Dundalk FC captain Stephen O’Donnell officially hangs up his boots
Dundalk FC captain Stephen O’Donnell officially announced his retirement from football yesterday evening.
News of the 32-year-old midfielder hanging up his boots broke earlier this week.
However, O’Donnell’s association with Dundalk FC is far from over – he has been appointed Senior Opposition Analyst & Scout, a role which he takes up immediately.
Explaining his decision, O’Donnell said: “All I have been doing since I was 15 is full-time professional football so it was a tough decision to retire. It’s something that I haven’t taken lightly. It’s time to see the other side of things and go the other side of the fence. I get to stay involved which is great and in something which I really love. I have had an unbelievable time with Dundalk. The story has been told over and over again since I have signed. You couldn’t have envisaged what happened. I have been treated brilliantly by the club and the town. It is a little bit like Roy of the Rovers style stuff regarding the team and what we went on to achieve. We don’t want to be finished yet. I wanted to stay around the club so to have the opportunity to do that is brilliant. I have a great relationship with the club. If there was any possibility to stay and help the club I was delighted to do so. Luckily the opportunity arose and it’s great to be staying.
“I have had a great career. It has been very enjoyable and I have won a lot of trophies. There has been a lot of downs as well as ups. I have had my injury problems. Looking back I have no regrets. It was a career I loved and as time goes on I will reflect on it more. It’s hard to say at this moment in time but I had a great career. I met so many great people, I have had great teammates and made some great memories. I don’t think you can ever beat the feeling of being in the dressing room after a match, the feeling of ecstasy of getting an important result and a big win. ”
“I’m moving into a different role and I am looking forward to getting started. I want to help the management team in any way that I can. It is something that over the last few years I had my heart set on, getting involved after I finished playing. This is my first step. I am here to learn and I am going to try take things in. Hopefully we can have another successful season.”
Stephen joined Dundalk FC from Shamrock Rovers at the end of 2012, and went on to win four league titles, two FAI Cups and two EA Sports Cups. He also played a leading role in the club’s run to the UEFA Europa League Group Stages in 2016, with a string of performances that will be warmly remembered by all associated with the club.
Widely recognised throughout Irish football as one of the finest players of his generation, O’Donnell bows out with an incredible medal haul, boasting six league titles, three FAI Cups, one Setanta Sports Cups, and two EA SPORTS Cups. In addition, Stephen was named in in the PFAI Team of the Year in 2015 and 2016.
Dundalk FC Head Coach Vinny Perth stated: “Tommy McConville, Martin Lawlor and Tom McNulty are some of the great captains in the history of Dundalk Football Club. Stephen O’Donnell is at very minimum in equal standing to those great players. One of the catalysts for all of our success over the past five years was that historic goal against Cork City in 2014. The way in which he fought to be back on the pitch for that game sums up his attitude, determination and character.
“Stephen’s ability to control games and dictate the pace of games was rarely seen in our league. The style of play in Ireland has evolved in recent years and players like Stephen, his understanding of the game and his technical ability has modernised Irish football. For me personally, Over the past six years Stephen has been a wonderful team mate and colleague. The two of us have worked very closely as assistant manager and captain. I have always found him professional and someone I can trust. I am looking forward to continuing that working relationship that we have in his new role.”
Chairman Mike Treacy added: “Today marks the end of one of the most storied careers in League of Ireland history. Stephen O’Donnell led Dundalk FC to heights never before seen in Europe. Just as he was on the pitch, he is an integral figure in the local community, and it was vitally important that we kept him at the club in this next stage of his professional life.”
“I speak for everyone at the club when I say I am thrilled that the next chapter in Stephen’s football journey will be here, with us at Dundalk FC, as he joins our new look backroom staff in an exciting and important role.
“We are looking forward to Stephen bringing the same intelligence and passion as he so often demonstrated as a player, and captain, into his new position at Dundalk Football Club.”
Despite his incredible success at the club, O’Donnell’s time at Oriel Park was interrupted by two serious injuries. In April 2014 he suffered knee ligament damage that was so bad that the club prepared a statement announcing that his career was over. Thankfully, Stephen recovered from this injury and returned to the team in the closing weeks of the league campaign. His fairy-tale recovery was complete when he opened the scoring in the 2-0 win over Cork City that brought the league title back to Oriel Park for the first time in 19 years.
Tremendously respected by his team-mates and loved by the supporters for both his strong leadership and cultured style of play, he played a key role as the side won their first ‘double’ in 27 years in 2015 and was instrumental in our third title in a row in 2016. Perhaps it will be his classy performances in Europe in 2016 – namely against BATE Borisov, Legia Warsaw and FH Hafnarfjordur – that will go down as the highlight of his Dundalk career.
Unfortunately, the 32 year-old suffered a broken leg in April 2018 in Waterford but, again, he worked incredibly hard to return to action before the end of the season as we won the Double for the second time in three seasons.
Having begun his career as a youth with Arsenal, Stephen progressed to play with Falkirk in Scotland before returning home to Ireland. Spells with Bohemians, where he won the Double, Cork City, Galway United and Shamrock Rovers followed. At Tallaght Stadium he went on to win another league title and competed in the UEFA Europa League Group Stages in 2011.
The club said: “Everyone at Dundalk FC would like to thank Stephen O’Donnell for his effort, commitment and professionalism in his six seasons as a player at the club and welcome him into his new role.”