From the Scottish Highlands to the Gaelic Grounds for Limerick footballer

Limerick footballer Bobby O'Brien
Bobby O’Brien has shown massive commitment to play for the Limerick footballers, as Jerome O’Connell finds out

Bobby O’Brien has shown massive commitment to play for the Limerick footballers, as Jerome O’Connell finds out

BOBBY O’Brien didn’t know his luck when he set off for Limerick football training this Tuesday night.

For one of the first times this season, the big Bruff midfielder didn’t have to plan weeks in advance to attend a Limerick football session.

This Monday, O’Brien returned to Limerick after four years studying in Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University.

For the last five months O’Brien has commuted between Scotland and Ireland to line out for Maurice Horan’s Limerick side.

2013 has seen O’Brien live up to the expectation that has followed him since his days as an underage hurler and footballer in the green and white of Limerick.

Straight from his minor days, O’Brien and Cormac Joyce Power were drafted into the senior set-up by Mickey Ned O’Sullivan.

O’Brien’s senior inter-county debut came in the 2009 championship against Tipperary. That was as a sub and so was an All-Ireland Qualifier appearance against Meath.

That September O’Brien departed for Scotland to student Diagnostic Radiography.

He continued to line out with the Limerick U-21 side but any commitment to the senior panel was put on the back burner.

As part of his university degree O’Brien had to undertake a series of work placements and in April of 2012 he secured a place in the Regional Hospital in Dooradoyle.

That enabled him to play more often with his club Bruff.

A call-up to the Limerick juniors followed.

After an impressive display against Waterford in the Munster JFC, O’Brien and Derry O’Connor were added to the Limerick senior panel.

Both went on to make telling impressions in the qualifier campaign after the Munster SFC loss to Clare.

Last September when Maurice Horan set about assembling his panel for 2013, he spoke to O’Brien.

“I was delighted to be asked to stay involved. I knew that this was my final year in college and that was a bit of a concern but I also realised that the opportunity to wear your county jersey will not last forever,” O’Brien told LeaderSport this week.

“When I was younger at minor and U-21 level maybe I took it for granted but now I realise you have to take all opportunities.”

He added: “I actually find that when I am training and playing games I actually study better so it has all worked out well.

“I knew that I was going to be based in Aberdeen until Christmas but that I would have a placement some time after that.”

What O’Brien didn’t know was that he would find himself working out of Fort William at the foot of Ben Nevis in the Scottish Highlands.

All of a sudden trips back to Limerick for McGrath Cup and National league games became somewhat of a world tour.

“It was such an isolated area about a population of 10,000” recalled O’Brien of an area, best known to GAA followers as the home of Shinty.

His trek back to Ireland began with a car journey from Fort William back to Aberdeen. From there he got a train down to Edinburgh and then flew back to Shannon.

Aside from the monotonous travelling there was the isolation of training as an individual.

“In fairness to Andy (O’Neill) our conditioning coach he emailed me all the programmes that the lads were doing at home. It was mostly running that I was doing because there is only so much football you can do on your own,” outlined the 22-year-old.

“I’ve done everything that I can because regardless of where you are based you want to be able to pull your weight.”

He continued: “I would be quite competitive and in everything that I do I like to think I am motivated but remember there are 29 other lads making sacrifices as well, like not going out weekends or juggling work. In some ways maybe I had it better because I could train when it suited me and I didn’t have to be in Mick Neville Park at certain times for training”.

Last January he lined out for Robert Gordan University in the Scottish Third Level Championships.

“To think I have come from that to the Munster Championship will make it all worthwhile,” said O’Brien.

Injuries to John Galvin and Jim O’Donovan gave O’Brien an opportunity to impress during the league.

Back in 2007 Paudie Browne commuted from Edinbugh to play with Limerick.

“He gave me great advice about training and stuff like that. I remember him telling me that it would all be worth it and hopefully it will be on Saturday.”

Describing breaking in the Limerick midfield as “daunting”, O’Brien’s performances to date ensure he will definitely see game time if not a start on Saturday.

“I’m happy the way everything has gone so far but I am looking forward to joining up with the lads for training. There is only so much you can do on your own without the intensity of competition.”

O’Brien, John Galvin and Tom Lee will be key figures for Limerick on Saturday with midfield possession key to stopping the Cork machine gathering forward momentum.

“Cork are one of the top sides in the country for the last few years but we won’t be afraid of them. We know that all we can do is go out and perform to our best. They have some powerhouses like Aidan Walsh but we are confidence in what we can do,” said O’Brien.

“It’s a challenge for us but we are ready.”

After four years away, O’Brien is now back in Bruff and will set out on the quest of finding employment.

But before that big challenge is the challenge of Conor Counihan’s Cork.

Motivation won’t be a problem.