Greener Pastures: O’Donovan’s football wanderlust shows no sign of fading
Cork globetrotter looking forward to linking up with Wes Hoolahan when A-League resumes
Roy O’Donovan in action for the Newcastle Jets in an A-League match against the Brisbane Roar at Cbus Super Stadium in Gold Coast, Australia on March 20th. Photograph: Albert Perez/Getty Images
Name: Roy O’Donovan
DOB: August 10th, 1985
Club: Newcastle Jets
Hometown: Cork City
“I’ve had more comebacks than Jesus against old clubs,” laughs Roy O’Donovan as he ponders a return to Brisbane. For now the A-League has been postponed but the day will eventually arrive and, though keen not to overstate the significance of his return to Brisbane Roar, he still speaks of the “professional pride” he’ll bring up the coast, and of the “want to win and score goals”.
The Cork globetrotter was Robbie Fowler’s first signing as Brisbane manager last year, but despite a promising start to the A-League season O’Donovan fell out of favour and has ended up back at the club he left only a few months ago, Newcastle Jets.
The last few months have provided a strange set of circumstances for all concerned, accentuated by the fact that O’Donovan left Brisbane Roar despite being the a leading scorer at the club.
“I want to play an attacking and progressive style of football,” he explains. “But the way they are trying is fine – a very structured, defensively sound and passing game. I think it came down to a clash of styles really.”
The 34-year-old insists, however, that he never sought a move away until his old club came sniffing.
It’s a league that’s striving to be better; there’s a lot of good players coming in all the time
“I came back to the Newcastle Jets where I know the new coach [Carl Robinson] and the style of play he wants to play. It’s a lot more in your face and attacking – and it’s probably more up my street.”
“All I want to do is play football and score goals. That’s never changed.”
Although the club are now facing a steep challenge as they attempt to uproot from the bottom half of the table – whenever the season resumes – this stint already looks set to be an exciting one for the expat.
Wes Hoolahan is now also kitting out for the side and the pair knew each other before linking up Down Under. They could prove to be a formidable partnership for the East Coast club when the world eventually ambles its way out of the Coronavirus crisis.
Indeed, the partnership has the potential to leave Irish fans pondering what could have been had the pair crossed paths in Irish shirts earlier on in their careers.
“Style-wise, he wants to get the ball down and he wants to try and trade passes. He’s the kind of guy who wants to make runs and score goals,” says O’Donovan.
“From my point of view as a football player, you want to have players like Wes on the pitch as much as possible.
“It’s a league that’s striving to be better; there’s a lot of good players coming in all the time.”
That talent continues to descend on the league, from all corners of the world too, though few can claim to have come the circuitous route O’Donovan has taken. After deciding to leave Europe, with the intention of returning to play in England after a few months, the Cork native signed for DPMM FC, the club owned by the Crown Prince of Brunei.
His time in Borneo came to an abrupt end, however, when a photo of the Irishman visiting a friend at a Malaysian club surfaced – much to the disdain of His Royal Highness. The contract extension preciously offered to the Cork man was abruptly withdrawn.
Just as that door closed, another opened and O’Donovan jetted across to Indonesia to sign for Mitra Kutra, only for the league to be suspended after two games of the season. From there he landed in Australia with Ellen, his wife, who has accompanied the striker ever since he first left Cork. All along, it’s been a journey shared.
“We’ve gone to places that we’d never have imagined visiting. We’ve done different things that you don’t get to do in a normal footballer’s life.
“Playing in England is pretty stock-standard. You play your games at the weekend, you train hard during the week. Lifestyle-wise it’s draining.
“I’m a big believer in faith and that things are meant to happen. At the time it was a move I hadn’t envisaged making but I’m ever so glad that I did.”
The country is likely to remain home after football, where the O’Donovan clan will continue to write the next chapter of their story whatever, and whenever, that may be. Until then, O’Donovan’s return to Brisbane will come and go and his return to face the fans and team-mates from his former club is a date that will generate quite a bit of bite in the Antipodes. The stuff of dreams for a marketing team.
“Certainly, I’ll make a little mental note. It’s good for people to have a villain if you’re the opposition.
“But hopefully, I’ll try to be the hero from my own team’s point of view.
“That’s always the plan.”