GdS: Milan beat competition to sign Heffernan – background, strengths and his Olympian family

By Oliver Fisher -

After 73 years since they last did so, AC Milan have signed an Irish player as defender Cathal Heffernan has officially joined the club’s youth system from Cork City.

La Gazzetta dello Sport reports how the last Irish player to don the famous Rossonero shirt was Paddy Sloan, a midfielder who amassed 9 goals in 30 games back in 1948-49. Now the Primavera welcome Heffernan, a 16-year-old centre-back who will arrive from Cork City.

He made his first division debut in October 2021 playing around 20 minutes against Galway United after a handful of games where he made the bench, showing that he is very highly rated.

He is right-footed, stands at 1.85m tall and is very much the tough, solid mould of defender. Given his young age, each fundamental aspect of being a central defender will have to be improved but he will do so under the watchful eye of the Primavera coaches and of course Paolo Maldini.

Scouts who watched Heffernan praised his courage, resourcefulness, sense of anticipation and aerial ability, and Milan had to beat competition from Bayer Leverkusen who wanted him too. So far he has played the one game among the senior team and several in the Irish youth national teams: 10 with the U15s, 5 with the U17s as captain and 3 with the U18s, all as a starter.

Heffernan will follow the path of two other Irish talents who have already landed in Serie A, with Kevin Zefi joining Inter and James Abankwah who is back on loan at St. Patrick’s for a year after joining Udinese.

A while ago Heffernan trained for six weeks with Manchester United and several clubs wanted him, but he chose Milan. There is more trivia regarding his family too as his sister plays football like him for Cork, while his parents took part in the Olympics.

Robert Heffernan won bronze in London 2012 in the 50km and gold at the World Cup in Russia in 2013, coming 6th in Rio 2016. His mother Marian, on the other hand, competed in the women’s 4×400 relay in London 2012.

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Tags AC Milan Cathal Heffernan Milan Primavera
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