Stephen Donnelly is on cloud nine and claims he owes those at amateur side Usher Celtic for boosting up to the lofty heights.
The fleet footed goal getter has made the dream move to the League Of Ireland signing this week. Indeed in further ‘someone pinch me’ style Donnelly has gone from Bohemians fanatic to player and will sport the red and black of the Gypsies on the field rather than on the terraces.
Those who have seen the exciting entertainer in action this season would have attested to the his pro capabilities, but the AUL Premier A’s top scorer’s route to the League Of Ireland seems different than most.
A host of players have upgraded from amateur to the pro ranks in recent years, but most of those players already have experience in and around the higher echelons of Irish football, others like Greg Moorehouse and Kevin Lynch were grabbing headlines with more established amateur clubs.
Before joining, Usher, who he helped mount a surprise title challenge, Donnelly hadn’t played football in Ireland since his amateur days. He had been on a soccer scholarship at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania before returning home. He accredits the move solely to his form for the AUL Premier A side and in that regard has thanked all those at the club for helping to make his dream come true.
“I think my year with Usher attracted the interest,” he told the JSP.
“This was my first year back in Ireland playing football since I was a Schoolboy with Home Farm. I went to America for 5 years, playing the first 4 years and then coaching in my last year. So I owe the lads (at Usher) a lot for constantly pushing me to get the best out of me this season.”
Donnelly had been off the radar for some time considering his stint in America and it appears he wasn’t overly sought after on his return home.
In fact he reveals his move to Usher was just one of those go down with a mate things.
“One of my best mates plays for Usher and he said ‘come down’ and that was that. The Atmosphere at training was brilliant and hands down they have the best manager around.”
While he ghosted in relatively unnoticed to amateur football this time last year he has made waves with his form in the green of Usher this season. In fact he was on the radar of a number of clubs, but explains once Bohs came in for him no one had a chance.
“I’ve been a Bohs fan all my life, my Da brought me to my first game when I was 5 years old and have been going ever since. So really it’s a dream come true for me and being able to be part of the last year Bohs play in Dalymount is something special. The goal for me now is to try and do my best for the club I love, work hard all the time and help the team in anyway possible.”
Having tasted the competitive nature of amateur football Donnelly suggests other managers should keep an eye on the talent outside the pro circle.
“I think the standard is very good in the amateur leagues and a lot of players could make the step up to LOI no problem.”