Skibb soccer star earns an international Ireland cap
BY KIERAN McCARTHY
OWEN Collins wants to play in the League of Ireland. That’s his aim, that’s what he is working towards.
He knows the percentages are stacked against him – but he’s undeterred by that; he knows what he wants.
‘I want to play football professionally,’ the 21-year-old former Skibbereen AFC clubman states, ‘that’s my goal, to play in the League of Ireland.
‘I am looking at the bigger picture, I am pushing myself even more and I think I am going in the right direction.’
Last Saturday, Owen came on as a second-half sub for the Irish amateur international team in their 0-0 friendly draw against the Republic of Ireland home-based U21 squad at the AUL Complex in Dublin.
Owen only found out days beforehand that he was called up to the Ireland amateur squad, a sure sign that his impressive form with St Mary’s in the Munster Senior League is being noticed.
The Irish amateur squad is made up of the top amateur players in Ireland and manager Gerry Davis was casting his eye over potential players to include in the squad for the UEFA Regions Cup final tournament in Turkey this summer.
‘I was happy with my performance, I did well, the standard was very good and I’m delighted to have made my international debut,’ said Owen, who has impressed with St Mary’s in his first season with the club.
He signed up with St Mary’s after meeting one of their players, Jason Conway, at his induction at the College of Commerce in Cork City. St Mary’s were looking for a left winger and Owen’s left foot is as sweet as Sherkin Island on a summer’s day; it was a move that made sense for both parties.
‘It’s gone well so far, I’ve been happy with my performances and I’ve been consistent,’ said the former Skibbereen starlet, who played all the way up with his local club and was involved in the West Cork Kennedy Cup team.
When you consider that his two older brothers are also well known for their sporting exploits, it’s no surprise that Owen is on an upward curve.
Mark, who plays with Skibbereen AFC when he can, is a permanent fixture in the O’Donovan Rossa senior team and played for Cork in the McGrath Cup last year while the oldest brother, Liam, is a former Cork City youth player who has made a name for himself in America and is currently assistant manager with the University of Cumberland in Nashville.
Owen has played senior football with the Rossas in the past but it’s had to take a back seat for now.
‘I have put GAA to the side for the time being. I played a bit of senior last year and I played senior championship the year before – but I am focussing on soccer at the moment, that’s my number one and hopefully something comes out of it,’ explained Owen, who spent three months last summer playing with Nashville FC in the NPSL (National Premier Soccer League) alongside Liam.
‘That was a great experience, it has made me want to pursue this more, to see if I can make it,’ he said.
‘I went over in the first week of May and was there until August. The season is three months long, a summer league, it’s so-called semi-professional standard, there were eight teams in the league and we travelled to places like New Orleans so it was a great experience.
‘We trained full-time, five days a week, a game then on a Saturday, off on the Sunday and back in training on Monday.
‘Training full-time and getting a taste of the professional life has made me want to push on more and chase this.
‘Luckily, it’s getting there, slowly but surely.’
Getting the chance to play with the Irish amateur international team came as a nice surprise last week – and it’s a chance he jumped at. Again, he’s looking at the bigger picture.
‘Hopefully by playing well, I’ll get recognised and maybe get a trial somewhere. I’m working hard,’ added this left-footed wizard, who is studying Youthwork in college, hoping to make a difference on and off the field.
‘I’d like to help out young fellas who are falling the wrong way and push them into sport and keep them in the right lane.’