From Ballincollig to Detroit, Stephen Carroll has thrived Stateside

From Ballincollig to Detroit, Stephen Carroll has thrived Stateside

Former Ballincollig player Stephen Carroll has gone on to excel in the United States.

IN their first professional season, the Detroit City FC men’s side defeated the Oakland Roots, 2-1, to claim the Fall National Independent Soccer Association title under the lights at Keyworth Stadium. 

A Cork man played a massive role in the club’s history-making efforts, as he captained the side, while also picking up the MVP award.

Ballincollig native Stephen Carroll, a former Wilton, Ballincollig and Cork City player shone in all five games to earn himself the MVP.

“I am just thrilled that the team clicked at the right time,” said Carroll. During the year we have had ups and downs, but thankfully everything fell into place in today’s final and I couldn’t be happier.” 

Carroll began his football career with Wilton United under Noel Spitere and enjoyed every minute of his time there. He also played GAA with Ballincollig, featuring and played in a county minor final against Douglas and an U21 clash with Castlehaven. Through friends he met there, he decided to also play soccer with Ballincollig under Mossy O’Donovan and Mick McNulty.

Castlehaven's James Davis racing past Ballincollig's Stephen Carroll. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Castlehaven's James Davis racing past Ballincollig's Stephen Carroll. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“I really enjoyed my time with Ballincollig under Mossy and Mick. They were an extremely tough duo as coaches but they got the best out of our team. 

"I played with them from the age of 12 to 16, winning nearly everything we could besides the National Cup. We went unbeaten most season in the league and cup which was a great experience. During that period I was part of the Cork youth team system and part of the Kennedy Cup squad who lost in the final to DDSL up in UL." 

That squad was loaded with talent.

“Garry Buckley was our captain for that team and is still playing League of Ireland. At the age of 16, I moved back to Wilton. At this stage I was just playing for fun, not to make a career out of it but after a season or two with them, I was given a trial for Cork City U19 team managed by Stuart Ashton, Paul Bowdren and Paul Dunton." 

He not only made the squad, he played every game. 

"We were the first team to win the U19 league and cup. From there myself and a handful of others like Garry Buckley, Jason Forde, Eoghan Murphy and Danny Morrissey were brought up to the first team under Tommy Dunne. I was only able to get on the bench a few times for the first team and eventually went on loan to College Corinthians seniors with Eoghan Murphy. 

"He excelled and I didn’t. I didn't mature quickly enough playing-wise at 18. I then left to try help my uncle Jinty and his team Carrigaline United get promoted. 

Under player-manager and City legend Greg O'Halloran they did just that. 

"I grew up a bit and became more confident in my playing ability just before I moved to the States."

Avondale United's Danny Long and Stephen Carroll battle for the ball in 2013. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Avondale United's Danny Long and Stephen Carroll battle for the ball in 2013. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Given the cost of college Stateside, when offered a full scholarship he couldn’t turn it down. Overnight his future had changed. 

"I had just finished my year training with FAS soccer program and had options to go UCC and CIT for PE teaching but I decided to hold off and give the US a try.

“The school I chose was called Martin Methodist college in Pulaski Tennessee. I got there in 2014 and practically walked off the plane and met my fiancé who was from Detroit Michigan and was there on a soccer scholarship too!"

Unfortunately, the head coach left as soon as he arrived and he dislocated my knee my first game which meant surgery. 

"My first year was hard and very unsuccessful. But I was able to get back after a year and personally I had a great season.

“I was looking to switch colleges because Pulaski was a very small farming town with nothing to do. It wasn’t my kind of lifestyle so I transferred to Davenport University in Grand Rapids Michigan." 

The assistant coach Stuart Collins was also from Ballincollig which made his life a lot easier. Since then he's thrived.

Stephen Carroll at Keyworth Stadium, Detroit. Pic: Instagram
Stephen Carroll at Keyworth Stadium, Detroit. Pic: Instagram

“Playing professional football for a living, got my degree and I bought my first house with my fiancé. The only downfall for me right now is I need my meniscus repaired in my knee after this season but that surgery is nothing major. Where I live right now though is bittersweet. 

"The summers are unreal and the winters are torture. It gets freezing cold with snow until about May which is a long time.” 

The 26-year-old misses family but life in the States is now for the talented defender.

“I was planning on going home this Christmas but with Covid I’m not sure if that will be allowed. It’s been pretty difficult especially the last year. My oldest sister had another baby boy which I still have not met. 

"That was tough because you’d worry about his health during this time. My youngest sister opened up her own salon in Ballincollig called Bijoux. I would have liked to be there to help Rebecca with the new salon but I couldn’t. 

"It was just horrible timing taking this big leap just before the world went on lockdown. I’d love to be at home to help out however, I’m here for the long haul now. I’m engaged, have two dogs and a house so I’ve made my decision on my future.

“It’s great been captain of a team like Detroit City FC which officially turned into a pro club about a year ago. I’ve played with Detroit since 2017 and have enjoyed every bit of it. I am also grateful for building a fantastic foundation back in Cork.”

A Scoil Barra Sciath na Scol final team which includes Stephen Carroll, sixth from the right in the back row. Picture: Gerard Bonus
A Scoil Barra Sciath na Scol final team which includes Stephen Carroll, sixth from the right in the back row. Picture: Gerard Bonus

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