Wednesday 17 January 2018

'Inspirational' O'Neill gets player-coach Drogheda deal

Gary O'Neill, Drogheda United pictured in February, 2013 in action in the Setanta Sports Cup game between Portadown v Drogheda United. Photo: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
Gary O'Neill, Drogheda United pictured in February, 2013 in action in the Setanta Sports Cup game between Portadown v Drogheda United. Photo: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

DROGHEDA UNITED have announced that Gary O'Neill has signed on for the club again in a player/coaching capacity as he continues his fight against testicular cancer.

The popular 31-year-old is confident that he can play football again and has been training with the out-of-work players who will travel to Norway this week to represent the PFAI in a four-team tournament.

Drogheda manager Robbie Horgan is keen to benefit from his experience and thus broadened his offer to incorporate a coaching role.

"I'm feeling great at the moment," said O'Neill. "I'm taking things one day at a time and right now there is no reason why I can't continue to play.

"I was gutted to miss out on two finals with Drogheda last season and I'm just very grateful that I'm able to come back. It feels right to take my first steps back into football with Drogheda.

"Everyone here has been incredible to me and to my family, particularly Robbie, Dr Conor Kelly, Danny Miller (physio) and the club directors.

"It has meant a great deal to me and to my family to have that kind of support and friendship and I'm just over the moon I got the green light to get back on the pitch."

RALLIED

O'Neill also expressed his gratitude to his friends in the football and sporting community who rallied around when he received the devastating news and sought to fundraise so he could deal with the cost of dealing with the illness.

"It has made the world of difference to my family and enabled me to focus on my recovery and on staying positive," he said.

Horgan hopes that the Dubliner's inspirational qualities will rub off on the rest of the dressing room.

"I couldn't be happier that Gary has signed back with Drogheda," he said. "It's been a very tough few months for him and for his family, but he has handled his illness with great dignity and positivity and I know he hopes that highlighting it will have helped others.

"We're all thrilled that Gary will be staying with the club. He's rather inspirational in every sense and that will reflect onto those who play alongside him."

O'Neill will join his team-mates next Saturday for the start of Drogheda's pre-season training.

Meanwhile, the PFAI squad bound for Norway continued their preparations with a 5-1 friendly win over Cherry Orchard yesterday.

Liam O'Brien's group will meet counterparts from Finland, Sweden and Norway with the hope of impressing watching scouts and landing a contract.

Irish Independent

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