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'This isn't about getting bums on seats, it’s a genuine interest in the community'

Bohemians midfielder Oscar Brennan has learned a lot — both on and off the field — since joining the club last December.

The midfielder has made 26 league appearances this term.
The midfielder has made 26 league appearances this term.
Image: INPHO/Tommy Dickson

IN A WEEK’S time, Oscar Brennan will be able to look back on his first season at Bohemians with a certain amount of pride.

One of several young players brought in at the start of the year, the former Cabinteely midfielder has gone on to feature prominently for the Gypsies after making his debut in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division — appearing in 26 league matches so far.

And, with two fixtures to spare, Keith Long’s side secured their top flight status for 2018 last Friday night thanks to a hard-fought 0-0 draw against newly-crowned champions Cork City at Dalymount Park.

“Considering our budget and with the three teams going down, if you read the papers at the start of the season we were probably tipped as one of the favourites for relegation,” Brennan told The42 this week.

“We suffered a couple of bad losses early on so we’ve come so far and have been comfortable in the last few weeks. To be mathematically safe now with two games to go is brilliant.

You don’t want to into those final games needing something because it’s a dog fight.”

He adds: “I think we recognised in pre-season that it was going to be a tough season as it’s such a competitive league.

“We didn’t get a win in our first two games but it wasn’t panic stations. They were tough matches — at home to Derry and in Tallaght for the derby — so nobody was getting carried away at that stage.

“Thankfully, we put a few runs together — although not consistently throughout the year — which have kept us away from danger.”

Oscar Brennan Coming away with the ball against Cork City last Friday. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Having enjoyed spells at Bray Wanderers and UCD at U19 level as well as a full season in the First Division with Cabinteely, the 21-year-old made the step up to top flight this term.

Things got off to a difficult start when he was named at centre-half for the visit of Derry City on the opening night, however.

“You always have belief in your own ability, but you don’t know until you actually go out and do it,” he explains. “I felt relatively good in pre-season and then started the first game of the season at centre-half and we lost it 4-1.

“That was a tough start, personally. It’s definitely a step up from the First Division but I think I’ve bridged that gap over the season by playing. We faced the champions Cork City last Friday night and I didn’t feel I was too out of my depth.”

Along with the likes of Fuad Sule (20) and Warren O’Hora (18), Brennan has emerged as one of the club’s brightest prospects and he is keen to give huge credit to the work of Long and coach Trevor Croly.

“Keith and Trevor have helped me massively,” he says. “The main way any young player can develop is by playing games. Trevor is a fantastic coach on the training ground and him and the gaffer give you loads of info after the games.

Luckily enough, the gaffer had faith in me this year and I’ve had a lot of game-time. That has helped me hugely along with the standard of training, which has been fantastic.”

From Sandyford on Dublin’s southside, Brennan has learned just as much about Bohs off-the-field after immersing himself in a number of community-based projects.

Through the Bohemian Foundation and the work of people like Tommy Hynes (president), Chris Brien (chairman and treasurer) Stephen Burke (photographer), he and goalkeeper Shane Supple regularly visit Mountjoy Prison to train inmates, while they also take sessions in walking football.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time here, it’s a real community club,” Brennan says. “In pre-season, the president of the club at the time, Matt Devaney, mentioned the foundation to us. I’m studying in university at the moment and had to do a work placement for the summer, so I put two and two together.

“I got involved with Tommy Hynes, who ran the coaching sessions down in Mountjoy Prison. Myself and Shane coached them for an hour in preparation for the Conway Cup — a tournament between the prisoners and Bohemians Foundation sides.

“Then I did walking football with Chris Brian and Stephen Burke for people who have physical and mental disabilities, and those who are unemployed or have mental health issues.

“Even after my work placement, I continued it on and really enjoyed it. Last week, I was in two primary schools with Shane talking to kids about a healthy lifestyle and the importance of education.

“It’s really good getting involved in the community and it’s not about bringing in more fans or getting bums on seats, it’s a genuine interest in the community and trying to better it.

“I knew who Bohs were before I joined as it’s a massive club but I wouldn’t have been aware of these projects that are going on around it.”

ShaneSupple_directs_9496 Brennan with team-mate Shane Supple during their work at Mountjoy Prison. Source: Stephen Burke/Bohemian FC

He’s a young man who clearly has a good head on his shoulders, so it’s not a surprise to learn Brennan has also been busy balancing his football and voluntary work with a third-level education.

Studying Sports and Exercise Management at UCD, the Dubliner is six months away from obtaining his degree — something his parents had always encouraged.

“To be honest, my folks would have put an emphasis on getting an education because they didn’t have the same opportunities to go on to third level and get a degree when they were growing up,” he says.

One thing that was big in our household was the importance of education and how it can help you. I love football and sport in general so it was a good match. It’s a Level 8 degree so it leaves you with options really once you’re done.”

For now though, the short-term plan is to give football his best shot and see where it takes him.

“I’ll be finished in UCD in May and I’m signed with Bohs for next season. It’s your dream growing up to be a full-time footballer so I’d love to give it a go.

“There’s no shame if it doesn’t work out and you say you weren’t good enough but it would be terrible to look back in years to come and wonder what could have been.”

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