Thursday 24 May 2018

Bohs' latest hero could have been a Dublin footballer...or even a rugby player

Bohemians goal scorer Dan Casey celebrates after the final whistle
Bohemians goal scorer Dan Casey celebrates after the final whistle
Aidan Fitzmaurice

Aidan Fitzmaurice

He was a promising young sportsman being pulled in different directions.

At the age of 16, Dan Casey had three roads before him: a possible career in professional rugby, a potential path to the Dublin set-up via the minors in Gaelic football, or a ticket to professional soccer with Sunderland.

Soccer won out and while things didn't go as well as he'd hoped across the water, the 20-year-old is this week enjoying hero status among Bohemians supporters.

A defender by nature, Casey showed he has an eye for scoring goals as well as stopping them as he netted twice for Bohs in Friday's 3-1 win at home to Shamrock Rovers.

"It was my first senior goal and I probably couldn't have picked a bigger game for it, I was delighted for everyone," Casey said.

"That's one of the biggest games for our fans, beating them, but we want to beat Pats as well, we want to be the best team in Dublin."

But life could have taken a different turn for the Dubliner. A talented Gaelic footballer with Cuala, he was part of the Dublin U16 county side and was talked about as a player with potential for more, Con O'Callaghan one of his contemporaries.

He also knew what to do with a rugby ball, starring for his school, CBC Monkstown, in the Leinster Junior Cup and there was talk of the Leinster academy keeping tabs.

Could he have been a star in the blue of the Dubs or Leinster?

"I would have given it my all but if I'd have been good enough, I don't know," he says.

"I did a bit of Dublin Gaelic, a bit of rugby as well as I had a choice to make but football was always going to be the winner.

"I played U16s for Dublin, did a bit with them. I played club football with Con O'Callaghan, he is flying now, and I played with a lot of lads who are on the verge.

"But if I wanted to stick with Gaelic I'd have to give up the football.

"I played rugby for CBC Monsktown, played Junior Cup rugby, nothing serious, I played second centre, I enjoyed both sports and I still have a big interest in them but it was just football won it for me."

Sunderland came in for the St Joseph's Boys product but he found his career path there blocked, and staying in England to play in the U23 league, which has replaced reserve team football, held no appeal.

He landed up at Bohs last season, making his league debut in a defeat to Finn Harps, but nine league appearances gave him a taste for more and he was pleased to start this season in the starting XI, alongside Rob Cornwall in defence for that win over Rovers.

And the Dun Laoghaire native is glad to be home. "I was playing U23s and at my age, coming up to 20, I needed to play first team football," Casey says.

"Luckily Keith Long took me in, I had been with Keith at Joey's so had that link with him, and first team football is what you need, you can play all the U23 games you want it’s not the same vibe as a first team game.

"In U23 football over there, there are a lot of good technical players but you are playing for nothing. There are people playing for their jobs over here, with U23s you are playing for enjoyment. This is real stuff. You were playing against teams who didn't care if they lost. This is a different ball game, you don't want to let them down where with U23s, there is no competition in the league which is unfortunate as you can't really push.

"I loved it over there, Sunderland were a great club, I can't say a bad word about them and it definitely helped me as a player.

"But I think I needed to play first team football and it was the right move to come back."

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