Gary O’Neill – At The Head of the Class

(the article below written by Paul Buttner appeared in the newspaper Irish Daily Mirror, Mirror Soccer League of Ireland supplement Friday 11th March 2016)

At The Head Of The Class, Captain Gary O’Neill interview by Paul Buttner, Irish Daily Mirror, 11th March 2016

At The Head Of The Class
Top scholarship has Gary back on track

The disappointment of not making it as a professional footballer in England has become academic to Gary O’Neill now.
The UCD skipper is just happy to be able to put it down to experience.
A promising Republic of Ireland youth international, the Kingdom Boys midfielder appeared to have the world at his feet when he signed for Mick McCarthy’s Premier League Wolves in 2011.
Sadly, as is so often the case it just never worked out across the water for yet another Irish hopeful.
And Kerryman O’Neill was naturally pretty disenchanted with football when he returned home, his dreams shattered.
O’Neill went from captaining Wolves in the FA Youth Cup to a move to Port Vale, where things went further downhill. He was back home in Tralee at nineteen.
“I didn’t know football was for me anymore as I’d had two or three setbacks in England,” recalled O’Neill of his lowest point.”
“When I signed for Port Vale I was in the first team and then I did my cruciate, that was a setback.
“I came home at nearly twenty and I was in limbo. All I wanted to do was get my education.
“I then got a call from Pat Devlin (Director of Football at UCD) to come and see if I’d like it up here and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.”
Signed by Collie O’Neill (inset) at the start of last season, O’Neill took up a scholarship at UCD last September, starting a Diploma in Sports Management,
“I wish I’d done it earlier, in all honesty, because I’m loving it,” he said.
I’m only 21, so the experience I have from my time in England is vital to what I’m doing now.”
Though beaten 4-1 at Limerick in their opening game last Saturday, O’Neill is bullish that UCD will be very much in the Promotion mix.
“We were 1-0 up and Ryan Swan had a great chance to make it 2-0. If that goes in our tails are up and it’s a completely different game.” said O’Neill of their defeat at Market’s Field.
“Aaron Greene got the equaliser, and their fans started to get into it. Shorty (Brian Shortall) then got sent off and it was an uphill battle from there.
“We took a lot of positives from it, we were very good in the first half.
“They will be the favourites, but we fancy ourselves to take them the full distance”, he added ahead of tonight’s visit of Cabinteely to the UCD Bowl.
And despite the loss of inspirational skipper Robbie Benson to Dundalk in the close season, O’Neill believes UCD are stronger in areas they weren’t last time round.
“What we were missing last year to push on and win the league, we’ve got this year.
“We’ve the likes of Marty Waters and Jason Byrne, coming in. We missed players like that last year, that cutting edge in the final third to really kill teams off.
“I think we have that this year.”

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