By David Hennessy
While his Republic of Ireland international team mates Aaron Connolly, Troy Parrott and Adam Idah have been making headlines this season by breaking into the first teams at their clubs, Republic of Ireland Under 21 captain Jayson Molumby has made himself a permanent fixture at the centre of midfield for Championship club Millwall, where he is on loan from Brighton.
The 20-year-old has slotted in beside fellow Irishman Shaun Williams and shown himself to be comfortable on the ball and capable of playing the sort of probing passes that can unlock defences while also not being afraid to get stuck into the tackle.
It is these attributes that have made him popular with the sometimes known to be volatile fans of the club known as the Lions. Millwall fans appreciate his energy and how he works hard to make things happen whether the team are winning or losing. These qualities also have some thinking Molumby could be the answer to Republic of Ireland’s questions at central midfield with Glenn Whelan now 36 and plying his trade a division below him in League One.
Jayson told The Irish World: “I’m really enjoying my time here at Millwall and have loved everything about it. It’s a great club with huge history and I knew coming here would be a big challenge but I felt I was ready.
“There’s a lot of great people working in the club and from the moment I walked into the building the stereotypical view of Millwall was out the window and everyone was very welcoming.”
Millwall have lined out with four Irish men in the team this season as former Reading, Derby and Republic of Ireland stopper Alex Pearce is in their central defence and Aiden O’Brien, who has four Republic of Ireland caps and one goal to his name, are also among the ranks.
“The Irish boys were brilliant with me since day one and looked after me so can’t thank them enough.”
There has been upheaval at the Den this season with Neil Harris, the manager who brought Molumby to SE16, sensationally quitting the club in October and being replaced by former Stoke boss Gary Rowett. The team’s form has been impressive since Rowett took control with the club only losing a handful of games and looking like a play-off challenge is not out of the question.
“Yeah, it was big shock the old gaffer leaving and he will always be the man to give me my first chance in league football so I’ve got a lot of respect for him as a person firstly and then a manager.
“The new gaffer has been brilliant and the boys have taken really well to his ideas and style of play and it’s shown in our results since he’s come in the door.”
He may now be England captain and a World Cup golden boot winner but Tottenham striker Harry Kane was unheard of when he went to the Den on loan in 2012 and his seven goals in the last 14 games of the season kept the Lions up. The future Premiership marksman formed a devastating partnership with Irish striker Andy Keogh and the duo scored 19 goals in all competitions.
Molumby’s trajectory could very well mirror that of the England striker with a successful loan spell at the Den laying the foundations for his future Premiership and international career.
“Playing for Ireland is the biggest thing for me and the dream is to get myself that senior cap. It means a lot to my family and stuff and would be a very proud moment.”
As well as the goal scoring exploits of Michael Obafemi, Troy Parrott, Adam Idah and Aaron Connolly, Stephen Kenny’s Under 21s also have Liverpool’s Caoimhín Kelleher, who has featured in cup games for the club this season, between the sticks. Conor Masterson, who came through the ranks at Liverpool and now plies his trade at QPR, is another exciting prospect. It may still be a sore point for some fans but Jayson played in Republic of Ireland underage teams with Declan Rice. Molumby was actually nominated for underage player of the year in 2017 only to lose out to the West Ham midfielder who has since pledged his allegiance to England.
After taking charge, Kenny named Molumby as his captain and Jayson led Ireland at the 2019 Toulon Tournament where Ireland came fourth losing to Mexico on penalties in the third-place playoff game.
Republic of Ireland are top of their group for next year’s European Under-21 Championship and if they avenge their away loss to Iceland (their only defeat of the campaign so far) and negotiate what should be a straightforward encounter against Luxembourg in their double header next month, they will put Stephen Kenny’s team in the driving seat going into their final match against Italy.
Kenny’s kids have already secured some impressive results that include a 3-1 away win against Sweden that saw Troy Parrott nab two goals.
“Stephen (Kenny) has been excellent not just with myself but the entire squad and I think we have huge respect for him, how he’s taken our under 21s and how serious he takes it. You can tell he’s very passionate and very excited to manage us under 21s and then the senior team.”
Jayson’s Brighton and Republic of Ireland Under-21 team mate Aaron Connolly has made quite an impact this season, scoring twice in his first league start for the Seagulls in a 3-0 win over Tottenham as well as making his senior international debut.
“Aaron is a good friend and I’ve played a lot with him underage for Ireland and Brighton and was delighted to see him make his senior debut, stuff of dreams.”
From Cappoquin in Co. Waterford, Molumby joined Brighton in 2015. After being key for their underage teams, he made his senior debut for the club in a league cup game in the 2017-18 season. Also involved in that cup run was Dessie Hutchinson, a fellow Waterford man who has since decided to return to his native Waterford where he helped Ballgunner to a county title but could not keep Tipperary’s Borris-Ileigh from the Munster crown.
“Dessie, also helped me a lot when I was a young lad here. I learned from him and how he was around the place and I’m glad his hurling is going so well now.”
Jayson’s brother Andy has hurled for Waterford at county level. Was Jayson a hurler himself? “I played all the way up but was always a footballer so it came to an age where that’s all I wanted.”