A-League: Roy’s seven month wait is over


It was an act of desperation, an attempt to score a goal in front of an assembled and bouncing sea of red and blue to send nearly 30,000 people into raptures.

The margins of success in professional sport are razor-thin and when the boot of an Irishman collected the onrushing Lawrence Thomas, no-one could have predicted what the next six months would bring.

INFO: Getting to Gosford on Sunday

Especially not Roy O’Donovan, scrubbed out of the Hyundai A-League for ten games for a challenge which divided opinion across the country.

This weekend though, he’s back.

The wait

The Hyundai A-League 2017/18 Grand Final was on May 5, a date which will live on in infamy in the minds of Newcastle Jets fans.

Sunday evening will mark seven months and 18 days since that night in Newcastle, the last time Roy O’Donovan pulled on a pair of football boots and stepped onto the pitch in a competitive fixture.

It’s the longest the Irishman has spent out of the game since he first stepped onto the park as a kid in Cork, and it’s a day he’s had circled on the calendar for a long time.

Roy O'Donovan

All O’Donovan has been able to do while his Jets teammates have been fighting it out in this edition of the Hyundai A-League is work hard on the training paddock, and cut a frustrated figure from up in the stands on gameday.

“I’ve been working really hard with the fitness coaches and the sports scientists, running a lot of yards. I’m feeling fit, I’m in good shape,” O’Donovan said.

“I’ve been looking forward to the game against the Mariners, trying to be the best teammate I can be while I haven’t been playing. This is what it’s all about, getting back on the park, it’s an important game for us.

“It wouldn’t matter if I was playing against a local team down at the dog park. I just want to get back playing, I want to put everything behind me now and just play football.”

The return

A perfect storm has ensured that Roy’s return is in one of the Jets’ biggest games of the season, an F3 Derby, a Christmas present like no other.

It’s a ground which the Irishman had fun last season, with five goals in two matches to help secure two of the Jets biggest wins in Hyundai A-League history.

In a side which isn’t scoring at the same rate they did last season, O’Donovan is hoping he can be the spark which brings Newcastle’s season to life.

Roy O'Donovan

“I’m a threat in the final third, scoring goals, creating goals, and I hope I can bring that back to the team when I’m out there,” O’Donovan said.

“The team has been playing really well, we’ve just a little bit unlucky in a couple of games.

“I’ll be running on adrenaline, a lot of excitement, and my experience will play into that as well.”

The rivalry

Roy’s first trip to Central Coast Stadium as a Jets player saw him welcomed with a banner depicting the Irishman as a snake.

It proved the perfect motivation on that day, a hat-trick to open his Jets account back in October last year which instantly endeared him to the Newcastle faithful.

Roy O'Donovan Central Coast Mariners

Back at what’s proved a happy hunting ground on Sunday, the striker is hoping that Jets fans can provide the side with some incredible support.

“When the supporters came down last year, their help was tremendous. Game one, and the last league game as well, we scored plenty of goals, and they were a big part to our good play,” O’Donovan said.

“Singing, cheering from minute one to minute 90, and it creates a great atmosphere for both teams.

“If I’m going to get a bit of abuse on Sunday from Mariners fans, that’s what football is all about. It’s about loving your own players and hating the opposition, and the more Jets fans we can get down there, the better.