A SOUTHSIDE teenager, who was in a wheelchair until he was seven and told he may never walk, is one of 10 talented soccer stars who got a chance of winning a place at the Celtic Youth Academy.
Lucan lad Jason Murray’s (17) dreams came true when his impressive soccer skills wowed judges who selected him as one of 10 finalists on RTE’s Football’s Next Star reality series.
Jason’s journey is an extraordinary and inspirational tale of courage, ambition, passion and drive as he was once told by doctors that he may never walk as a result of being born with his feet back to front.
Jason spent his first seven years of life confined to a wheelchair until a fourth corrective surgery procedure was carried out.
Despite being a late starter and never touching a ball with his feet until he was eight, Jason not only defied doctors but also reached for greater heights with an unwavering ambition to be Ireland’s next soccer star.
The Leaving Certificate student at Lucan Community College came a step closer to realising that ambition when he powered through trials to make it through to the final 10 on Football’s Next Star.
Unfortunately, Jason’s chances were shattered when he tore his ankle ligaments while playing in a game between Celtic FC and Hibernian Football Club.
The injury ruled him out of play for up to six weeks, making any further participation in the series impossible.
“It was absolutely fantastic to get as far as I did although obviously I would have loved to have been able to go the whole way,” he told Southside People.
“It’s definitely given me an insight into life as a professional footballer and it’s made me want it even more.”
Jason, who plays for Bohemian’s Under 19’s, described how he wanted to play football before he could walk.
“I was told that there was only a slight chance that I would ever walk but I knew I would,” he said.
“I remember when I was in hospital there was a guy next to me who used to go down to the courtyard to kick a ball about but I wasn’t allowed to go because I was in a wheelchair.
“I still wanted to play and get stuck in even though I was in a wheelchair.”
Jason’s mother, Angela Murray, said her son “lives, breathes and eats” football.
“The whole family is so very proud of him and his achievements,” she stated. “He’s wanted to play football since the first time he ever kicked a ball.
“His dream is to play football for Ireland some day and who knows? Everything else he’s dreamed has come true.”
Between 40 and 50 contestants, who were short-listed from the programme’s open trials, went on to participate in the next stage of the competition, where the Celtic FC coaching team chose the 10 finalists.
Jason, along with the other nine hopefuls, three others of whom are also from Dublin, moved to Glasgow to try and impress the world renowned Celtic Academy coaches with a series of intense training sessions and a sliding scale of tough football fixtures, where they played to keep their place on the team.
While in Glasgow, the 10 finalists got a taste of life as a professional footballer and were rewarded with master classes from some of football’s biggest stars and even a trip abroad to play top teams.
Only one boy can win a place at the Celtic Youth Academy, so every week one disappointed contestant is sent back home.
Football’s Next Star is on RTÉ Two each Friday at 5pm until the final on November 23.
The programme will be repeated each Wednesday at 7pm on RTÉ Two.