Ryan Casey was part of the Republic of Ireland’s so-called ‘Golden Generation’ of the late 1990s that won both the Uefa European Under-16 and Under-18 Championships.
The winger or defender featured in the latter tournament in Cyprus as the Boys in Green beat Germany in the final in 1998.
“I played for Ireland at all levels up to under-20s,” says Casey, who was born in Coventry to Irish parents on January 3, 1979 and was raised on the Emerald Isle.
“We won the European Under-18 Championship in 1998 with some great players in our team such as Robbie Keane and Richard Dunne, while Damien Duff was also in our age group.
“I also played in the World Youth Cup a year later in Nigeria, where we reached the last 16.”
Casey represented the Swans at those competitions, having signed for the club as a teenager.
He was initially spotted by the Swans playing in the Ian Rush Tournament by then youth development officer Ron Walton.
He was subsequently invited for a one-week trial at Vetch Field along with compatriot Stephen Roche, who went on to sign for Millwall.
Casey made his first-team debut as a substitute at Leyton Orient in October 1996.
“I can remember playing in a reserve match against Bristol Rovers a few days before my first-team debut,” recalls Casey, who went on to make 141 league appearances for the Swans through until 2002, scoring twice.
“Jan Molby was the player-manager at the time and I can remember him coming to speak to me after that game and inviting me to be part of the squad to travel to Leyton Orient.
“I came on as a substitute for about four or five minutes against Orient and funnily enough, I didn’t actually manage to touch the ball once!”
Casey went on to establish himself in the Swans starting line-up in the seasons that followed.
During his time at the Vetch, the club twice suffered the heartbreak of being beaten in the old Division Three play-offs, before finally achieving promotion as champions in the 1999-2000 season.
“I was watching on from the bench for the play-off final against Northampton Town in 1997 and we had played well in that game,” remembers Casey.
“It was a retaken free-kick that put them one up in the last minute and we had no time to come back from that.
“Two years later, we lost to Scunthorpe in the play-off semi-finals, which was another disappointment.
“We had a great season in 1999-2000 and we went to Rotherham on the last day of the season for what was a straight shootout with them to be crowned champions. Matthew Bound scored a penalty in that game to give us the 1-1 draw we needed.”
Casey featured in 13 of the Swans’ matches during their title-winning season prior to sustaining a serious knee injury against Reading in January 2001.
That saw him ruled out of first-team action for almost 10 months and shortly after his return, he broke his ankle in an away game at Hartlepool United which proved to be his last game for the Swans.
“Injuries aside, I look back on my time at Swansea City with great fondness,” says Casey.
“The disappointing thing is those injuries came at a time in my career when I really felt like I could kick on.
“They really were fantastic times at Swansea, though, and I still look out for the club’s results today.”
After leaving the Swans in 2002, Casey played for a variety of teams in Ireland, as well as spending a brief spell as player-coach of Australian side Melbourne Knights.
He has been a busy man since hanging up his boots in 2008, with a spell as director of coaching at New York-based academy side FC Westchester sandwiched in between stints as a development officer for the Football Association of Ireland, a role he fills today.
“The role is about both player and coach development,” explains Casey, who holds a Uefa A coaching licence and is also assistant manager of League of Ireland side Sligo Rovers.
“We’re working with the best young players in the country – coaching them in 12 different regional centres.
“I am the head coach at one of those centres in Sligo, and I also run courses there that help train other coaches in the region.”