Brendan O’Connell in his 18th season between the posts for Ireland

Rockmount super-keeper remains one of the best soccer players on Leeside
Brendan O’Connell in his 18th season between the posts for Ireland

Brendan O'Connell stops a penalty against St Mary's in the Donie Forde Cup final in 2016. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

IN his 18th year playing for the Ireland amateur soccer team, Glanmire man Brendan O’Connell once again gets to captain the side.

The Rockmount goalkeeper has an incredible 68 caps to his name and honoured to lead his country since 2017.

His focus now is to help his side qualify for the Regions Cup, with qualifiers against Bulgaria, Romania, and San Marino being held in Bulgaria in October.

“Qualification in Bulgaria is an absolute priority and all energy will be going into achieving that,” said O’Connell.

O’Connell has been part of the international set-up since 2004 but still gets a great buzz from representing his country.

“I enjoy it as much as I did when I made my debut against Northern Ireland in 2004. I’m as hungry as ever and eager to add as much to the team for as long as I’m selected to be part of it.

“Playing for Ireland is a privilege, but to captain the team and to wear the armband is a massive honour for my club and my family. It is something I must say I am immensely proud of.”

“Due to Covid-19 it has been a bit stop start but now we train regularly, mainly Saturday mornings in Dublin, and there will be a few internationals this year in preparation for Bulgaria.”

Rockmount's goalkeeper Brendan O'Connell saves from Cobh Wanderers' George Keating during the Munster Senior Cup at Rockmount park. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Rockmount's goalkeeper Brendan O'Connell saves from Cobh Wanderers' George Keating during the Munster Senior Cup at Rockmount park. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

At 37, the father of two from Glanmire is the oldest player on the squad, but he believes the mixture of youth and experience is really important.

“We only have one other survivor from the 2015 winning team, Jimmy Carr from St Michael’s in Tipperary. We have a nice blend of youth and older players, there are players from Westport to Donegal, Limerick, Tipperary, Galway and Clare — I think it’s a good thing.

“While there is a large Dublin contingent it is not Dublin dominated either — that shows the good job that Gerry Davis and his staff are doing in trawling the country for the best talent available.”

There are five representatives from O’Connell’s Rockmount in the squad, their biggest ever representation at this level. This is down to the excellent work being done at club level.

“This has definitely been the biggest ever representation from the club and it’s fantastic. It is reflective of the hard work being put in at club level over the last few years.

LOYAL

“We are lucky to have so many diligent and loyal members, Billy Cronin, Jamsie Corcoran (RIP), Derek Clarke, Deccie Courtney, Graeme Keane, Derek Murphy, John Delea, Paul Philips and the current management set-up led by Eddie Kenny who is doing a great job.

We are a tight-knit club, with an ethos of hard work and commitment. The large representation is testament to that.”

O’Connell played in his first Regions Cup in Poland in 2005. Since then he has competed in four tournaments, in Croatia, Portugal, Dublin and Istanbul, picking up a winners’ medal and two runners-up medals.

He also captained the squad to victory in the Home Nations tournament in Jersey in 2019.

Playing with one of the top teams in the country, O’Connell knows that Rockmount’s consistency assists his performances over the years. He is grateful to the other keepers who always keep him on his toes.

“Mark Power and David Browne are brilliant goalkeepers and the training we have with our excellent coach Derek Clarke is second to none. Sean Fitzpatrick is with us too and Ben Maher, an U19, which makes the training hugely enjoyable as we all challenge each other and we all set high standards and keep driving each other on. And that only makes us all better players.”

He also stresses the importance of the influence his parents had on his career to date.

“The biggest influence on my career is undoubtedly my parents Dermot and Nellie. They set a fantastic example for me growing up, teaching me values of hard graft and dedication — I owe so much to them.

“And it’s great that they get to see the rewards watching me play and now I look forward to this weekend to hopefully continue the form as compete in the quarter-final of the FAI Intermediate Cup against Bonagee.”

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