Wednesday 21 February 2018

Osborne's Turkish delight after Devine intervention

Defender hoping Brandywell roar can help Derry beat Euro odds

Team-mate David McDaid (left) celebrates his goal in last week's first leg
Team-mate David McDaid (left) celebrates his goal in last week's first leg
A week after signing for Derry City on amateur terms, Eoghan Osborne found himself in Turkey facing Trabzonspor
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

ON the first Friday of this month, Eoghan Osborne travelled to Derry for his last game as a Dundalk player. He was already aware he would become a free agent after the match, with a cloud of uncertainty hanging over his football future.

Opportunity lurked around the corner. He signed off his stint at Dundalk in style with a rare appearance yielding an assist for the winning goal, a contribution that confirmed the positive view which the losing manager that night, Declan Devine, held of the young left-back.

Injury problems meant that Devine had a vacancy in Osborne's favoured role. The answer was staring him in the face and the player didn't need much persuading.

A week later, he found himself in Turkey immersed in an occasion he will cherish for the rest of his life. He'll remember the sunny July of 2013 for his own reasons.

"I'd made a couple of phone calls to people about the move," he says. "And it was actually somebody else who mentioned that Europe was coming up for Derry. I hadn't really thought about it when I signed and, yeah, then the next week I was over there, in the middle of it."


The 'it' he references is the unique atmosphere created by Trabzonspor fans last week in the first leg of their Europa League showdown. Osborne has since watched the TV replay of proceedings at the Huseyin Avni Aker Stadium and believes that the pictures don't quite do it justice.

The stadium heaved from the outset, a wall of noise that made the already difficult task of concentration against high-quality opposition that bit harder.

"Unbelievable," he says. "I've never experienced anything like that in my life. It was so hard to communicate, you had to roar and there was no such thing as a quiet five minutes. It was something else."

To their credit, Derry came through it with something to play for in tonight's decider at the Brandywell, responding from the setback of conceding two early goals to pull two back in a frantic first half.

Soft set-piece inspired concessions either side of half-time gave the Turks a 4-2 win on the night, but Devine's men know that a 2-0 victory would deliver an unlikely upset.

The Candystripes are the last men standing of the League of Ireland teams in Europe and have to produce a shock to avoid the first wipeout since 1999. Furthermore, it's 1997 since no Irish team has won a game in 90 minutes, which is something that has proved beyond the other protagonists.

Derry were landed the toughest draw of the lot, however, and the gulf in finances between the Foylesiders and their Turkish opposition is so vast that the word 'substantial' doesn't do it justice.

Trabzonspor moved to sign Florent Malouda before this tie, although he won't figure here, and they've also been linked with a range of big earners this summer, a list that includes Jose Bosingwa, Peter Crouch and even Ronaldinho.

While they pluck from millionaires' row, Derry signed Osborne on amateur terms, a reflection of where finances stand in the domestic game at present.

The 21-year-old has made a conscious decision to make sure there is more to his life than football. He hails from Togher, near Drogheda, and came through the ranks with the Boynesiders at a time when the club was trying to get back on its feet after rash spending left them on the brink.

Watching that unfold made it clear he wouldn't be in a position to make a living from the League of Ireland. Instead, he focused on pursuing another path in tandem, and recently completed a three-year Education and Training course in DCU.

"I never really put football as my first priority, seeing how things are," he explains. "It wasn't going to be something that you could live off. The whole country is in a recession and you really can't see everything picking up. The league may pick up in bits and bobs, but you need to have something else going."

He has plans to pursue another year and a half of education to become a fully fledged primary school teacher, but in the short term he's moved to Derry to throw his energies into the remainder of this season.

Right now, he shares a house with fellow outsiders Paddy Kavanagh, Thomas Crawley and his former Dundalk colleagues Mark Griffin and Michael Rafter. "After getting the qualification, I can concentrate on football for a bit," he says.

Turning around the deficit will be a serious mental test this evening. "You have to be so careful against a team of this quality," he says. "Last week was frustrating, we defended well for the most part, in terms of keeping a decent shape and then the set-plays hurt us.

"But, look, it could have been a whitewash over there, the way we started, and we showed great character to get back into it."

An expectant Brandywell is capable of making a fair bit of noise and, combined with a a decent travelling support, it should make for a lively evening. For Osborne, who faced a crossroads just three weeks ago, every minute is a bonus.

Derry City v Trabzonspor

Live, Setanta Ireland, 7.45

Irish Independent

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