Ciaran Donnelly: My life in football

I wanted to take you back to the beginning and the start of your footballing journey. How did your journey start on your road to becoming a professional footballer?

My journey started as I think every young kids does when I was three years old I picked up a ball and I had an older brother who was playing football all the time and we would play together with pals and sometimes we would play under 10 o’clock at night and I loved it to be honest and I went on to play boys club football for my local team and what transpired was my Mum she encouraged me to go to Celtic FC Boys club under nine for trials and I went and got picked up and that is how the ball got rolling.

I was at Celtic FC for five years and unfortunately I got released and the year prior to getting released I thought I had a really good season for under 12’s and under 13’s and My Dad also told me that I was probably better leaving the club becauseI was a defender and I would do tricks in the box and the manager said that is great from a person point of view but as a team I would never want that as a manager and because I was a Celtic FC fan as a boy I didn’t want to leave and then I got knocked out of gear having a poor season to be honest.

I went to St Johnstone FC and I played under Alastair Stevenson who was the head of youth at Hibernian FC and he was a cracking guy for me and he good my back on track and then I signed for Hamilton Academical FC and then I started to make gains playing professional football and I made my debut having just turned 17 years of age and from then on I got the move up to Aberdeen FC.

You were at Hamilton Academical FC as you’ve mentioned above. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any highlights or special memories?

I was at Hamilton Academical FC from the age of 15 and to be honest for a good while I was flying and I would often go to to England for trials and I also played for Scotland under 17 at youth international level and I never wanted to play for Scotland My Mum is Irish and I always wanted to play for Republic of Ireland which I ended up doing. I had a disagreement with the club regarding my contract because I have played so many games for the club as a youth player and I left the club under a cloud and went up to Aberdeen but it was a strange one because I did not want to leave because I could see a pathway to first team football.

“File:Shola Ameobi warming up.jpg” by mikebrown59 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

My highlights were when we got promoted and I played ten games that season and playing against Newcastle United in a pre season friendly at New Douglas Park when they came up to Scotland for a pre season tour and they had players like Clarence Acuña and I remember playing against him thinking that he was just different class. He was a Chilean international with 60 caps as well as players like Shola Ameobi, Lomana LuaLua and Robbie Elliott l and making my professional debut at 17 years of age as well against Stenhousemuir FC at Ochilview Park and we won 3-0 I remember getting the nod to play and it was a good debut.

You mentioned your time at Aberdeen FC. Given the size of the club how do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any special memories or highlights?

To be honest it was a really frustrating time at Aberdeen FC. I was up there and enjoying the first team training and I was playing full time and I suffered a freak accident playing in the reserve team in the Scottish youth cup where I dislocated my shoulder and I was out for four months and then came back for three weeks and then I dislocated my shoulder again and it was not as bad the second time but I was out for three months and it sort of knocked me off stride.

Looking back after sustaining that injury I began to get homesick and I was probably not as dedicated as I should have been to be honest. If I look at myself I wish now that at that time if I had applied myself a lot better I could have done a lot more because I know I had the ability to do well but maybe I was more interested in going out with my mates. I think the injury knocked me off stride and getting homesick with my being from Glasgow and going up to Aberdeen and being injured at 18 years of age was kind of boring but Aberdeen FC was a great experience. Jimmy Calderwood was the manager at the time and I used to love his training, it was fantastic.

You have accrued good experience at club and international level. Could you say who are among the best players you have played alongside so far in your career?

I would say that probably the best player I played with was Aiden McGeady at youth level. He was different class and even as he good older he played for Celtic FC and went on to Spartak Moscow in Russia, Everton FC in England and he is now playing for Sunderland AFC and still doing the business and to give him a backhanded compliment I think he should have done better in his career with the incredible talent that he had if I am honest.

“The Wembley Cup – Celtic FC v Al Ahly” byDSanchez17 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

I remember going to Bassevelde in Belgium to play a youth tournament and all the top clubs where there Ajax, Paris St Germain and we were beaten by RS Anderlect 2-1 in the final and I remember Aiden running RS Anderlecht riot at under 13 level the Paris St Germain and Ajax players watching the final from the sidelines and they were all clapping as if he was Pelé, he was just unbelievable.

I always played with other good players such as Charlie Mulgrew but for me Aiden McGeady was the best.

I can imagine in your position as a defender that you have played against many tough opponents through the years. Could you say which opponents have stood out for you in terms of talent and ability?

“Barcelona vs Manchester United 8” by NathanF is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Yes, I remember playing an international game for Republic of Ireland against Portugal and Luis Nani played for Portugal and he played on the wing and I can’t remember who our right back was at the time but he absolutely tore him apart and Luis Nani is the best that I can remember playing against. He was ridiculous.

Finally Ciaran, You mentioned Jimmy Calderwood. Could you say who are the coaches and managers who have meant a lot to you and played a key role in your development as a professional footballer?

Yes, I think the guys who were great when I was coming through at Celtic FC such as Martin Miller who has only recently retired at Celtic FC. The way he coached was great and you always felt as a player that you were learning all the time. I also think when I was a professional playing for Albion Rovers and Paul Martin who gave me the captaincy and he treated us like men and gave us that leeway and he was also hard on players at times and everybody respected him. He is one of the managers who you would want to run through a brick wall for. He was a really good manager to play for.

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