Spotlight: Joe O’Cearuill
In May 2007, Republic of Ireland manager Steve Staunton called up a number of uncapped players for an end of season tour in the United States, a country with a blossoming domestic soccer league. Ireland played friendlies against Ecuador and Bolivia, and it gave Staunton a chance to test out new players. Amongst these fresh players were Andy Keogh, Colin Doyle, Alex Bruce, Daryl Murphy, and Sean St. Ledger. There were a few unknown commodities in the 23 man squad, one of which was Arsenal’s Joseph O’Cearuill.
Defender O’Cearuill played in both matches, coming on for Stephen O’Halloran in the second half against Ecuador (where Kevin Doyle scored to make it 1-1), picking up a booking. This cameo appearance impressed Staunton enough to choose him as a starter against Bolivia, where he played solidly in defence, and playing the full 90 minutes. The second match was also a 1-1 draw, with Ireland’s goal coming from Shane Long.
O’Cearuill was out of position in both games, but remembers the US tour fondly. “I came on as a sub against Ecuador and played the whole game against Bolivia at right-back,” he recalled in an interview with the Irish Independent earlier this year. “It’s not my favourite position because I can’t express myself as I like. Centre-back is my position. I’m not an attacking full-back, but you wouldn’t see many wingers get past me. At centre-back you have to read the play, and that’s one of my strengths and I’m quick as well so I can get there before the centre-forward.”
Although he never made a senior appearance for Arsenal, Joe O’Cearuill impressed enough while on loan at Brighton to be signed for Barnet in August 2007. He played 14 games for the Bees, and was called into Don Givens’ Ireland under-21 side, making his youth debut after his senior debut in an away qualifier against Montenegro.
O’Cearuill has become somewhat of a nomad since leaving Arsenal, joining Dublin side St. Patrick’s Athletic for the 2008-09 season, playing 20 games, before moving on to Harlow Town and Boreham Wood. He never felt at home playing for Pat’s. “I wasn’t happy living in Ireland,” he said. “I didn’t get on with the other players, I had no social life, so it wasn’t the best of times for me. Also I got injured and that didn’t make it easy.
“I wasn’t entirely happy with the standard of the League of Ireland. Bohemians were good, Cork were okay and Derry as well, but the rest were not the best. When Brian Kerr left the club I didn’t fancy it any more. He was very encouraging to me, he had a lot of experience and signed a lot of good players, but we underachieved with what we had.
“I was looking forward to playing in the UEFA Cup and I played well in the game away to Elfsborg. That was good for my confidence, but it’s hard to motivate yourself against the lesser teams away from home, with their poor stadiums and small crowds. The league wasn’t run properly and that wasn’t encouraging for me as a young player trying to make his way in the game. Overall, I was homesick and missed my family and girlfriend, and didn’t play to my potential. I’m disappointed with that. However, I did learn a lot from living on my own.”
In September 2009, he signed for Forest Green Rovers, and after being released by the Conference National side, signed for Bishops Stortford. BSFC currently sit 11th in the Conference South after 9 games. The defender is only 23, and if he can stay free from injury, could find himself climbing back up in divisions.