Johnny Morrissey and Andy Drabbant, who travelled back and forth from London to Toronto for months, head to Quebec today as part of Ontario's U-15 squad
By RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press
All those early-morning, weekend trips to Toronto are starting to pay off for Johnny Morrissey and Andy Drabbant.
The two London Dynamite U-15 soccer players are heading to Quebec today as members of Ontario's U-15 boys provincial team to play a couple of exhibition games against the top same-age kickers from Quebec.
The matches will be watched closely by Canadian Soccer Association scouts looking to identify potential players for the national program.
"I found out on Monday, it was a nice surprise," said Drabbant, 15, a Dynamite striker.
"There's not a national championship at this age, but there's these games with Quebec and a game here with a team from Mexico later in the summer. It's going to be a lot of fun."
Of course, part of the fun is in getting there. Nearly every Saturday and Sunday for the last several months, the Morrissey and Drabbant families have instituted an alternating driver schedule to get the boys to provincial team training sessions at the Ontario Soccer Centre in Vaughan.
Most of the other players live in the Toronto area.
It helps that the commuting Londoners live "a two-minute walk from each other" and are friends entering Grade 10 at Mother Teresa high school.
"We mostly just sleep on the way there, but at the end of the day you're up so you're just looking out the window," Morrissey said. "We don't stay overnight, we just come home and then go back (to Toronto) the next day."
Their selection doesn't surprise Dynamite head coach Martin Painter. Morrissey and Drabbant were part of the Dynamite's U-14 national championship victory in Halifax last fall.
Painter noted "all of the effort and hard work they've put in over the past two or three years. A couple of years ago, Johnny and Andy were on our competitive B squad, our development team. But they improved to the point where, now, they're on the provincial team."
There's another Dynamite player on Team Ontario who is no stranger to road trips. Central midfielder Eric Asanin-Miroux is from Thornhill, but gets a ride into London on weekdays for games and practices.
"He played with Glen Shields last year (the Dynamite's big GTA rival) and was looking for a change of scenery," Painter said.
He's a strong addition to a top-notch squad that will have to play part of the summer without star midfielder Mike Pereira. The Dynamite's primary goal is to capture the Ontario Games title here in London this summer.
"Mike's going away to Portugal with his family for about a month and we're going to need another good midfielder to take his place," Drabbant said. "Eric fits in very well with our group."
The Dynamite are a tight-knit unit and Morrissey, a whiz at dribbling the ball and keeping it airborne, keeps his teammates entertained.
"Everyone on the team can pretty much all do some tricks with the ball, but some of the stuff he comes up with is wild," Drabbant said.
Morrissey recently had a friend film his routine and the finished product is posted on the Dynamite team website.
"I don't really do it that much, just at team practices," he said modestly.
To see Morrissey's gravity-defying video, visit the Dynamite website at www.eteamz.com/londynamite/ and scroll down to the Go Johnny Go! link.