A-League Champion O’Neill would relish Republic of Ireland call up

Sydney FC midfielder Brandon O’Neill has spoken of his interest in representing the Republic of Ireland in the wake of claiming the A-League’s top honours in Australia.

Despite being born and raised in Perth, the 23-year-old holds an Irish passport and his family hail Rathfarnham in Dublin while his father, Myles, represented Ireland in boxing.

Last week O’Neill played a big part in Sydney FC’s penalty shootout win over Melbourne Victory in the A-League Grand Final to round off a superb season that saw the Sky Blues lose just once.

As well as his experience domestically, O’Neill has also played in the Asian Champions League and been called up to the Australian under 23 squad, for whom he has turned out twice.

However, he is keeping his options open at international level and would welcome any conversations with both the Socceroos and the Football Association of Ireland.

“If Martin O’Neill came knocking  or Ange Postecouglou…either of them…I’d be extremely humbled because it would be an absolute honour to represent either country,” he said this week.

“Both countries have given myself and my family so much so if I was ever lucky to receive a phone call from one of the coaches I’d jump at it in a heartbeat.

“I’d never say no to either or because the opportunity hasn’t presented itself yet but if it ever was to it’d be a very good decision to have to make.”

O’Neill, who is extremely proud of his heritage and speaks with more than a hint of an Irish accent, began his professional career with Perth Glory but first team opportunities were limited and he made the switch to Sydney this time two years ago.

Under the guidance of former Socceroos coach Graham Arnold, O’Neill established himself as an integral part of the Sydney FC midfield, while also filling in at centre back when required.

He is well known for his dead ball abilities, and scored a superb free kick as Sydney FC beat the Western Sydney Wanderers 4-0 in the Sydney Derby last October.

In Sunday’s A-League Grand Final, Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory were locked at a goal apiece after normal and extra time, forcing a shootout.

O’Neill stepped up fourth and calmly sent Victory goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas the wrong way in front of 41,546 spectators at Allianz Stadium.

“There’s a lot of pressure on you and there’s always that thought of ‘if I miss here me ma’s going to kill me’,” he said.

“It was actually funny, all my family was in the stands and as I was walking up to take that penalty all I kept thinking about was that me ma’s probably crying at the moment because she’s that nervous.

“So that kind of relaxed me actually, walking up and having a joke in my own head.”

Such composure in challenging circumstances sums up O’Neill’s character and the confidence he has discovered under the tutelage of Graham Arnold.

“If you don’t change your mind, pick your spot and if you hit it with power and get it on target you’ve always got a chance,” he said.

“Thankfully I was calm enough just to step up and it was good when Lawrence Thomas dived the other way.

“You see the ball hitting the back of the net and there’s no better feeling.”

Unlike many of his team mates, O’Neill won’t be involved in the annual A-League free transfer merry-go-round having signed an extended contract in December last year which will keep him at the club until 2019.


The Author

Neil Sherwin

Co-editor of BackPageFootball.com. Writes mostly on Premier League and A-League with contributions to other sites including TheFootballSack, InBedWithMaradona and Bloomberg's BSports. Has featured on The Guardian's Football Weekly.

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