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'To get a sense of the world, you have to stop thinking everything revolves around you'

Shelbourne’s Oscar Brennan spent seven weeks travelling South America this winter but his outlook on life was changed long before that.

Oscar Brennan celebrates the goal which sealed promotion for Shelbourne.
Oscar Brennan celebrates the goal which sealed promotion for Shelbourne.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

THE FIRST JOB Oscar Brennan can remember getting his hands dirty with was a bit of painting in his early teens.

His father, a carpenter by trade, would bring him along on certain jobs whenever he would be required to help speed up progress, or perhaps hinder it depending on his ability with a brush.

Soon after that, when his aunt had established the Dublin Indoor Football complex in Santry, Brennan took on certain shifts there, eventually earning the weekend slot and dealing with the responsibility of looking after kids’ parties.

“They were an experience,” he laughs.

There were various stints in retail and in a newsagents before football grew to become more of a central part of his life. Still, there remained a necessity to combine a day-job with his first love.

“I didn’t enjoy not doing anything during the day,” the midfielder explains. “I would wake up somedays, there would be nobody in the house, I’d go for a walk with the dog and could go a day without speaking or seeing anybody. I didn’t like that at all.

“I knew I had to do something. When you’re a kid in Dublin growing up, all you want to do is go away and play in England. I was the exactly the same, that was the dream. It never happened and maybe it was a blessing because I’ve seen a lot of lads come back and seen what it has done to them.”

Brennan joined Cabinteely in the League of Ireland First Division when he was 19-years-old and moved to Bohemians a season later in 2017.

Last season was spent with Shelbourne, helping them gain promotion back to the top flight – his long-range shot away to Drogheda United sealing the deal as champions – while, before leaving Bohs, he completed a Sports and Exercise Management degree at UCD.

“I still didn’t know what the plan was,” Brennan admits, a feeling many can relate to.

It was at Bohemians that he also volunteered as part of the club’s foundation programme to work with inmates in Mountjoy Prison.

“I think it’s important to try and understand what’s happening around you,” he reasons. “And also to try understand why it’s happening, too. You should have that awareness about things that maybe you don’t understand or have never experienced.

“I suppose it’s easy to be in your bubble and not take notice of stuff around you. The different backgrounds of different people in the same city as you, what people who grow up close to you have been through, but you have no idea what their life has been like.

“In life, you can slip into a way of thinking that where you’re from is the centre of the universe, but sport is great because you come across different people from different areas, you become close to them in a team environment and can learn,” Brennan continues.

“To get a sense of what’s happening in the world you have to stop the thinking that everything revolves around you or your club, your school, your friends. There is so much more out there to experience.”

Brennan finally had the chance this winter to broaden his own horizons well beyond his corner of Dublin. After being accepted onto the Accenture Graduate Programme while at Bohs back in late 2018, he was given his start date for later this month.

So, when the season finished with Shels, Brennan set off for seven weeks in South America after putting away some of his wages from his most recent job as a delivery man for a local brewery.

The first month was spent with his girlfriend in Colombia, before she headed back to reality at home, leaving Brennan to experience Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay by himself.

They had trekked together for four days through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, a no-go zone near the border with Venezuela as recently as 10 years ago. Strangers in villages along the way invited them in for food and shelter and a flavour of the reality of life there.

“It reminds you again that people all over the world are all doing the same things; they want to provide for the families, they want to do enough to put grub on the table and have enough to live off at the end of every week. We all want to do the best with our lives, don’t we? People are all the same.”

Brennan arrived in Santiago just after the curfew had been lifted by Chile’s army following protests over living costs.

With a general election called here for Saturday 8 February, Brennan will make sure to have his own voice heard.

“You don’t want to force your opinions down people’s throats. Hopefully young people will be engaged with this election and get out to vote. It’s happened with the recent referendums and I hope it will happen again.

“The important thing is that we do vote. I would rather someone vote for something I didn’t agree with than didn’t vote at all.”

In terms of football, a trip to watch River Plate in Buenos Aires was a highlight of his South America, and that is now the focus with Shels’ return to the Premier Division now less than a month away.

They head for Cork City on the opening Friday of the season – Valentine’s Day, no less – and that will give an early indication of where the Reds are at under manager Ian Morris.

Morris secured promotion with the backing of new owner Andrew Doyle in his rookie season but Brennan reckons survival is the primary objective, despite the arrival of the likes of Karl Sheppard and Gary Deegan, two experienced figures with winners’ medals in their back pockets.

“We need to cement our place in the division. Ian has so much enthusiasm for the job, he always wants to learn and get better, to improve himself as a manager and makes us better, too.

“We have a good blend of experience and youth and there is plenty of talent in the squad.”

That’s something to work with, at least.

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