“I turned professional at Puerto Rico Islanders on the Monday and did my ACL on the Wednesday, the team were away in North Carolina on preseason and, at one stage, I had to drive the club van to get myself to the local hospital.”
Thus began double-winner Steven Beattie’s first attempt at full time football. So how did Cork City’s number 10 end up on a Caribbean island before resuming his career and ending up on Leeside following a brief stop off in Iceland?
His League of Ireland career began at Shelbourne under-21s in 2007. The Coláiste Íde student had spoken to Northern Kentucky University (NKU) assistant coach Kevin McCluskey – in Ireland visiting relatives at the time – about the potential of heading to the United States on a sports scholarship.
Beattie was first directed to take SATS exams, as all American colleges, irrespective of sporting ability, require a minimum SATS score from pupils before considering scholarship applications. Luckily for the Skerries native, one of the few places the NCAA offered the tests was Coláiste Íde.
Armed with his required results, Beattie headed to a showcase in Memphis in March 2007, where he caught the eye of a number of college scouts. After playing three games he was offered 15 different scholarship opportunities, of which four were full time.
Having already built up a relationship with McCluskey, and feeling that NKU took the most personable approach, he accepted their scholarship offer. He terms it ‘the best decision I ever made.'
Speaking to extratime.ie, the versatile right-footer explained how different things were to Ireland when he first arrived at the university.
Pre-season took place in the searing heat of July with training three times a day in what he termed as his, ‘first taste of being a proper professional.' The college had a population of 18,000 students with 4,500 dormitories on campus, while the gymnasium was officially opened by Jay-Z.
However, despite the fact that the athletes were well looked after by the university, there still was a strong emphasis on the educational aspect of college life with students requiring a GPA average of 2.8 throughout the yearm as well being provided with a tutor to study during down time on away trips and an advisor to minimise disruption and missing classes due to games.
Beattie’s degree comprised two years of general education (as is common in the US education system) before selecting modules such as psychology, marketing and public relations and qualifying in 2010 with a bachelor's degree in PR and a minor in marketing.
However, that only tells some of the story of his remarkable college journey – which at times also included fellow North Dubliners Andrew Montgomery, Stephen O’Brien and Paul Andrews – during the years 2007 until 2010.
Having been a standout player in the college leagues – winning the Ron Lenz Player of the Year in Division 2 twice and a Regional Player of the Year three times – Beattie was drafted by Toronto FC in 2010.
However, due to caps on international players, he failed to make the MLS roster and ended up signing for Puerto Rico Islanders where he suffered the aforementioned serious knee injury 72 hours after turning professional.
After negotiating an early release in his contract, Beattie returned to Ireland to have an operation on his knee carried out by renowned specialist Ray Moran.
It was while recovering from surgery that Steven received a phone call from his former NKU manager John Basalyga – the man who once said to the young Irishman “I’ll treat you as my son” was ringing true with his statement.
Basalyga offered Beattie the chance to finish off his degree course while bringing him back into the college soccer scene by naming him on the coaching team as he continued his journey of rehabilitation.
It’s worth noting that, having been drafted in the MLS after three-and-a-half years of study, without returning for his final six months Beattie wouldn’t have completed his degree. He mentions how thankful he is to the university for accommodating his return.
Following his successful rehabilitation, he received an offer to play professionally in Iceland thanks to a former opponent in a university in Texas. An opportunity, according to Beattie, “to put the head down and try to get back.”
Before heading to Iceland in 2012 Beattie spent a period on trial with Dundalk, appearing in a friendly for the Lilywhites. However he did end up back in the league soon after, as in 2014 he signed for Bohemians before ending up at Sligo Rovers in 2015 – playing under Owen Heary who had also been at Shelbourne eight years beforehand.
In the summer of 2015, having been previously courted by John Caulfield, Beattie moved to Turner’s Cross where he is that rare thing – a Dubliner revered by the Rebels.
On the flip side, he too is very praiseworthy of the city: “it helps when everyone in Cork knows you, it makes you feel like a footballer.”
Speaking about his overall experience, the former Bohemians and Sligo Rovers player concluded: “My ambition is to go back and coach in the [United] States. The world opened up for me when I went to America and the route I went I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.”
With a four year degree, a number of college records, two FAI Cup medals and a league title all in his back pocket, who would blame him?