Ireland U17 captain Cathal Heffernan has permanently joined Serie A champions AC Milan for a fee of around €30,000 from Cork City. The highly rated centre back was signed on a loan deal for the Italian giants back in February, and after impressing in Italy, AC have decided to make his signing permanent.
Cathal comes from a prestigious sporting family. His parents are five-time Olympian Rob Heffernan and Olympic sprinter Marian Heffernan.
Heffernan made his League of Ireland debut at the age of 16 last October during a First Division win over Galway United at Turner's Cross.
We can confirm that Cathal Heffernan is to join @acmilan, after the Italian side exercised their option to sign him permanently following his loan spell.
Full story 👇🏼#CCFC84 | #WeAreCity
— Cork City FC (@CorkCityFC) June 20, 2022
His agent is Corkman Stephen Ireland and he'll join compatriots Kevin Zeffi of Inter plus Festy Ebosele and James Abankwah of Udinese as Irishmen in Italy next season.
Rob and Cathal Heffernan on the transfer
Speaking to Rebel Army TV at the Jerry Harris testimonial match over the weekend, Rob Heffernan confirmed the news that Cathal will be joining AC Milan on a permanent deal.
"They are buying him from City, I think it will be done tomorrow (Monday) so he’s no longer a Cork City player on loan at AC Milan, he is going to be officially an AC Milan player now,
"It’s lovely for him to come back here, his heart is still with City and he will still watch all the games every week on the box over.
"It’s a brilliant opportunity just to be a full-time sportsman as well at that age and just living the life of just training, sleeping, eating, he’s living the dream and he loves it.
"He loves it over there so happy days as long as he keeps enjoying it."
Cathal himself was also at Turner's Cross for the testimonial match and spoke about how much he is enjoying life in Milan with the 7-time European Champions.
"Words can’t describe how I feel about it, it just suits me to the ground - the culture, the weather, everything, I just love it.
"Since I have got over there I have just loved every second of it and I don't take any day for granted. I just keep working hard and getting better every day.
"It’s very different, I think the football in Ireland and England is very fast-paced and in Italy, it is a lot more tactical.
"It was difficult at the start - the first two weeks were hard - but once I adapted it became second nature."
The era of Irish players having to go to England to kick start their career seems to be over and with the likes of Zefi, Abankwah and Heffernan himself all moving to Serie A rather than England. It's yet another sign that the future of Irish football is bright.