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SEAN: WHY THIS IS A DEVINE CHANCE; Barnet striker aims to grab lifeline to the top.

SEAN DEVINE thought April Fool's Day had come early when his manager called him into his office last Friday.

Barnet boss John Still told Devine that he had just been called up to the Irish squad - but the 25-year-old striker didn't believe it.

"I thought the manager was winding me up. I only believed him when he gave me Mick McCarthy's phone number," said Devine.

"And then Mick confirmed it when I spoke to him."

McCarthy wants to include Devine in the squad for the B international against Northern Ireland in two weeks.

Devine said: "I never had any doubt that I was Irish.

"My dad, Tom Devine, is from Dublin. He always asked me how I would react if I was asked to play for Ireland, and I told him I would be honoured."

Sean has never been to Ireland before, but his father is already planning the trip for the Tolka Park clash on February 11.

Devine said: "I know he's really looking forward to it.

"His connections with Ireland are strong, and he will be coming over to Tolka Park with some of his mates. I think some of my cousins will be coming out of the woodwork now."

Devine is looking forward to working with McCarthy again. The two last crossed paths when Devine was a reserve at Millwall under McCarthy.

Devine failed to make the breakthrough, and dropped down to non-league football with Fisher Athletic.

Their chairman liked what he saw in his striker and decided to fix Devine up with a club in his homeland.

Devine spent five months with Famagusta in Cyprus, but returned when he became the fourth foreigner at the club and could not command a regular place.

Barnet's chairman, Alex Kleanthous, wanted to give the striker another shot at the Football League and in October 1995 he signed for Barnet for pounds 10,000.

Devine was an instant hit. He scored twice on his debut at home to Exeter, and managed 11 goals in his first eleven games.

Devine was Barnet's top scorer that season, with 19 goals in 35 games.

He finished last season again as the Bees' top scorer, with 11 strikes in 31 league games and another four in the FA Cup.

This season he carried on from where he left off, and is already the club's top scorer, with 13 goals overall, 11 in the league.

As the goals rolled in from Devine, the scouts were hot on his trail.

He spent a week on trial at West Ham, and did well in a trial match against Bournemouth.

But the Hammers could not make up their minds.

"Sean did well, and could have had a goal or two against Bournemouth. But we need to know how he moves and works, and we will want to look at him again," said Hammers' assistant Frank Lampard.

But Devine had to serve a three-match suspension when he went back to Barnet, and was forgotten about.

There was also interest from First Division Stockport County and Stoke City, but no firm offers.

"The ball is in West Ham's court," said Barnet boss Still. "It's up to them to make contact with us and make a reasonable offer."

But Devine still wants to step up a grade.

"I was delighted to get the call from West Ham," said Devine.

"For the past two years there have been rumours about me going here or there. But after so long at Barnet I felt I was stagnating and I need a move to lift me."

That's where an Irish B cap might come in handy.

"It's a chance for me to represent my country, but there's also a chance it might lead to something else.

"I know there's a good possibility I will be spotted if I get into the team for the B game next month, and that can only do me good, if I am going to move up a grade."
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Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Fitzmaurice, Aidan
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 29, 1998
Previous Article:Manager Kerr has last laugh; Rep of Ireland Under-16s 2 Scotland Under-16s 0.
Next Article:Irish aim to beat that jinx.

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