BEING surrounded by positive people has had a massive impact on the career of soccer ace Denise O’Sullivan.
The Knocknaheeney girl, who plies her trade in the US with one of the best teams, North Carolina Courage, is loving life at the moment.
She's in her off-season for the top tier of soccer Stateside right now, but it's not downtime in the traditional sense. O'Sullivan, as she did last year, opted to go on loan Down Under.
This time she'll feature for Australian side Western Sydney Wanderers.
“This season with NC Courage has been an unforgettable one,” said O’Sullivan. "What made it special I think was that throughout the season we had a lot of players missing from the squad for a bulk of games due to World Cup but the players that came in really stepped up and performed.
"I think that made it really special."
Despite the commitment to the US team of a host of key players, Courage lived up to their name by pushing on and landing silverware.
“To see players that don’t really get much game time take responsibility and work hard for the team, that’s when you know we have a special bond throughout the squad. And then when those girls were finished the World Cup they came right back to the courage and got back to work again. It’s a special team.
"We had some tough times along the way losing some games but we always had the mentality to leave those behind and move on. Winning the championship was such a relief at the end.
"You could see when the final whistle blew the emotions throughout the team. I think I dropped to my knees at the final whistle. I wanted the championship so bad. For my teammates, the coaches, the club and the fans. They all deserve it."
An MVP award for O'Sullivan, who is used as a deeper-lying midfielder across the Atlantic ocean than the number 10 berth she occupies for Ireland, shows how integral the Leesider was in the victory.
“Picking up the MVP twice in a row was amazing. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my teammates and coaches. Paul Riley basically has made me into the player I am today. When I came from the dash to join the courage he really believed in me and tries to get the best out of me every day.
"It’s crazy what can happen when your surrounded by the right people and people who really believe in you. My teammates and coaches have changed my career for the best and I’m very lucky to be part of such a special group.”
O’Sullivan has spent three season in the States winning the Shield in 2017, 18 and 19 as well as the Internationals Champions Cup in 2018 plus the Championship in 2018 and 2019. Apart from the success, the former Wilton United and Cork City star is loving life off the pitch.
“Life in the States is amazing. I’m part of a fantastic club. A very professional environment and some world class players. It’s where I want to be and where I will continue to grow as a player. I just signed a contract for a few years so it’s exciting times ahead. I can’t wait to get back to work with the girls and get better every day. That’s the main thing, as long as I do my job of what’s asked of me and I make people better around me then I’m happy.
“I’m not sure yet of what life has in store after the States. It’s too soon to tell. I still have a few years in the States and then I will decide. But maybe playing in Europe is in the back of my mind but I couldn’t see myself leaving the Courage yet. It’s too good there.
“I do miss my family a lot though. And honestly the older I get the more I miss them. The past year I have been getting home quite a bit because of national team so that’s been great. Every time I went back for camp I would always try get a few days at least: my mum loves when I come home so I always try for her. She’s a wonder woman I don’t know how she rared all of us, laughs O’Sullivan. I love her cooking and it’s great to get home as often as I do.”
The next few months see O’Sullivan experience life in Australia and she believes this is needed to occupy the long off-season.
“Randomly Western Sydney sent me and email asking would I be interested and I got them to speak to my agent. I got offered the contract and it took me a few days to think about it. I then signed for them as a guest player which is seven games.
“It’s going great here. My teammates are really nice and friendly while the coaches are great and the club have really good facilities for the players. I played my first game and we won 1-0. I got to play at Bank West Stadium which is a really big stadium that holds about 30,000 people so that was a real treat for my first game!
“I’ll be living in Sydney until the end of January. I am in Western Sydney which is about 30 minutes from the city, 30 minutes from the beach and the same distance for training facilities. I live in an apartment with my partner and it’s right on the riverfront. It’s very nice.
"There’s a ferry right outside that takes you into the city, and beaches so that’s cool! It’s the W-League that I play in for Western Sydney Wanderers. The standard is good. I was really impressed with the team where there is a mix of youth and experience and everyone brings good and different qualities so I’m excited for the coming months.”