Pundit Arena’s Gerard Grimes caught up with new Cabinteely forward Ollie Hamzat ahead of his first season in senior League of Ireland football to speak about his career since leaving the underage set-up at Drogheda United, pre-season so far and his expectations for the season.
Following three years at underage level with Drogheda United and despite an offer from Drogheda manager Pete Mahon to join the Boynesiders for pre-season, Ollie Hamzat has decided that Eddie Gormley’s Cabinteely is where his future lies.
“Having played with Drogheda United for the past three years at underage level I didn’t really get the chance at senior level. Although Pete Mahon asked me back to pre-season this year, it was kind of difficult because he hadn’t seen me play.
“Cabinteely offered to sign me after seeing me play on the FAI Soccer Course and after having a chat with Eddie Gormley, I decided it was the way forward for me and a stepping stone to improve my development.”
Following the end of the U-19 season, Hamzat was advised to keep playing football and did just that with NEFL side Harmon Rangers.
“After the U-19 season finished, I was advised to go out and play senior football to gain experience for whenever I was going to make the next step into the League of Ireland. I signed up with a local club from Drogheda called Harmon Rangers. The club was only established in 2015 and there are some really good people in the club.”
The young forward also took part in the FAI Soccer Course, a course which Peterborough United midfielder Chris Forrester is a recent graduate of.
“The FAI Soccer Course is a course that consists of playing football while getting an education, it is full-time and you also get paid.
“There are a lot of opportunities and benefits as you can become a full-time personal trainer, go further into third level education or continue to develop to become a pro footballer. A few lads like Christopher Forrester and Mick Daly have all done well for themselves and it’s a platform for me to succeed.”
Having had to leave Drogheda United to play football before now signing with Cabinteely, Hamzat believes that a reserve league would be beneficial to the League of Ireland. This is an idea also mentioned by former Drogheda captain and now Bray Wanderers midfielder Mick Daly in an interview with Pundit Arena last year.
“I personally think they need to bring back the reserve league because you get talented footballers who decide to give up, believing they can’t make it in to senior team and that a manager would rather play someone experienced than risk a 19-year-old.
“It’s something I think the FAI need to assess. A few players that I have played with have now stopped because they had nowhere to go. I hope the people at the top assess this situation.”
When asked how his first pre-season with a senior side in the League of Ireland has gone to date, the Balbriggan-born forward was only positive and is looking forward to further testing himself against some of the biggest sides in Ireland.
“It has been really good. We have been back since mid-January working hard to get into shape. We have only played one game so far, against a strong Bohs side, which we should have won after being 3-0 up but we ran out of legs.
“We are playing the big boys in pre-season, the likes of Pats and Shamrock Rovers so it’s going to be a good test just in time for the new season and we are ready for it.”
Cabinteely are hoping to again surprise people and improve on their first season in the league, where they finished bottom of the First Division with 20 points and Hamzat hopes his goals can help Cabo do just that.
“My personal goals are going to be to try and develop into a better player and score as many goals as I can to help the team improve from last year.
“We have a good young squad and we are willing to work hard for both ourselves and the manager Eddie Gormley.”
Gerard Grimes, Pundit Arena