O'Brien: Irish soccer players must be confident once they back it up

O'Brien: Irish soccer players must be confident once they back it up

Colin O’Brien, Republic of Ireland head coach at the draw for the UEFA European U17 Championship at the Aviva Stadium last April. Picture: INPHO/Ryan ByrneLD

BEING passionate about what you do, is key for Republic of Ireland U17 head coach Colin O’Brien.

We caught up with the former Cork City midfielder, who gave us an insight into his love for the game, his passion for his current role, and advice he learned along the way.

“You have to be passionate about what you do,” O’Brien recently told the FAI.

“You have to want to do the job you do. If you bring pride into everything you can do in the role, it rubs off on the people around you, including the staff and players and this can only be a positive thing.”

O’Brien has been involved with the FAI for over two decades involved in roles such as FAI Development Officer, Emerging Talent Programme Coach, Republic of Ireland U15s Assistant Coach, Republic of Ireland U15s Head Coach, and currently the Republic of Ireland U17s Coach.

He is loving his time working in football and here he tells us what life is like as a coach.

“I am very lucky to be doing a job I love. Working in football is great and my favourite part is getting to work with the players on the pitch. You’re out there putting your plan in place regarding what you’re looking to be executed on match day.

“You’re involving the players and with that comes the enthusiasm between the players and coaches. Then it all builds to the day of the game which is always an exciting time.

“People often ask me if I have any pre-match ritual and, to be honest, I wouldn’t have a ritual, but I would always try to be consistent with the players on match day.

“I would be consistent with the pre-match meeting, pre-match meals and the roles of the staff and have a common thread throughout the day. This, I feel, works for me.”

With O’Brien having gained advice from various coaches growing up, he too has one message he likes to give to players, something that a player can keep with them throughout their career.

“Be prepared and take individual responsibility. There’s so much done for players now — which has its benefits — but it’s important players stay ready.

“Whether it’s a chance to get into the team, a chance to progress, or get a new contract, they have to be ready for that next challenge. Being prepared is so important and is a lifelong attribute to have.

“Throughout my career I have picked up different bits from different managers/coaches, but I suppose someone who was my biggest influence would have to be Noel O’Reilly.

“Noel, particularly in my early years in the FAI, was a massive help to me and someone who made me grow more in love with coaching.

“He was someone I could connect with. It didn’t matter what level you were coaching at he had a very good way of working with people. I had a very good opportunity to work with him on certain programmes for a number of years and I learned a lot. He was a great inspiration for me.”

With many highlights as a coach to date, which was O’Brien’s favourite game he coached and why?

“Coaching in the European U17s Championship finals has been a brilliant experience, but some of the matches in the Elite Phase to get to the finals have been just a joy.

“I would say the 1-0 win over Slovakia in 2017 and the 2-0 win against Georgia in 2018 to qualify for the finals provided an amazing sense of achievement among the players and staff. It’s something no-one can take away from you.”

We all moments from our childhood that made us fall in love with the game, and for O’Brien, the 1986 World Cup was the event that made a huge impression on him.

“The 1986 World Cup final between Argentina and West Germany was one of my earliest memories of falling in love with the game. It was the first World Cup I have a good memory of, and of course you had Diego Maradona on the world stage. It was a time you didn’t see much football on television then you have this wizard in Maradona doing amazing things.

“I just loved everything about the game, Argentina were two up then West Germany pull it back to 2-2 then it’s a late winner for Argentina from Jorge Burruchaga. So much from that game and that tournament left an impression on me.”

With the current situation, it’s been difficult for everyone to adapt. This week O’Brien should be managing his side in the Euros which was due to be hosted in Ireland.

Ever since he became U17 manager three years ago in 2016, the ex-Cork City star has stressed just how much potential there is within the game on these shores.

“I really do believe that other countries underestimate teams from this country. Maybe not by some coaches, but some players might have a perception in certain countries about Irish football. Some of the opposition players we come across from other countries are super, super confident young players.

“There’s nothing wrong with confidence, but you’ve got to back that up. I think sometimes countries might underestimate us a little bit. We will always make sure we’re competitive.”

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