FORMER Irish Underage Soccer star and Thomas Davis clubman James O’Connor is set to represent his country this Saturday, as part of the Ireland Gaelic Football Masters team which faces Australia in the KC Sports international rules match in Denn, Co Cavan at 3pm.
O’Connor is no stranger to international duty, and was goalkeeper on the famous Republic of Ireland soccer team, which included Robbie Keane, that won the European Under-18 Championships in 1998.
He’s one of two Dubs involved on Saturday, with Fingal Ravens clubman and current Round Towers Senior Football manager Damien Flanagan also part of the squad.
O’Connor said it’s great to be back in an Irish jersey, at this stage of his career, adding: “This is cracking. I wasn’t aware that they were having the International Rules Series this year, and then there was a gap in the Masters calendar in July and I asked about it.
“I’m delighted to be involved as play Aussie Rules too,” he told Dublin Gazette.
He got a call from former underage Dublin team-mate Gary O’Connell to join the Dublin Masters squad last year, though it actually came a year too soon, but he still tagged along.
He will be the youngest to tog out this Saturday, as he only turns 40 later this year.
O’Connor is based in Cambridge at present for work, and has shown great commitment to both his club, Thomas Davis, and the Dublin Masters, regularly travelling over and back for training and games.
It also gives him time to see his children Jack and Lily, with Jack in particular a fan of the Dublin Masters team, and getting to see his dad pull on the county jersey.
“I’ve been working abroad now for about eight years between different sites in Scandinavia and London, and in the North of Ireland, so I’m kind of used to it at this stage,” he said.
O’Connor also plays Aussie Rules for both Cambridge University and, in their off-season, the North London Lions so is uniquely placed for Saturday’s game, having current experience of playing both codes, especially when the quarters will rotate between the oval and round balls.
“When I heard that the managers were on to us, wondering did anyone know where to get an Aussie Rules ball, I’ve brought a few across for training,” he said.
“The lads, to be fair to them, have taken to the ball quite well. I’ve seen some new players take off when the Irish come to town in the UK, and they haven’t taken to the ball as quickly as the Masters lads have – we’ll be ready for it.”
Saturday’s game forms part of Denn GFC’s 50th Anniversary celebrations, and the teams will compete for the Paddy Gaffney Cup, in honour of a Denn clubman who played for Ireland Masters in the past.
Meanwhile, the Dublin Masters footballers’ next game is against Kildare on Saturday, July 27 at Ballyboden St Enda’s at 3pm.