Playing football, non-stop, for the past 13 years; time to have a look back on these years

These 13 years have been, arguably, the most fun, rewarding, painful and exciting years of my life! It all started back in 2006; around August/September time. My older brother, Brian, had been playing at a football/social youth club called ‘Orchardville Boys’ for some time now with a few of his friends. Seeing as there where a younger age group below the Under 11’s age group, which Brian was in, he thought it would be a great idea to bring, my other older brother, Tony and I to play with that age group. This social club continued up until 2010. However, from that moment, of kicking a ball and playing football onward, I have never looked back once, ever!

My first club I joined to play football with was St. Oliver Plunkett FC (SOPFC) U11’s in 2011. SOPFC are one of the most respected youth football teams in the whole of the Irish leagues. They have a brilliant record for getting their players to play at national level at youth age, such as Northern Ireland caps at youth level. However, I did struggle at this club because of the competition for places with my position, Goalkeeper, with there being at least 3 ‘keepers fighting it out for a spot at nets. I was only at the club for a few months and quickly moved on. The standard and set-up at the club at youth, though, is excellent.

So, after a tricky start for my younger self, I joined Aquinas FC U12’s. This is where I enjoyed my best years at youth level. My first match for the team was amazing to say the least; we won 8-0 and I got awarded ‘Man of the Match’, by some means seeing as the outfield players done the business at the other end. Later on, during that season, I began to say to myself, ‘I wonder if I can play outfield instead of doing ‘nets’ all the time?’, and so I did! I said to the coaches, Brendy, Marty and Fra, about whether I could do outfield and they gave me the go ahead. I began to train with the squad and get to grips with the change. I played as a Striker to start off with the following season, where I got 10 goals and a few assists. I was loving life, things were going well, until I fractured my ankle and needed crutches. So, for my last season at the club, I played centre midfielder instead of up-front; the coaches said to me that I would suit that position more and they were right! I’m still playing ‘CM’ do this day. However, our team struggled that season and the commitment dropped big time; we (the players) were aged around 15-16 and had to focus on school priorities instead. At that age, I started to think for myself and understand more of the game, therefore, I decided to join Donegal Celtic (DC) FC as I heard about their new set-up and what players were playing for them; I had known a few beforehand so I thought it made sense to join. However, playing for Aquinas FC for over 3 years were amazing, I really enjoyed my time there and the memories I made. A great club nonetheless!

DC didn’t go to well either for the lads, we eventually folded (stopped playing) in January; just 6/7 months since I joined. This was disappointing, as the talent we had was endless, with many players having experience of playing from a very young age; some started playing football aged 5! I scored on my debut for the club, playing Striker, in a 1-0 win in a pre-season match. Sadly, I didn’t get many goals this time around, with the coaches not favoring me. Once DC was over, I moved to Rosario YFC for a bit do play ‘keeper again; I decided ‘why not’ as this would be better than doing nothing with my free time. I knew a few lads up at the club, which made it easier to settle in, but this short spell was definitely not going to last very long. Newhill FC were next in my road. In terms of playing football in the right way, this team were the best for doing so. Again, I scored on my debut for the team and that may have been because the training sessions were quick, players’ characters were being tested, and new ideas were struck when playing football here. The atmosphere at the club was great; everyone knew each other and enjoyed playing for the club, I thought ‘great! I can finally settle here!’ Unfortunately, the same happened here with what happened at DC, players stopped showing up to training and began not to care anymore. The day it was called to call it off, only 8 players were at the training, which sadly shown the fallen standards.

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My 1st match for Newhill; a 3-2 win over our local rivals, St. James Swifts, for a pre-season trophy

Finally, I got to senior level at my age of 18 in 2017. I was looking for a club for quite a while now and Dunmurry Recreation (Rec) FC just so happened to allow me with that chance to join. My first training session with the 2 squads (seniors and reserves) was a nerve wrecking experience; I was jumping in the deep end of the pool by showing up at this training session by myself. But I had to give it a shot! So, for the 3rd time in a row I managed to score on my debut, which was amazing, again! The 17/18 season was great season for me, I managed to get called up to the senior squad and people around the club began to notice me! The following season, I won young player of the year which was fantastic to say the least and, also, got a lengthy run with the seniors during their 2019 half of the season. I was loving life. As for this current 19/20 season, both teams are looking good and hungry for success, just like myself.

 

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18/19 League match away to Larne Tech OB

 

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19/20 Irish cup 1st round away to Rosemount Rec. A 3-2 win was enough for us to progress to the next round!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t know what I’d do without football, I’m forever grateful for the game!

Connlaóth McSherry is a final year BSc Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on: Twitter – @ConMcS and LinkedIn – Connlaóth McSherry