PLAYING football at 50 — and he is loving it.
Former Cork City player Fergus O’Donoghue has laced up his boots once again as he signed for Carrigaline Juniors playing in Division Four, alongside other ex-league of Ireland players Denis Behan and Greg O’Halloran.
Having retired from professional football in 2002 due to a serious head collision, the defender stayed involved in the game through various roles over the years, and is now back playing the game once again.
“Playing at 50 is good fun, and enjoyable,” said O’Donoghue.
“We train once a week and a game at the weekend, so no pressure and it’s great to get back on the pitch. With regards to fitness, in my experience it is obviously tougher as you get older, but your head still thinks that you can get to that ball the way you did over 20 years ago, so I try my best and see how it goes.”
A successful career both at club and international level, O’Donoghue looks back on his time with great memories, and more importantly of great friendships made during his time.
“From the age of three or four, I always had a ball at my feet,” he said. “I joined Dillons Cross soccer club when I was seven years of age, I then went to Shandon View for a year or so, and at the age of 10, I joined Tramore Athletic.
“I won many trophies with Tramore Athletic all the way up to minor and I played one year senior before joining Cork City in 1989.
“I joined Cork City in 1989 under Noel O’Mahony before I went to Cambridge in 1991 under John Beck. There, surprisingly enough, you were not allowed to pass the ball to feet.
“I came back in 1993 to Cork City and we won the league in that season. I then went to New York in 1995 and played semi-pro football with the New Jersey Imperials and also played Gaelic football during my time there.
“I returned in 1998 to Cork City and we won the FAI Cup in Dalymount Park.
“I had great times with City, but unfortunately I finished up playing football in 2002 after a clash of heads with Derek Coughlan which led to my cheekbone being fractured in numerous places. I was then advised not to play again.
“Since finishing up, it was difficult not to stay involved in the game, and so after a while I played one year senior with College Corinthians and I played with Dillons Cross and Mayfield United at junior level.
“I was player/manager at Mallow for two years, and I coached underage at College Corinthians for a few years, so it was great to give a little back to the game also when not being able to play.”
When the opportunity came to play again at a level where there was no pressure, but still nice football being played, the former U21 international decided to give it a go. He hopes this year he can play his part in bringing silverware to Carrigaline.
“This is my first year with Carrigaline, and they are a great bunch of lads,” he said. “We are in the Fourth Division, so not a lot of pressure, but we are still very competitive.
“As regards to my position, I’d play anywhere once it’s not more than 20 minutes. There’s a good blend of youth and experienced lads, like myself.
“Ex-Cork City players who also play on the team are Greg O’Halloran and Denis Behan, who both add a lot of quality to the side.
“Over the years I have learned a lot about the game, but more importantly I have learned about the importance of respecting your team-mates, oppositions, and officials at all times.”
As a former Cork City player, O’Donoghue hopes the club can stay in the top tier of football.
“I am still a big fan of Cork City, and of course I hope they get out of the position they are in at the moment, and I’m sure they will,” he said.
“They’re a huge club, and it would be a shame to see them go down, but I have full faith that they can finish the season stronger than they have been doing. I’d imagine the rest of the city and county are hoping for the same.
“I know they are a young side but I think they have the quality to get results in the remaining few games, but that needs to start next weekend against Finn Harps. I hope it does for them.”
But for now, for the defender who once played in front of 35,000 against Galatasary, he hopes he can bring silverware to Ballea Park and stay injury-free as he enjoys playing the beautiful game amongst his friends once more.