John O'Sullivan in action for Bohemians last season. Tom Maher/INPHO
making amends

'I let myself down, there are no excuses' - Former Bohs midfielder keen to take second chance

John O’Sullivan’s story isn’t unique but he at least gets chance to make amends under Damien Duff at Shelbourne.

IF ANYBODY AT Bohemians was sad to see John O’Sullivan leave Dalymount Park over the winter they remain deep undercover.

The midfielder turned 30 just before the end of last season and still had one year left on his contract.

It was cancelled by mutual agreement.

No wonder, given he managed to complete just two full Premier Division games in two seasons and accepted the criticism he received from fans was warranted due to his lack of professionalism.

“We talked about who I am and what I have done in the last 18 months, basically nothing,” O’Sullivan said about his no-holds barred meeting with Damien Duff before joining Shelbourne.

“His brute honesty was nice to hear because it’s what I knew deep down myself.”

Like his new manager at Tolka Park, O’Sullivan left Dublin in his teens for Blackburn Rovers and emerged as a Republic of Ireland underage international, and while that is where the similarities end, he did forge a more than respectable career for himself at clubs like Carlisle United, Blackpool, Accrington Stanley and Morecambe over the previous 15 years.

He returned home ahead of the 2022 campaign hoping to establish himself in a Bohs side managed by Keith Long, who then left by mutual consent in August to be replaced by Declan Devine.

O’Sullivan’s issues were already prevalent by that point, admitting he was overweight and lacking the kind of professionalism off the pitch that enabled him to spend more than a decade across the water.

“The mad thing is – and it is shocking to say, and I am not being big headed by saying it – but I kind of got away with it (not being fit) because of the football side of things, which is poor from myself. I have had a few things personally going on which I am not going to get into here. I shouldn’t have been as unfit as I was.

“I let myself down. There are no excuses here. There is no blaming Bohs. There is no blaming other people. You look after your own body and your own business.”

An early injury during his return hampered his progress but his problems were more substantial than that. He referenced personal issues that he didn’t wish to divulge, and that’s understandable given he was speaking at a press conference in his capacity as a Shelbourne player ahead of tomorrow’s Premier Division clash with Shamrock Rovers at Tolka Park.

O’Sullivan, who has a young son with his partner, came back to Dublin and it proved to be a struggle settling, not to mention adapting to a new league and adjusting to his new surroundings

When you’ve been away for so long and made a life elsewhere home comforts are not easily found.

His story is not a unique one but he at least gets the chance to make amends for 18 months of drift under Duff.

“He has done the background checks on me. I am sat here for a reason. A manager like this does not sign a player just for the fun of it,” O’Sullivan said.

john-osullivan-and-connor-parsons Tom Maher / INPHO Tom Maher / INPHO / INPHO

“It is down to me to prove why I am here. As soon as the manager gave me the trust, the belief, the drive to go and be one of the top players in this league. If you let go of what has gone on in the past and apply yourself for Shels then it is down to myself.

“I don’t think I would ever let myself get to that position again where I was fitness wise and mentally where I was. I’ve been judged on an 18-month spell. My whole career has just been written off. You know, ‘he’s no good, he’s overweight, he’s X, Y and Z’. If you can’t self-reflect, you’re never going to stay in the game or especially show what you can do.

“If you can’t look yourself in the mirror and go, ‘right, that wasn’t good enough for me, what can I do now to improve it?’ Ultimately it’s down to me now to show everyone what I’m capable of.”

It is a challenge he won’t just have to live up to every Friday as he seeks to win over a new fanbase, but the demands he must meet everyday under Duff to thrive in an environment that does not accept anybody cutting corners.

O’Sullivan has a second chance to make a success of his League of Ireland career and prove that the struggles of the last 18 months can be overcome.

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