Sean Moore: Dramatic rise of ‘late bloomer’ teenager who could follow Whyte and Dallas

Sean Moore
Sean Moore made his Cliftonville debut last January as a 16-year-old
place: Solitude, Belfast Date: Tuesday, January 10 Start the game: 19:45 GMT
Coverage: Live coverage on BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website; text news and highlights from Tuesday’s four-match game on the BBC Sport website

Gerard Lyttle has played the long game with 17-year-old Cliftonville sensation Sean Moore, and may it continue as far as he’s concerned.

“Late bloomer” may seem like a surprising label for a teenager who has only just broken into the first team on a regular basis, but that is how Lyttle – fully immersed in Northern Ireland youth football – describes a player whose development he has followed closely for almost two years.

Moore, whose Cliftonville side host Irish Premiership holders Linfield in a vital league clash on Tuesday, has quickly become one of the Irish Premiership’s most exciting players with his incredible performances on the wing for the Reds, scoring two and creating two in his last five starts. .

However, he was first met by Northern Ireland Under-17 and U19 coach Lyttle as a left-back 18 months ago. He decided not to select him for the U17 Euro qualifying campaign, and Moore’s response to that setback is one of the traits that impressed Lyttle the most.

“As a left-back, we just didn’t feel Sean was physically ready at that stage and if we pick a player we don’t think is ready, it could potentially destroy them,” Lyttle explained.

“We have to be patient, monitor and make sure the time is right when we bring them back. That’s what we’ve done with Sean, we’ve followed his progress since he left, talked to his coaches and all the feedback has been positive.

“How a player reacts to not being picked at a young age tells us a lot about them. Some get their heads up or fall apart, but the ones who don’t tend to be the ones who have a really good career. Sean is one of those players and he clearly has character.”

‘I’d like him to stay at Cliftonville’

Moore, who only turned 17 last summer, got a call-up from Lyttle in November when he was selected in the U18 squad for two friendlies – and showed the international manager just how much he has improved.

“We played Sean as an attacking left winger in a 3-5-2 formation and he was very good,” continued Lyttle.

“Then we changed him and played him as a front man, to see if he could adapt, and he managed to cause problems for the Austrians with his directness and pace. It was almost a free role where he could pick up small pockets of space.

“He’s got that pace in him, with the drop of the shoulder and the trick to get away from players. I’ve played and coached a lot of players who never understood how to use their pace to the best advantage, but Sean does. He faces defenders and goes at them. It gets the fans going from their seats.”

Despite making just nine starts and just 21 appearances in total for Cliftonville after making his debut in an Irish Cup game last January, there has already been speculation over the possibility of Moore moving to England or Scotland.

Manager Paddy McLaughlin said he did not think the teenager would leave during January and Lyttle strongly feels that learning the trade in the League of Ireland for an extended period is the best route for his career at this stage.

“Sean still has a lot to do, he is not a finished product and I personally would like him to stay where he is until the end of the season, to continue playing men’s football at the level he is at.

“It will help his development more than if he goes now and maybe plays under-18 football or academy football. If a club comes now, maybe he could stay at Cliftonville on loan until the summer.”

Coates challenges Moore to follow Whyte and Dallas

Gavin Whyte
Gavin Whyte left Crusaders for Oxford United in 2019 and is currently at Cardiff City

The League of Ireland has become an increasingly happy hunting ground for English and Scottish clubs over the past decade, with a number of players establishing themselves in the top flight before earning moves.

Moore’s current team-mate Colin Coates has watched the pair – Stuart Dallas and Gavin Whyte – develop during his long and successful spell at the Crusaders, and believes the similarities between Moore and Cardiff City winger Whyte are particularly striking.

“Sean and Gavin look like they just love playing football, they don’t really care about anything else,” he said.

“The big thing is you can talk to Sean and he’ll listen, you can tell him he should try this or that. The key for me with players like Gavin Whyte and Stuart Dallas was their attitude. They didn’t go in and think they were done article or better than all others.

“They wanted to listen to everyone around them and become better. Sean is very similar to the two of them in terms of personality and desire to absorb everything around him.

“Sean is quiet, but I remember being 17 and, although it’s hard for people to believe, I was quiet at that age myself. I always think that’s a good thing with young players when they first come in and they’re quiet because it shows that they respect the locker room and are aware of where they are in the game. Plus, Sean has gained confidence around the guys and doesn’t mind embarrassing old guys like me in training.”

Before moving to England, both Dallas and Whyte won the Irish Premiership player of the year award – and, while stressing he didn’t want to give Moore too much advice, Coates challenged his young team-mate to stay at Cliftonville and achieve similar heights.

“Gavin came in around the same age and really energized our Crusaders team. He became the best player in the League of Ireland, after Stuart had done the same before him, and scored so many goals from the wing in his final season that he just had to move to the next level That’s the standard Sean should want to reach.

“Sean will now want to add goals to his game, which he has started to do in the last few weeks. I think the biggest compliment I can give Sean Moore is that Gavin Whyte comes to mind when you see him play. If he can continue to do what he is Gavin did, then it would be brilliant for Cliftonville and him.

“For now it’s just about maintaining the performance. There’s probably going to be a dip and a setback at some stage, but he’s got good people around him to help him get him back.”

And, as we know, Moore knows how to respond to failure.

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