O'Donovan thanks royal ruckus for Mariners move

As Andy Keogh dusted off his A-League boots for Asia his compatriot, Roy O’Donovan, journeyed from the opposite direction to start a new chapter in his career.

O’Donovan hit Australian shores from the S-League where he enjoyed a standout season under former Blackburn Rovers manager Steve Kean.

The 29-year-old notched up 15 goals in 25 games for Brunei DPMM FC and was named Player of the League Cup. 

PICS: MARINERS TRAINING

Rusted on Mariners’ supporters aside, few A-League fans would even know the former Irish youth international had been in the country six weeks.

But O'Donovan's tilt at the A-League might not have happened at all, had he not fallen foul of the Crown Prince of Brunei.

The Irishman went to visit ex-Cork City teammate, George O’Callaghan, who at the time was playing for another team. 

A driver at O’Callaghan’s club snapped a photo of the pair and it was posted online, wrongly stating O'Donavan had signed for the rival club.

The former Sunderland striker was promptly axed by the Crown Prince who owns DPMM.

Not that O’Donovan is downcast by the turn events, saying the A-League is a step up from the Singapore top-flight.

“I was MVP in the S-League last year and scored 27 goals in all competitions so I had a really good season from a professional stand point,” O’Donovan said. “I was just looking for an opportunity to come back to something more mainstream.

“I’ve done a bit of research on Australian football – I used to watch it on the Foxtel in the UK all the time – and I’ve seen it’s progressed massively over the last three or four seasons.

“There have been some very good marquee players and the standard of Australian players – the technicality and attributes that everyone attributes, like hard work, graft and head strong – that certainly comes into play here.”

O’Donovan’s football journey has taken the Irishman to teams like Dundee and Coventry City where most often he was deployed as a winger.

His stint for Sunderland saw the 1.79m striker play against teams such as Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool.

Speaking about his career highlights O’Donovan said: “I won the league title with my home town club Cork City which was terrific, and we qualified for the Champions League.

“I’ve been lucky to play at all the great grounds – Wembley, Anfield and Old Trafford – all these kind of places, so I’m a lucky guy as well as getting to play for Roy Keane in the English Premier League for Sunderland and getting to play against some of the top teams.”

He added: “But I’m not finished yet, I’m hungry and I want to prove myself here in the A-League.”

Mariners boss Tony Walmsley believes the Irish striker will add some vital goals, an ingredient that was missing from the club’s last campaign.

“We need 17 more goals than we had last year to guarantee finals football. Do I think we’ve got that in the team? Absolutely,” Walmsley said.

“Roy O’Donovan is a different class. He’s got a lot of experience and he’s exactly the kind of striker that we want. He can threaten central defenders in behind and if he gets half a chance he puts it away.”

O’Donovan knows he’ll ultimately be judged and loved for the number of times he puts the ball into the back of the net.

“My own personal goals are to do as well as I can, score and assist as many goals as I can,” said the former Republic of Ireland U21 international.

“You get the first one and then you always want to get into double figures that would be the big thing – and then staying fit and the team doing well and getting as many chances as I can. I back myself to score goals.

“I want to be a nuisance to opposition team, and be a good teammate, and hopefully I can be a good leader in the dressing room as well and help the younger lads coming through.”

The Central Coast’s 32 points in the 2014-15 regular season was lowest ever points tally in their A-League history and O’Donovan has no doubt that the new look Mariners are keen to atone.

“From a team point of view it definitely has to be a huge improvement from last season,” he said.

“The guys that are still here from last season felt like they let down the supporters last year, and they felt like they weren’t as good as they have been in previous seasons.

“There is fresh blood in the squad like myself and Mitch Austin, and whole new staff, so there is fresh optimism around the place.

“We are training really hard, we’ve got a new fitness coach so it bodes well for the new season.”

Con Stamocostas is an Australian football writer. Click here to see more of his work and check out the latest episode of his A-League Snobcast with co-host Rob Toddler.