Drimoleague soccer star making the right noises in Cobh
BY JOHN O’SHEA
ALL of the sheer quality and raw talent of Denzil Fernandes came to the fore for Cobh Ramblers on a truly historic day for the club back in August.
The St Colman’s Park club pulled off arguably one of the biggest upsets of the 2018 League of Ireland season, by defeating high flying Dundalk in the semi-final of the EA Sports Cup.
Fernandes was amongst those to shine on that memorable occasion against a side managed by the Republic of Ireland manager in waiting, Stephen Kenny.
His pace and endless bursts of energy on the day caused Dundalk numerous headaches, as Cobh recorded one of the biggest results in their history.
‘The game against Dundalk was second to none,’ recalls Fernandes with pride.
‘I’ll never forget that day. We were all outstanding and we worked as a team and never gave Dundalk a chance to play to their strengths.
‘2018 has been full of ups and downs. Our position in the league didn’t reflect to what we achieved compared to the run in the EA Sports Cup.
‘We made vital mistakes in all areas of the pitch and hopefully we can correct them next season.’
Although the final up in the Brandywell against Derry City did not go the way he or Cobh would have wanted, Ramblers gave a very good account of themselves and Fernandes was amongst those to catch the eye on the national stage.
Those are the sort of occasions every player in domestic Irish football want to be apart of.
Grounds such as Turner’s Cross, Tallaght Stadium and Oriel Park are places which the 20-year-old from Drimoleague man wants to be lining out at on a regular basis in the coming years.
That particular day in September will have given this young Ramblers side a taster of what might await down the line and should give them the hunger to go and try to secure promotion.
‘Playing at these stadiums gives you a great sense of feeling to show your talent. Ramblers as a team have great potential,’ Fernandes said.
‘It was outstanding to play in front of a packed Brandywell Stadium. Everybody wants to play in games like that, so hopefully I’ll be able to play in more cup finals in the future.’
A player that likes to get on the ball and who is very creative in the final third, Fernandes thrives out of getting the ball and running at opposing defenders.
After impressing with the U19s at Cork City, including in the UEFA Youth League in a tie against AS Roma, the next step for Fernandes was to get first team football in the League of Ireland.
Making the move to Cobh looks like a very wise move for the development of Fernandes as a footballer and it is environment where he should continue to grow.
Cian Coleman, who recently signed for St Patrick’s Athletic after impressing in the Premier Division with Limerick, is a prime example of how Ramblers is a good development ground for young footballers in Cork.
‘As a young player you want to play games week in, week out to develop, to mature as a professional. Hopefully Ramblers can help bring the best out of me by scoring goals and help the team kick on to greater heights,’ Fernandes said.
‘I would like to be seen as a player who has flair and can run at defenders and create chances and score goals. It helps me settle into the game if I take on players earlier on in the game and become more comfortable on the ball.’
During the 2018 season, Fernandes played on 24 occasions in all competitions for Cobh, during what was his first full campaign at first team League of Ireland level.
He found the net in a 2-1 away league victory against Longford Town, who are managed by former Cork City icon and 2005 Premier Division title winner Neale Fenn.
In Stephen Henderson, Ramblers have a manager that really is infectious in his love for the game and that generally tends to rub off on his players.
It becomes clear almost immediately the high regard that Fernandes has for his boss down at Cobh.
‘Cobh Ramblers give young players a platform to show what they’re capable of and the work Stephen Henderson is doing there at moment is just brilliant,’ Fernandes said.
‘Personally, Hendo brings the best out of you, he always encourages and never demoralises a player for a mistake that they do. He talks to you one on one and motivates you to do better.’
Ramblers recently released an outline of their five-year plan, which among one of their main targets is to be semi-professional in the Premier Division of League of Ireland football by 2023.
Fernandes feels that the next couple of years off much promise and excitement for the St Colman’s Park club.
‘They’re trying to rebuild the club and fair play to them. From forming a women’s team to building an astro, the future should be great and I’m sure with the current people at the club it’ll be on exciting terms.’
With a view towards the 2019 First Division season and what he hopes to achieve with Cobh over the next 12 months, he adds: ‘My aim and target is to help the team and be recognised as a important and vital player by scoring as much goals and assists that I possibly can and gain promotion.’
The fixtures for the 2019 League of Ireland season are released just before Christmas.
Ramblers will be looking to mount a more sustained assault and a proper challenge off the promotion play-off positions over the coming months ahead.
Fernandes would dearly love to continue his solid progress and contribute significantly to getting Ramblers into the Premier Division.
He is a player that is full of potential. Be it with Cobh Ramblers or even elsewhere, it does feel like only a matter of time before he is plying his trade in the top flight of domestic Irish football.