate graduated at the end of last year and has gone on to play for Oldham so he’s sorted now.”
“You just have to look at the likes of James McClean, who got a move to the Premier League at 22 after playing in the League of Ireland. Chris Smalling was playing a level below me when Fulham signed him, so you just never know who is watching.”
It didn’t take the striker long to find a club and in the December of 2010, Lowry was snapped up by Conference North side Droylsden. However after only a handful of appearances, Lowry left Droylsden. 2011 was a tough year for the young man, but nevertheless, he continued to impress for his university team, raising interest from Conference North team Altrincham F.C.. After the season had kicked off, he eventually accepted an offer to train with Hyde, but having missed pre-season he struggled to break into a side whose prodigious form sees them sit atop of the Conference North table.
“I was getting on OK but I missed the vital pre season and with the team pretty much unbeaten, it’s hard for the manager to drop anyone.”, he concedes.
“I haven’t been cleared to play for Trafford yet, but I’ve been working hard in training. I can’t wait to get out there again.”
His message is clear: never give up on your dream.