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23rd Jan 2020

Molumby: the teenager who walked into The Lions’ Den

Rob O'Hanrahan

No ordinary 20-year old.

In the Bible, Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den after being betrayed by his fellow, jealous, rulers. He miraculously survived the night, and was elevated in status by the King beyond all others. Jayson Molumby was not betrayed, rather he asked to be put in this position. Jayson Molumby hasn’t just survived, he has prospered. Now it’s time to elevate his status to Senior international.

The excitement around the Irish u21 side under Stephen Kenny has been palpable in the last 18 months, aided somewhat by the failure of the Senior team to ignite even the wildest of Irish dreamers. As impressive as their positive brand of football is, what has been equally exciting are the individuals among the squad.

Aaron Connolly, Adam Idah, Troy Parrott and Michael Obafemi have all tasted Premier League action this season, while Caoimhín Kelleher has made a number of EFL Cup appearances for Liverpool. Coupled with a dearth of goals in the Senior set-up, the clamour for strikers in particular to get the call from Mick McCarthy has risen as Ireland know they must win two games away from home in a row if they want to be playing football this summer.

But, one tier below the Premier League, a young Irishman has been quietly ploughing his furrow in the Championship. Few willingly walk into the Lions’ Den (literally) at the age of 19, but Jayson Molumby did just that. It’s the type of decision that needs to be rewarded. He’s the type of player Ireland need right now.

Molumby joined Millwall last summer on loan. Perhaps knowing how limited his game time would be at Premiership outfit Brighton, he moved inland in search of minutes on the pitch. Speaking to the club website on his arrival, then Millwall manager Neil Harris spoke about how the move was, surprisingly, entirely Molumby’s idea;

“Jayson was asked himself where he thought his immediate future lied a few weeks ago, and his suggestion to Brighton was Millwall, because of the way he plays… That was very interesting and without any prompting from us at all. He sees himself fitting the bill, and his character when I’ve spoken to him shows him as a passionate young man, who wants to play… We don’t take many loans from Premier League clubs – especially young ones – firstly because they’re not always the right character we want to take, and secondly because we have to be mindful of what we’ve got in our own club… It’s telling of his character that he could have stayed at Brighton this season, trained with the first team and maybe got a game, but he wanted to step out and try to play regularly at Championship level. He had opportunities to go the division below and wear the number eight shirt, but he wanted to come here and test himself and compete with the players we’ve got.”

Millwall don’t just take anyone. That’s the kind of mettle you maybe wouldn’t expect from a man that young and with so little experience, but Molumby isn’t anything you’d expect from a midfielder of his age. Calm and composed on the ball, comfortable in possession, an ability to pick a through ball, dogged workrate. Molumby may be young, but he combines everything Irish fans love in a footballer with everything the team has so sorely missed in the middle over the last decade or so.

The fact of the matter is, Molumby arrived at The Den as an unknown entity. He signed a deal with Brighton last summer that ties him to the Premier League club until 2021, and headed to Millwall at the age of just nineteen. Millwall fans are renowned for their unique brand of binary passion, and there was always the chance that the young Irishman could remain anonymous on the bench or even fall foul of the ire of the club’s diehards. That hasn’t been the case. Michael Avery, Vice-Chair of the Millwall Supporters’ Club told SportsJOE that the midfielder has fast gone from stranger to fan favourite;

“Molumby was a player who some were questioning who exactly he was at the start of the season, but he has now become one of Millwall’s most important players.  He has a great engine, works hard and with the passion and drive he shows, you’d be mistaken to think he was a player who had come through the youth and has an affiliation to the club.  A steady and battling midfielder, he has quickly become a fans’ favourite… He has a maturity to his game that seems well beyond on his years and he is a player who does not seem phased when playing with and against a lot more senior players in this division… The Millwall fans love a player who gives nothing but 100%, puts in a real shift and Molumby gives that.  The one downside to the young midfielder is that he is a loan signing who will not stay with us beyond this season… I’d be surprised if he wasn’t being looked at (by the Senior set-up) already!  He deserves at the very least to be on the radar of the ROI squad or even perhaps called up for any upcoming friendlies.”

It’s valuable game time in one of the most competitive leagues in Europe, at such a young age, where others have perhaps been less fortunate. Shamrock Rovers midfielder and Senior Irish international Jack Byrne knows the pitfalls of the professional game abroad. He moved from boyhood club St. Kevin’s to Manchester City at the age of 15, and made his u21 debut for Ireland when he was just 18. He left Manchester for Dutch club Cambuur on loan in the summer of 2015, before a number of unsuccessful stints in the UK at Blackburn, Wigan, Oldham and Kilmarnock. His return to Rovers, and form, saw him make his Senior debut in the friendly against Bulgaria last year. Speaking to SportsJOE, it’s clear that the midfielder shares Irish fans’ excitement about Molumby;

“Yeah I’ve watched him play a few times, (I’ve been) very impressed with him. Really energetic midfielder, he seems to demand from people around him as well, for a young man. He looks like a leader… (Moving to Millwall) seems to have worked for him. Look, I went to the Championship at a similar age to him, it didn’t work for me, for whatever reason. I probably should have stayed in Holland for another year, probably suited me better, and maybe went (to the Championship) a little bit later. But, he seems to have that side of his game nailed on, I’m sure he’s got a chance and I’m sure he’s working really hard because it looks like it his.”

So what’s next for Molumby? Possible promotion to the Premiership, a further year on his contract with Brighton and a crucial u21 Qualifier against Iceland to look forward to in March… But what about a potential Senior call-up? He ticks the main box for McCarthy; regular game time, but the fact that that u21 game against group rivals Iceland falls on the same day as the Senior side’s playoff semi-final against Slovakia provides McCarthy with a cast iron excuse to leave the younger side with their captain.

The resurgence of James McCarthy, the credit in the bank for the likes of Jeff Hendrick and Robbie Brady and the news that Glenn Whelan has managed to find a club (albeit Fleetwood Town in League 1…) may all keep Molumby from the Senior squad for now. But there’s only so long you can ignore someone like this: a young man who walks into the lion’s den and outroars the beast.