Stephen Bradley describes Gavin Bazunu as a special character who is a real student of the game

Gavin Bazunu with Shamrock Rovers captains Ronan Finn and Áine O'Gorman

Gavin Bazunu with Shamrock Rovers captains Ronan Finn and Áine O'Gorman Credit: Shamrock Rovers

Shamrock Rovers Head Coach Stephen Bradley took the opportunity last week to take in a game involving two players he handed first team debuts in 2018 at 15 and 16 years of age.

Bradley travelled over to see Gavin Bazunu’s Southampton side beat Sinclair Armstrong’s QPR team 2-1 in the English Championship.

“I go over to see Gavin now and again,” said Bradley when speaking with ahead of Friday’s Dublin Derby in Tallaght Stadium against Bohemians.

“Last Saturday Gavin was coming up against former Rovers player Sinclair Armstrong, so I thought I’d go over and have a look at that. It was a good game to see two kids to whom we’d given their debuts to at Rovers.”

Bradley handed Bazunu the club’s goalkeeper jersey five seasons ago when Bazunu was just  16 five seasons ago. He made four league appearances without conceding a goal, along with playing two Europa League qualifiers against AIK Stockholm.

Having signed for Manchester City later that season, Bazunu has gone on to play in the Premier League with Southamption and earn 16 international caps for Ireland.

As a 15-year-old, Armstrong debuted for Rovers in 2018 in the FAI Cup against Drogheda United. He made six appearances for the Hoops in the First Division the following year before making the move to QPR.

He made 22 appearances for the London Hoops side last year, and scored his first goal for the club earlier this season.

“It was great to see them both playing. Gavin did really well in the game and we had a catch up afterwards which was nice.

"When you speak to Gavin about football it’s always interesting, he’s a real student of the game but he’s doing well, he’s happy which is so important and is playing in a team that plays really good football.

Bazunu was named in Stephen Kenny’s squad on Thursday for September’s double header against France (away) and the Netherlands (at home). Armstrong meanwhile was named in the Ireland under-21 squad for the upcoming games against Turkey and San Marino.

“We’re all extremely proud of Gavin, the players and staff. He came into the first team very young for a goalkeeper, but has gone on to do what he’s doing. But there’s so much more to come from him, I think he would tell you that also.

“But anytime he’s home it feels like he’s still part of the group, he’s around the training ground, the dressing room on match days, the players love him and love having him around.

"It’s a special type of character who can do that, he’s Ireland’s number one and has played a lot of games for someone so young as a goalkeeper and is still humble in how he goes about his life.”