Joey O’Brien on another foray in Europe: 'You never want those nights to end'

The former Bolton Wanderers and West Ham United defender, who won five senior Ireland caps, will be 36 in February but has no plans to retire
Joey O’Brien on another foray in Europe: 'You never want those nights to end'

Shamrock Rovers’ Alan McMannus and Joey O’Brien celebrate the winning penalty in the 2020 Europa League First Qualifying Round win over Ilves Tampere. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Joey O’Brien’s early professional career was dominated by European highlights and back on those stages with Shamrock Rovers, he’s not seeing any end in sight yet.

The former Bolton Wanderers and West Ham United defender, who won five senior Ireland caps, will be 36 in February but has no plans to retire.

Being robbed large chunks of his career by injury fuels that desire but so too does his endurance at a professional level.

That is being constantly tested, especially against the nippy attackers of Teuta, the Albanian side visiting Tallaght tonight for the first leg.

“I’ll keep playing until my legs fall off,” O’Brien vowed. “Your touch, pass or technique doesn’t go; it’s your legs.

“I might be a bit slower so if I’m not able to get there, that’s it because you’re only as good as your last game. Hopefully the manager picks me but an opponent could run five yards past me down the wing.”

European nights hold special memories for O’Brien. He was part of Bolton’s first-ever forays into the Uefa Cup, featuring in the group stages in 2006 and 2008.

Facing top opposition like Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich and Marseille was special, yet moreso was having his late father in attendance at what was then known as the Reebok Stadium.

“They were great times,” he said. “People say ‘remember when’ but I’m on the last rodeo and you never want those nights to end.”

He applies a similar philosophy towards his defensive partner Liam Scales, who is due to join Celtic for €600,000 before the end of this month’s transfer window.

“Liam ticks all the boxes to go to the next level and it’s all down to his hard work,” noted O’Brien.

“It’s not one of those things where I’d say ‘listen, we’ll meet up for my life story, telling you how good I was when I was your age and that shit’. This is his time.”

Before he departs, Scales has the opportunity of helping Rovers into a play-off against the loser of the Europa League tie between Omonia and Flora Tallinn. Progression to the group stages would bolster the Hoops prize-money past the €3m mark.

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