Homesickness is often cited as a factor in young Irish players not making it at English clubs. A solution: bring your brother, or, even better, have a sibling who’s good enough to be signed by the same club - it’ll make pitching up in an alien West Midlands town easier.
For two Kerry brothers, that is their reality. During the summer, Shane and Darragh Lowth joined Kidderminster Harriers who play in the National League North - that's the sixth tier of English football. They have been togging out with the club's U23 side since.
Becoming professional footballers has always been the dream for Shane and Darragh. Kidderminster is another step in its realisation.
The two were previously together at both Limerick and Cobh Ramblers. Shane spent three years at the former, his younger brother joined him there in 2016. When Shane moved to Cobh later that year, Darragh took the same path six months after.
Both departed Cobh as the club's vision of them as footballers didn't mesh with theirs.
“We were playing as right-backs there,” Shane Lowth told Balls.
“It didn’t suit us, because playing as defenders wasn’t what we wanted. We’re more attack-minded players.”
The two, who hail from Ardfert, a village just outside Tralee, went back playing for Tralee Dynamos, their boyhood club. Shane reverted to being a striker and his goalscoring form returned.
In February, they heard about open trials at Kidderminster and travelled over for three days. It went well. Shane was asked to train with the club’s first team while there.
The two returned home, kept playing for Tralee Dynamos and all but forgot about the prospect until an email arrived in mid-June. It was from the club - they wanted to bring both of them over.
Two weeks later, bags were packed and they headed for the West Midlands. In between, some persuasion was needed. Shane was going into his third year of Health and Leisure at Tralee IT where he had a sports scholarship. His mother wasn’t keen on the idea of him dropping out.
I was happy enough with how I was doing in college but football has always been the dream. Any chance that came around, I was going to jump on it.
I started emailing back and forth with the club. Darragh and I started making a plan together and started to realise that this was a big chance.
Their mother was eventually cajoled.
The Kidderminster trial was not their first at a British club. Both had been on trial at Crystal Palace and Shane at Stevenage, Darragh had spent time with Norwich and Aberdeen; all were experiences which helped towards getting the offer.
Interest in the brothers is logical: they are fine athletes. Both have a strong background in athletics. Darragh has three All-Ireland medals at cross country and 800m. Shane was a Munster champion at 400m. Their sporting careers, in both football and athletics, have been aided by a transport service which has facilitated many: the taxi of mom and dad.
Now four months into their English adventure, the decision to move looks the right one. Shane has found a remarkable goalscoring seam. He’s hit the net 11 times in four league games for the U23s and scored 16 in eight consecutive matches in total. He's also been training with the club’s first team.
Darragh has started every game at right wing-back.
“He’s flying. He only turned 18 there at the end of August. He could have played with the U19s but the manager brought him into the U23s,” said Shane, who turned 21 late last month.
He’s set me up five times this season so far. We have this connection. If he gets to the byline, he knows that I like to drop off for him to cut it back. We’ve scored a lot of goals like that.
People here can’t believe how much running he does up and down. He’ll in the box one minute and back defending the next. A lot of that is down to the athletics background. It was a huge part of our lives growing up. It definitely helps our game, you can see it with our energy and endurance.
One of those Lowth scored and assisted goals came in a friendly against Oxford United last month.
Darragh played one-two on the right of midfield, carried the ball up the wing and then found his brother on the edge of the box. Without hesitation, Shane hit a sweet side-footed volley beyond the keeper.
“It’s one of those things, if I wasn’t scoring goals and I didn’t have confidence, I might have taken a touch. It was our first shot in the whole game.”
A mother’s worry about education will also have been eased by the options provided by Kidderminster. Shane and Darragh are both doing a course in personal training through the club.
All their needs are catered for by Kidderminster. That includes accommodation, food and transport to training. They share a room in a house they share with other players, including a Scot they met at the same trial they attended.
A first-team contract with Kidderminster is the aim. Wages at that level would be around £300 - £400 for the average player, rising to £800 - £900 for the more highly-regarded. It's far from the types of contracts splashed across the tabloid back pages but when your ambition is to make a living as a footballer, you're happy just to get a foot on the ladder.
“Even if it doesn’t work out, for whatever reason, I’d still like to find another team," says Shane.
“It’s a crazy game, you never know where you’re going to end up.”
Picture credit: Sportsfile