Corey Chambers is a former Irish underage and schoolboys international as well as Bray Wanderers Under 19, Waterford and Wexford FC goalkeeper who is currently on a scholarship at George Mason University in Virginia, USA. He returned home for the summer to turn in some eye catching for Wexford before jetting back to the United States. Before leaving, he took the time to conduct this interview with extratime.ie about his experiences so far and how he balances his career on and off the field.
You started your League of Ireland career with Bray under 19s- presumably you were still in school at that stage?
Yeah, I started with Bray U19s when I was heading into 6th year and suddenly found myself training with and being on the bench for the first team behind Peter Cherrie. Training 2 or 3 nights a week accompanied by 2 games on the weekend was a big commitment especially considering I was preparing for my Leaving Cert.
Why did you leave the Under 19s to join Waterford?
I felt I was good enough to play senior football at the time even though I was only 18 and, obviously with Cherrie being one of the league’s top keepers, I knew that my chances of first team football at Bray were very limited. However, Roddy Collins and Waterford United were able to offer me a good opportunity at playing first team football and myself and Roddy agreed that if I wasn’t in the starting 11 for any given week that I would be allowed to get my gametime with the 19s. Lo and behold I made my League of Ireland debut on the opening day of the season away to Drogheda.
Was it difficult to combine schoolwork and studying for the Leaving Certificate with the demands of League of Ireland football?
Of course it is, especially when you have to travel to training and games. The senior team for Bray used to train up in Ballymun United and then Waterford trained in WIT, so both of those places were well over an hour’s drive for me which meant coming home from school, getting a quick bite to eat and getting in the car to go to training. Most nights I had training, I wouldn’t get home until 10pm and usually I just went straight to sleep. It just meant I had to find a balance between football and schoolwork, so on the days I wasn’t training, I would catch up on my homework and projects. Teachers were always very accommodating and helpful whenever I missed school for trips away with the Irish Schools team or the main U18 international team.
How did you find playing at Wexford with other players from college especially Carlow IT? Did it make it easier to organise training with plenty of students at the club?
Yeah Wexford have always a lot of players who attended Carlow IT. They have a great program out there and Wexford tap into that pool of good players. We trained in Carlow IT on a Monday so I guess that made it easier for the students to not have to travel very far.
When did the idea of a scholarship in America enter the frame?
In 6th year I was looking into the possibility of a scholarship in America and then the guys at Sports Scholarships USA were in contact with me and reckoned that they could find me a top school with a great football program. I deferred a college place in NUI Galway for a year to spend the year picking the right place for me.
How do you find the standard of football in America in comparison to the First Division?
I was taken aback on my first training with Mason with how intense the session was and how quick and powerful the players are. We do a lot of gymwork and strength and conditioning and it shows in the games with most teams being very fit and very quick. The games are very fast paced with most of the games being very high scoring. A lot of the games I played in had 5+ goals. The First Division is more rough and ready with every team scrapping and fighting for 3 points which means that a lot of the times the games are not too pretty but that’s senior football and it’s a results business.
In America young scholars are well looked after at all sports-can you tell me a little about life at Mason University with regards to this?
The Americans love college sports, especially American Football and Basketball. It’s crazy how many people go those games. Mason doesn’t have an American Football team but I have seen videos from colleges in Virginia where there are 80 thousand people at the games. All the athletes at Mason are all well looked after no matter what sport. We get all the gear we need and we have access to great pitches, gyms, nutritionists, athletic trainers and a top class physio room. They give you everything you need to excel at your sport.
When you return to America you are going straight into pre-season before the university season kicks off- how do you find the facilities and the strength of conditioning compared to League of Ireland?
The biggest difference is that, at Mason, we train everyday for two hours in the morning and a lot of the days we have strength and conditioning in the gym before we go out on the pitch. The facilities are some of the best I’ve seen. We have 4 training pitches, a turf pitch, a stadium pitch, gyms and a physio room. In the LOI, especially at some of the smaller clubs, we are really only limited to training 2 nights a week without any strength and conditioning although I know a lot of guys do that in their own time.
What are your long-term ambitions after graduating from college?
I’d love to further my playing career to as high a standard as possible, whether that be playing professionally in Ireland or elsewhere. I don’t want to have any regrets when I am older that I didn’t try to fulfil my potential. Then, when the football boots are hung up, I would like to work in my degree field- IT.
How important do you think it is to combine education and football?
Extremely Important. You never know when your last training or last game is going to be so it is important to have a Plan B for life after football.
Are there any pieces of advice you would give to students who made think about this route to a professional career?
I think the most important thing is to make sure you get an education so that when your football days are over you have something to fall back on. A lot of kids go to England young and don’t even attain their Leaving Certificate as a result. The older I have gotten, the more I have realised the importance of education.
How did you find coming back this summer- was it easy to step back into the league?
It was like I had never left. I had a great time with Wexford this summer- there are some great people down there and some great young players for the club to build on. We pulled off some major upsets during my time there and I am always proud to play for the club.
Do you intend to do the same next year if possible?
With Wexford looking for new management, I’m not sure what will happen. Obviously I’d love to but for sure I will be looking to play summer football somewhere and hopefully that can be at Wexford.