Jay O'Shea: We had great momentum going from League Two to League One

Mon, Aug 19 2019

Credit: Peter Fitzpatrick

From impressing a host of cross-channel scouts with his domestic club form, to forging a respectable career in the English lower divisions, Jay O'Shea has embarked upon a new adventure by joining Robbie Fowler's Brisbane Roar of the Australian A-League.

A product of St Joseph's Boys' underage outfit, Jay's senior bow was at Home Farm in the Leinster Senior League. A couple of seasons with Bray Wanderers followed, but it wasn't until he became Galway United's topscorer in 2008 and captain the subsequent year that the young midfielder's ambitions became a reality.

"At Galway, it all happened very quickly. It was my first time playing full-time football and it helped me a lot. I loved playing for Galway and to captain the side so young was great. I was full of confidence and attracted a lot of clubs from England, which was fantastic."

Deciding on a two-year deal with Premier League side Birmingham City under Alex McLeish, O'Shea debuted at Old Trafford, but his stay in the Midlands was peppered by a quintet of loan spells: "It was a big jump going from the domestic scene to Birmingham, in the Premier League. I wasn't ready at that time or up to the fitness of the lads in England, who'd been in academies all the way through. I hadn't done any of that, so it took me a while to adjust. The loans were necessary and helped me to have a career in England because if I'd stayed at Birmingham, I could have gone back to Ireland."

The latter of those clubs where the Dubliner went on loan - Chesterfield, permanently signed him in early 2013. During Jay's first full campaign, the Spirites reached the Football League Trophy final and clinched the League Two title. Seemingly on a roll, the club entered the 2014/15 League One play-offs, but were beaten by Preston North End in the semi-finals, which is all the more surprising to see them currently playing non-league football.

"When we were there, Paul Cook was the manager and he put a great squad together. Everything was getting better and better, but after the play-offs a lot of players left and went on to do very well for themselves. We couldn't keep the squad together and then Portsmouth came calling for the manager. We had great momentum going from League Two to League One and were only one game away from the play-offs final and nearly going to the Championship. It's sad to see what happened after that, but hopefully they can get themselves back up the leagues as quick as possible."

At the beginning of 2017, O'Shea found himself assisting in Sheffield United's ultimately successful League One title charge, while Chesterfield finished rock-bottom, also exiting the division during the same campaign: "I was then offered a contract at Sheffield United, a two-year deal, but chose to go to Bury, as I didn't feel it was right for me. I didn't get a good feel for where I would be in the pecking order and the age I was at, I wanted to play football. The other offer I got, I felt that I was going to be playing every week and that's why I went for that."

A medial ligament injury upon debut and relegation to League Two preceded an instant return to the third tier of English football, despite the Shakers' financial issues at the start of 2019: "The first season was very difficult. I picked up a few injuries and was out for a long time during the season. They ended up getting relegated, so it was tough. The second year started really well and we were flying. Around Christmas time, we were in the mix and thought we had a great chance of promotion. A lot of stuff then went on off the pitch, but I can't really talk about it, as I've signed a form to prevent that. However, the financial difficulties are well-documented and the boys weren't getting wages. For everyone there, it was just a matter of getting another promotion on the CV, as we didn't know what was going to happen at the end of the season or whether we'd have to get other clubs. We put the head down, it was difficult, but did what we all needed to do for our futures and help to get moves. There was no other way around it because the January transfer window was closed and you had to play for that club. We got over the line and all those boys should be very proud."

Now 30 and with nothing else to prove in the English lower leagues, the Irishman and his family have embraced the idea of an exciting challenge Down Under, which representing the Brisbane Roar allows: "There's a lot of boys from the UK in the squad and also Roy O'Donovan, who I travel in to training with. It was easy to settle in and the weather helps. My family are due over and I had six weeks here on my own, to get adjusted. I'm missing the kids and looking forward to them getting over. Robbie has put a good squad together and we had a decent result in the FFA Cup (a 2-0 away win V Sydney FC). We're hoping to build on that and go into the season with confidence because Sydney won the championship last year."