THIS year was expected to be hectic for Cobh Ramblers’ Michael O’Rourke.
Playing League of Ireland while preparing for his Leaving Certificate was a challenge he was prepared to balance.
The 18-year-old Rochestown College student says having sport as a break from study was always important.
He now realises if any positive is to be taken from the disruptions of Covid-19 it’s that he is able to study better while at home.
Of course he still hopes he’ll get back to playing soccer this summer.
“Overall, I have found the disruptions frustrating, from a footballer and a student’s perspective,” said O’Rourke.
“Obviously, this pandemic is a very serious thing and effects everyone around the world so I can understand the need for the disruptions and social distancing guidelines in place.
“However, the most difficult thing during this time is the uncertainty in my opinion.
“The next few months were due to be very busy for me and would have been the culmination of a long period of work and effort.
“At this time, our football season should be well underway and our Leaving Cert only six weeks away.
“It is frustrating to see that the hard work put in over the last few months in terms of study and pre-season work has been disrupted and put on hold.
“However, I think it’s important to do the best I can during this time and come out of it in a better place.
“These are the cards we have been dealt and although the situation isn’t ideal, it is what it is so we just have to do the best we can with it.
“I’ve always found that I work better at home than in school, so I have found that my studies are not taking a hit as a result of this situation.
“The Leaving Cert has been pushed back by what looks to be eight weeks so with all this extra time I see it as a positive that I will be more prepared when I get there.
“The tough thing about study is not having the football there to balance it with. Usually I would view football as a motivation or reward for study.
“Things like if I do this hour or two of study now I can go to training later and enjoy it knowing that I’ve earned that time off.
“Not having that motivation makes it harder to maintain the study, but it’s just something that has to be done.”
The midfielder comes from a well- known footballing family in Cobh, and he is grateful for the love they gave him for the sport.
“My family background in sport is heavily influenced by Cobh Ramblers.
“My great-grandfather Dermot O’Rourke was a chairman of the club, my grandfather John O’Rourke was a player and manager at the club and my father, as well as some of my uncles, played for the club.
“To have this historical involvement with the club is a great motivator for me.
“Hopefully, in the years to come, I will be able to enjoy more time as a senior player and become the fourth generation of involvement in the club.
“I grew up in England and played with my local team and when I moved to Ireland I did the same thing joining Springfield at U16.”
After one year with Springfield, he joined Cobh Ramblers and has been there for the past two seasons.
“This season was set to be my third year of playing League of Ireland football. I have been involved in U17, U19 and senior level football in the past two years. I would say I’ve played around 50 games for the club and maybe started 35. Seven of those appearances were senior games, but I have yet to start a senior game.
“This year is the first year that my brother Stuart and I have been on the same team and although I did play with him a few times with Springfield, I haven’t been able to play alongside him a significant amount. He’s a quality player and I’ve played with him enough at home and at training to have a good understanding of his game and I hope that we will be able to put this into practice during the season.”
Cobh have a talented U19 group this season.
“The competition for places is huge and I would put this down to our management for giving everyone equal chance and expecting the same standard from everyone.
“Ivan (Bevan) is always reminding us that ‘it’s you against you’ and that everyone has to hold themselves to their own standards. I think this breeds competitiveness and motivates everyone to give it their all.”
A personal aim is to break into the first team.
“This is my last year of underage football and I hope that I will be able to do enough to be involved in the first team going into next season.
“I think it’s hard to keep motivated with all of the uncertainty we are facing, but that’s something you have to find somewhere.
“We have been given training plans and have had consistent contact with management, but I think this situation has highlighted the importance of self-motivation within the squad.
“We are expected to motivate ourselves and maintain our training and fitness levels to the best of our abilities. The results will speak for themselves when this is all over.”