In this edition of the Greenlight series, we spoke to Dara O’Shea who opened up on captaining Ireland, life on loan at Exeter and being a part of West Brom’s talented youth academy.
“If you imagine the Ferdinand/Vidic partnership at Manchester United, Dara is very much the Vidic.”
20-year old centre-back Dara O’Shea is in a unique position.
With Ireland, he is a part of one of the most exciting crops of young players the country has produced in years.
At his parent club West Brom, he is a part of an incredibly exciting group of prospects coming through the youth ranks.
It’s no coincidence that he’s playing a vital role in both.
“It’s been good really,” says O’Shea, speaking about his current loan spell at League Two side Exeter City.
“At the start it was a little slow because I arrived after the first game of the season.
“It was tough for me to get into the team because they’d been winning as well, I think it wasn’t until November time when they started losing a few games and the gaffer put me in, and since then I’ve been playing. “
At just 20-years of age, O’Shea is still finding his feet in the game. The Dubliner started his footballing odyssey with famed schoolboy club St Kevin’s Boys before moving over to West Brom when he was 16.
O’Shea outlined that when he first made the move from Ireland to England, he initially found the onfield transition very tough.
After a couple of months or so, however, he explained that he began to find his rhythm in Baggies training.
“At the start it (the transition) was huge,” O’Shea told Pundit Arena.
“I remember my first training session, I was with another Irish lad, he came over from the same team and after the first training session, I remember saying to him, ‘Oh my god, I’m completely off it like.’
“My touch, my passing, everything was just miles off it, because obviously, they’d be training five-six times a week, since they were young, and we come from training only two times a week.
“But after say a month or two, everything fell into place, you don’t realise how much you develop and then after that I was kinda laughing at what the difference was and settled into things.”
Going over to England at 16 can be a daunting prospect for a lot of young Irish players. Many find the off-field transition tough, which then leads to struggles on the pitch too.
The fear of failure and feeling of homesickness can blight younger players and have a detrimental effect on their careers as a whole. It is, after all, a massive commitment at such a tender age.
O’Shea, however, explained that he never found the transition to be tough citing his mindset and his family among the reasons why he felt he settled into life in England so well.
“You know what, I didn’t find it that tough.
“I got it into my head from the very start, look I’m going over here to try and do this; I don’t want to be thinking of back home, like getting involved in any of that stuff. I don’t want to be messing it up really. I just zoned out. Almost all my friends were at home like; obviously I still talk to them.
“You see a lot of people getting caught up in ‘I want to go home, this is on, this is on and stuff.’ But no I never really got caught up in that. My family were great to me; I used to ring them every night.
“But it never really dawned on me, I had a great digs as well. They were a huge part of how well I did at West Brom, they understood football so much,and the lad I was staying with was great, we got on great, everything just fell into place.”
The 20-year old defender has learned a lot since his move to English football. Last season he played over forty games for Hereford in the Southern Premier League. This year he has cemented himself at the heart of the Exeter City defence, in League Two.
A constant progression.
His next step, upon his return to the Hawthorns next season, could be a push for the first team. Manager Darren Moore has already shown great faith in youth this campaign and has been full of praise for the young talent at the club.
O’Shea outlined that it’s fantastic to see the likes of Sam Field, Morgan Rogers and Kyle Edwards being given a chance, but he admitted that with a talented crop comes a healthy competition.
“Yeah it’s nice obviously. I mean it’s nice getting some nice words off the gaffer. It’s difficult as well, as there’s a lot of young players coming through, you have to be on top of your game, and try and stick out, so you can get good reports back to West Brom. “
The Dubliner describes himself as an “old school defender” and his partnership with Dean Moxey at the heart of the Exeter City defence led to DevonLive reporter Stuart James referring to him as the “Vidic” to Moxey’s “Ferdinand.”
“Yeah definitely, it’s a big name to live up to,” laughed O’Shea.
“Myself and Dean Moxey, we get on great, we have a good understanding of the game and we play well together. He’s played at the top level, so I love it, I’ve taken bits of his game. He’s played in the Premier League, it’s great playing alongside someone who has that wealth of knowledge.”
If O’Shea can reach the lofty heights of the Serbian’s career, it will unquestionably be welcome news for Irish fans.
The 20-year old was a vital part of Tom Mohan’s U19s side during their European qualifying campaign, captaining his country on a number of occasions.
The 19s are considered one of the most promising groups of players Ireland has produced in recent years, with the likes of Troy Parrott and Adam Idah both also impressing.
“Yeah, it was great, obviously, I love playing for my country,” said, O’Shea.
“It’s what I want to do, putting on that green jersey. It was good as well; the manager Tom Mohan was great to me. The bunch of lads are great, we all got on well, a lot of us have known each other since we were young as well, coming through in the same league, playing against each other as well.”
“So it was always a good time, meeting up with the squad and catching up with everyone.
“Captaining your country, there’s no better thing you can do really, no matter what age it’s at. Like I’m tremendously proud of that and I loved it. I think of myself as a leader on the pitch, I try to talk a lot.”
Now 20 years of age, O’Shea is no longer eligible for Tom Mohan’s side, but he does have his eye on the next step up the ladder; Stephen Kenny’s U21s.
The centre-back will be hoping to be a part of the squad as they begin life under the former Dundalk boss. It would be further validation of his steady progression.
“Yeah definitely, my next goal is to play 21s games, hopefully I’ll get the call-up. That’s the plan, I’ll keep playing here, doing my bit and hopefully I’ll get the call-up.”