'You see little kids in Africa kicking around plastic bottles on the street in their bare feet'

Defence Forces member Siobhan O’Sullivan reflects on her working life and her decision to switch allegiances from Sligo to Kildare.

Siobhan O'Sullivan in action for her adopted county.
Siobhan O'Sullivan in action for her adopted county.

ON WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON, Cpt. Siobhan O’Sullivan was in the Belgian city of Liege learning about the Battle of the Bulge, unable to attend training with her team-mates back home.

On Sunday, she takes on her native county Sligo in Kildare colours for the first time, and she only arrived back in Ireland yesterday after a hectic week abroad.

But the 32-year-old Eadestown midfielder is used to a tight schedule ever since she joined the Defence Forces.

After stints in Athlone and Longford, she was moved to the Curragh in 2013, and after two seasons of the tough journey home to train and play for Sligo, she had to make the switch.

“There were a couple of girls on the Sligo panel that lived in Dublin at the time. We used to meet in Kinnegad and carpool from there down to Sligo,” said O’Sullivan.

“You were arriving at training the minute the warm-up was starting, or even after that. It was straight out from the car and onto the pitch.

“Immediately, once you were finished you were trying to get a bit of food into you and back into the car, and maybe arriving back into Naas at midnight or later. Then into work the next day, so it was very tiring both physically and mentally.

“Even on a Friday evening when you were going home at the weekend you were still rushing to get home for training.

“Being in a car for the guts of three hours and then out and onto a football pitch has an effect on the body in terms of avoiding injury and getting stiff and sore more than your colleagues would be.

“I was glad after two years to call it a day with that sort of travel.”

O’Sullivan is originally from Drumcliffe, and the former Drumcliffe-Rosses Point player began her inter-county career with Sligo in 2003, but 11 years later she called it a day.

Siobhan 2 Kildare star O'Sullivan.

She was progressing through the ranks in the Defence Forces and on her second tour abroad, to DR Congo in 2017, she was inspired to hook up with her adopted county.

“I was overseas when the new management in Kildare was installed, and I was reading about that at the time,” said O’Sullivan.

“When you see the devastation and poverty in a country like Congo it makes you thankful for the opportunities you have at home.

“You think, Jesus I should make the most of it and maybe get back into playing sport at the best level you can.

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“When you see little kids in Africa kicking around plastic bottles on the street in their bare feet, you are glad to get home to your size 4 football.”

O’Sullivan saw an advert for Kildare trials on Facebook and following her return from Central Africa in September 2017 she made a success of the October audition.

She adds vital experience to Daniel Moynihan’s group now, and in her second season she will travel to Tubbercurry in Division 3 of the Lidl National Football League on Sunday to take on some familiar foes. 

“I haven’t played against them, we didn’t come up against them last year. They were on the other side of the draw from us in the intermediate championship,” said O’Sullivan.

“You would have mixed emotions playing against your home county, and the county you played for, for so long, but at the same time you are out to win with Kildare and that is the most important thing.

“It is a really important game for us. If we win it we can qualify for a semi-final and that is the main objective.”

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