Six-time League of Ireland winner Stephen O'Donnell retires to take up scouting role with Dundalk

Fri, Jan 11 2019

O'Donnell in action for Shamrock Rovers against Dundalk in 2011. Credit: Eddie Lennon (ETPhotos)

Stephen O’Donnell has called time on a playing career, which spanned more than a decade at the top level of Irish football to take up the roles of senior opposition analyst and scout at Dundalk.

The 32-year-old midfielder has been forced to hang up his boots for good after he suffered a second leg break in the space of just four years in May against Waterford at the RSC.

He did make a miraculous recovery to play in the final fixture of Dundalk’s league-winning campaign at Bohemians, but that turned out to be the last of his 111 league appearances for the Lilywhites.

It brings an end to a glittering career that has seen the Galway native win six League of Ireland titles – four of which came while at Dundalk and one each with Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers.

A product of the Arsenal youth academy, he was one of Stephen Kenny’s first signings as Dundalk manager ahead of the 2013 season following spells with Falkirk, Bohs, Cork City, Galway United and Rovers.

“All I have been doing since I was 15 is full-time professional football so it was a tough decision to retire,” O’Donnell told the Lilywhites’ official website.

“It’s something that I haven’t taken lightly. It’s time to see the other side of things and go the other side of the fence.

“I get to stay involved which is great and in something which I really love. I have had an unbelievable time with Dundalk. The story has been told over and over again since I have signed.”

In addition to winning four league titles in six seasons as a Dundalk player, O’Donnell captained the club to FAI Cup success in 2015 and all the way to the Europa League group stages in 2016.

“You couldn’t have envisaged what happened. I have been treated brilliantly by the club and the town.

“It is a little bit like ‘Roy of the Rovers’ style stuff regarding the team and what we went on to achieve.”

He forms part of a new management team at Oriel Park which has already seen Vinny Perth become boss with Ruaidhri Higgins as his assistant and former manager John Gill as first-team coach.

“We don’t want to be finished yet. I wanted to stay around the club so to have the opportunity to do that is brilliant. I have a great relationship with the club,” continued O’Donnell.

“If there was any possibility to stay and help the club I was delighted to do so. Luckily the opportunity arose and it’s great to be staying.

 “I have had a great career. It has been very enjoyable and I have won a lot of trophies. There has been a lot of downs as well as ups. I have had my injury problems.

“Looking back, I have no regrets. It was a career I loved and as time goes on, I will reflect on it more. It’s hard to say at this moment in time but I had a great career.

“I met so many great people, I have had great teammates and made some great memories.

“I don’t think you can ever beat the feeling of being in the dressing room after a match, the feeling of ecstasy of getting an important result and a big win.

“I’m moving into a different role and I am looking forward to getting started. I want to help the management team in any way that I can.

“It is something that over the last few years I had my heart set on, getting involved after I finished playing. This is my first step.

“I am here to learn and I am going to try take things in. Hopefully we can have another successful season.”

Dundalk, with their new management team, are to begin the defence of their SSE Airtricity League crown with an opening night fixture against Sligo Rovers at Oriel Park on Friday, February 15th.