John O’Shea has already got to work analysing Ireland’s U21s, although he faces a wait before any games are scheduled.
The Waterford defender-turned-coach will be kept busy once football resumes, juggling his role as assistant coach to Jim Crawford, first-team coach at Reading, being enrolled on the 2020/22 FAI UEFA Pro Licence group, and continuing his UEFA Executive Master for International Players.
None of those other roles have stopped him hitting the ground running with the Ireland U21s, who are top of their Euro qualifying group ahead of Italy, who have two games in hand.
“It came about very quickly. I spoke to a lot of people about Jim and then spoke to Jim. We got on great and it has moved on very quickly since then,” O’Shea told FAI.ie.
One of the team’s analysts set me up on Hudl so I can watch some of the games, track the players to see how they are doing at their clubs, and look at the younger players who might be able to push up a level. I had seen some of the games already but being able to see everything is great so I can prepare for our games to come.
“There is great work going on with the underage Ireland teams, so hopefully we can continue that on and qualify with the Under-21s for the Euros. There are some tough games to come but with a new coaching team in place everyone is very excited by it. They are also competitive games from the off, which means the adrenaline will be flowing straight away.
“It will be challenging, but getting the chance to work with Jim is fantastic. They are a great group of players, some of them I would recognise as I spoke to Tom Mohan’s Under-19s squad ahead of them going to the Euros last summer – they had some talented kids in that group. Now I’ll get to work with some of them but, ultimately, it is all about helping Ireland to do well.”
As for balancing that job with his club role and studies, O’Shea, now 38, says he’s been preparing for life after playing for a while.
“Once I started hitting my 30s, I was planning for this scenario. I started my UEFA B and A Licence and it was important that I did it with the FAI, to do it back home.
“This is a continuation of it now. I’ve been doing the UEFA Master's course and that has given me an insight to the business side of football with blocks on communication, marketing, the framework of competitions, etc. Now, the UEFA Pro Licence will help me get into the management and coaching side of things.
“The path I want to take to get into management is through coaching, as it’s something I really enjoy. Putting your ideas across to players, watching them train initially, see how they take it on-board, and working with them on it.
“At Reading, I’m working with two very experienced people in Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki, while I’ve picked up a lot from various coaches and managers who I worked with during my playing career, both at club level and internationally. So I hope that I can take those experiences and add to them.”
While coaching may not replicate the rush of playing, O’Shea still felt butterflies when starting out on his sideline journey.
“I remember we were in Dublin for the first block of the UEFA B Licence and we had the players from the FÁS-ETB course with us. They were great players to have as a lot of them were involved with League of Ireland teams, but you felt the butterflies in your stomach when starting out.
“In the first few days, everyone was nervous but you could see the confidence grow in the players and also in ourselves in the way that we spoke to the players. When I was asked by Colin O’Brien, who was tutor, to put on that first session – knowing that he will be marking you and giving you feedback – it was definitely daunting.
“You see some of the people who have graduated from the Pro Licence before and what they have done in their careers so it’s exciting to be part of that.”