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Carlow's Eric Molloy set to become first Irish player since 2008 to play in Fifa Club World Cup

Molloy moved to New Zealand in 2016 from Wexford Youths and currently plays for Team Wellington.

Eric Molloy is a midfielder for New Zealand Premiership side Team Wellington.
Eric Molloy is a midfielder for New Zealand Premiership side Team Wellington.
Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

IT’S BEEN A long journey for Eric Molloy since moving to New Zealand in 2016, but it will be a move well worth it as he prepares to become the first Irishman in a decade to play in the Fifa Club World Cup later today.

The 26-year-old helped Wexford Youths secure the SSE Airtricity League First Division in 2015, but before the end of the following season joined four of his team-mates in making the switch.

Taking up an offer from former Carlow IT manager Paul O’Reilly, Molloy, Conor O’Keefe, Danny Ledwith, Stephen Last and Andy Mulligan all joined Southern United, playing semi-professionally while also securing jobs in Dunedin.

After an impressive year with United, Carlow native Molloy was picked up by Premiership side Team Wellington, with the amateur outfit securing the Oceania OFC Champions League back in May.

They will face United Arab Emirates Pro-League champions Al Ain FC this afternoon in the opening game of the 2018 Fifa Club World Cup, knowing that with three wins on the bounce the New Zealanders could potentially face Real Madrid in the final.

Poised on opposite sides of the draw to the Champions League winners, Team Wellington could meet Tunisian side Espérance in the quarter-finals with a win later today, with recent Copa Libertadores winners River Plate awaiting in the semi-finals.

Eric Molloy Molloy joined Wexford Youths in 2012 and helped Shane Keegan's side secure the First Division title three years later. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Molloy is one of two ex-League of Ireland footballers playing in this year’s competition in Abu Dhabi, with former UCD, Longford Town and Bohemians winger Ayman Ben Mohamed lining out for Espérance in the last eight.

He is, however, the first Irishman to play in the tournament in a decade.

Following in the footsteps of Roy Keane in 2000, Steve Finnan in 2005 and John O’Shea and Darron Gibson in 2008, Molloy joins an impressive list of footballers from these shores to take part.

Last year saw Zinedine Zidane’s Madrid prevail, beating Brazilian champions Grêmio in the decider, with Wellington hoping to meet the La Liga outfit in just over a week’s time.

The New Zealanders begin their journey against Al Ain at 3.30pm today at the 26,000-seater Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, with their opponents boasting players like Sweden attacker Marcus Berg, who helped his country to the quarter-finals of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

- Originally published at 06.15

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About the author:

Aaron Gallagher

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