Shane O'Neill, son of Cork GAA legend, is off to a flying start in Seattle

Powerhouse defender qualifies to play for Ireland USA
Shane O'Neill, son of Cork GAA legend, is off to a flying start in Seattle

Shane O'Neill, then with Colorado Rapids, in action. Picture: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

MAJOR League Soccer returned last weekend and Shane O’Neill, who has strong Cork links, put in a stunning performance for Seattle Sounders, who hammered Minnesota United 4-0 at Allianz Field.

The defender, who is the son of All-Ireland winner Colm O’Neill, played 90 minutes for the Sounders, who had a near-perfect start to their MLS Cup campaign on Friday night.

Seattle are one of the tips for the title this season, especially with their quest to avenge last year’s MLS Cup final defeat to Columbus Crew.

O'Neill will play an important role for Seattle due to his experiences in club football and his international career with the United States.

O’Neill’s career began with the Colorado branch of the US Soccer Development Academy in 2009. He progressed into the first team and was an instant fan favourite in Denver. 

In 2013 he won Young Player of the Year award at Colorado, and O’Neill was then nominated for Young Athlete of the Year by US Soccer.

O’Neill’s performances caught the eye of Cypriot club Apollon Limassol and in August 2015 he moved to Europe. 

The defender toured the continent with a succession of loan moves, which brought him to Royal Excel Mouscron in Belgium, Cambridge United in England, and NAC Breda in the Netherlands. 

O’Neill returned to the United States in 2018 to sign for Orlando City. 

The defender’s performances at club level have led to questions over his international allegiances.  O’Neill played for the United States at the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup and the senior team called him up for an 18-man match roster for two friendlies in 2015. 

The relationship between Ireland and the United States was put to O’Neill in an interview with The Irish Times in 2015 and he replied: “I love both countries. Whether I put on the US jersey or the Irish jersey, I’d have a ton of pride doing it either way. I just want it to be the right situation for myself, my career and my family.” 

In 2020 O’Neill moved to Seattle, one of the most successful clubs in MLS history. Over the last 11 years, the team lifted four US Open Cups and two MLS Cups.  

The Sounders also reached the semi-finals of the CONCACAF Champions League in 2012 and the quarter-finals in 2015 and 2018. 

The squad also won the Supports Shield, an annual award given to the MLS team with the best regular-season record, in 2014. The freight train of success has tasked O’Neill with keeping the silverware coming to Seattle. 

At 27 years of age and with over 10 years of experience in the professional game, the Cork-man will be the beating heart of Seattle Sounders’ defense in 2021.

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