Did you know that Ajax Amsterdam FC’s first ever manager was an Irishman? Or that a Dubliner named Patrick O’Connell was manager of Real Betis when they won their only ever La Liga title in 1935? Could you name the first Irish female footballer to play professional football outside Ireland?
Traditionally the stories of our exported footballers and managers start and end in the UK but there have been a number of adventurous souls who have spread their wings further afield. Local journalist Barry Landy has always had a fascination with the men and women who have been brave enough to go down a less traditional route to advance their careers and now the Ardee native has brought together these previously untold stories to form a book which is released this Friday.
Emerald Exiles is a comprehensive account of the Irish players and managers who have plyed their trade outside the UK dating back from the early 20th century right up to the present day. According to Barry he has always been intrigued by players who decided to take a chance and move abroad to play football and further their careers.
“I’ve always really admired players who were willing to get out of their comfort zones and explore the world where they can learn a new language and try something different. It’s a relatively short career so why not play your football abroad when you are young? The likes of former Celtic player Cillian Sheridan could probably have stayed in Scotland or the lower leagues in England when his time at Celtic Park ended but he ended up having an amazing career playing all over the world in the likes of Poland, Russia, New Zealand, Cyprus and Israel. He took a few risks and found plenty of opportunities for himself. Sometimes it doesn’t work out as can be seen from my chat with former Irish international Darren O’Dea who moved to Metalurh Donetsk in the Ukraine just before war broke out in the country in 2013. He was forced to terminate his contract early given how dangerous the situation was but he maintains that the whole experience made him stronger and gave him perspective.
“The book tells the story of many Irish men and women who have left their mark abroad and putting it all together was a real labour of love. I have been tracking Irish players abroad from a young age and designed a website called Emerald Exiles as part of my final year project in college. I also ran a twitter account called Emerald Exiles and it was from there that I was approached by a book publisher asking would I be interested in putting a book together to tell all the many fascinating stories of our footballers and managers who have taken the road less travelled in search of work.
“I think this is going to be a route taken more and more by our young talent because of the recent Brexit ruling which prevents UK clubs bringing over Irish players who are under 18,” explained Barry.
“We are also seeing a lot more Irish ladies making the move to the likes of the US and European leagues and many of our best players are travelling all over the world as the professional ladies game continues to grow. There are many interviews with female soccer players in the book as well as information on the likes of Anne O’Brien who was probably Ireland’s most decorated footballer yet never really got the credit she deserved. It was a lot of work putting it all together but it was a real labour of love and I’m delighted that it is now ready to be released. It’s my first book and I’ve learned an awful lot about all that goes with releasing something like this and it will definitely be a proud moment when I see the book stocked on shelves over the coming weeks and months,” added Barry.
Barry’s book ‘Emerald Exiles’ is out this Friday (October 15th) and is available in all local and national bookshops.