Saturday 21 October 2017

Finland's 'Paddy' open to making switch to Ireland

Patrick O'Shaughnessy
Patrick O'Shaughnessy

Daniel McDonnell in Oslo

THE prospect of a chap named Patrick O'Shaughnessy lining out in a match between Ireland and Finland sounds plausible. When he is playing for Finland, however, you know there is the makings of an unusual story.

O'Shaughnessy, an aggressive defender, may fit the visual profile of an Irishman, yet he is born and bred in Finland and this morning's FIFPRO tournament encounter won't be the first time he has pulled on their national colours and barked instructions in their native tongue.

He has represented the land of his birth from U-17 to U-21 level, even though he has gone on record in the past to assert he would be interested if Ireland came calling. At this stage, it would have to come from senior management and, modestly, he concedes it's an unlikely scenario.

Noel King, the FAI's U-21 boss, did make contact in 2012 to ascertain if O'Shaughnessy (20) and his brother Daniel (19) would be interested, but nothing further came of it. The latter, who has earned a move to French side Metz, is a fine prospect, but remains within the Finnish structure for now.

It's natural the brothers feel comfortable around the players they have grown up alongside, even if their peers have no idea how to pronounce the name O'Shaughnessy. "Everybody still asks where I am from," said Patrick yesterday, speaking after training at the indoor Vallhall Arena that will stage today's exhibition for out of-work professionals from four nations.

"Nobody knows how to write it or say it. There are some pretty bad attempts," he adds, with a laugh. To keep it simple, they call him Paddy.

At home, the O'Shaughnessys speak English to each other, but they are fluent Finnish speakers. Their dad Robert hails from Galway and love took him to Finland -- he met his future wife, Ulla, when she holidayed to Ireland. "He met her in Dublin," explains Patrick. "He keeps on saying that he thought my mum lived in France and that he went the wrong way. But he just loves her."

They married and started a family in Finland and it just so happened they produced kids with a gift for football. Patrick and Daniel, born in Riihimäki, less than 50 miles north of Helsinki, were recruited in their teens by Klubi 04, effectively a reserve team for the capital's main club HJK. From there, they went their separate ways. Patrick has spent two seasons with MyPa in Finland's top division, but he is a free agent at the moment and open to moving overseas.

WINDOW

The Finnish U-21s are in England's European Championship qualifying group and there was a shop window opportunity when the brothers started in their high-profile showdown with the top seeds in Milton Keynes in November. However, the match ended on a sour note for Patrick when he was dismissed for two yellow cards, the first for a foul on Liverpool's Raheem Sterling, the second for bringing down Southampton's Luke Shaw.

He is open-minded and wouldn't dismiss a switch to Ireland, even though his close family members have moved away as father Robert's parents are now based in Bristol along with his sister. "I want to get out of Finland," Patrick says, "To Germany, England, pretty much anywhere. Maybe Ireland, I would want to see what they offer."

The structure of his football life has made it difficult to visit Ireland in his downtime because they play through the summer in Scandinavia. "I think that's the nicest time to go there," he grins. "I've been following St Patrick's Athletic because of the name," he explains.

O'Shaughnessy has encountered Airtricity League stalwarts in his work before as he battled with Shane Robinson and Shane McFaul during their stint in Finland with FC Haka.

This morning, the Finns are strong favourites to triumph over the PFAI's selection in their semi-final meeting as they have brought a squad with plenty of international experience that will test Liam O'Brien's patched together selection. Norway and Sweden meet in the other semi with each nation guaranteed two matches as a third-fourth place play-off will precede the final.

Ireland face an uphill battle -- but the last thing they expected was to find a Paddy standing in their way.

Irish Independent

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