Thursday night last is one that will live in the memory for a long time to come for two local born players and an adopted local player. The Republic of Ireland senior team took to the field to play New Zealand in what was the first ever meeting between the two nations (with a round football) and Thursday, November 14th, 2019 will be etched in their minds for ever more and indeed in the minds of their proud families.
It certainly was a case “It was all white on the night” (New Zealand are nicknamed ‘The All Whites’) and ‘Firsty Work; as some of the national newspapers described what unfolded during the course of the 90 minutes.
Lee O’Connor, who learned his trade in Connors Park with the Villa Football Club made his senior debut at right-full back and he did remarkably well.
Derrick Williams (left-full back), a graduate of the magnificent AFC Tramore Acedmy in Graun Park won his third senior cap and scored his first goal and Seanie Maguire (striker), one of the most talented players ever to come through the underage ranks at the RSC with the Blues, also scored his first senior international goal.
It was an extraordinary night in many ways and one which made us all extremely proud. Derrick Williams is the son of an Irish mother and German father. He was born in Hamburg in 1993 as his dad was serving in the United States Army at the time. The family moved to Tramore when Derrick was just seven years old and he began playing in Graun Park under the guidance of Paul Power and the superb coaching staff at the AFC Tramore Club.
At the age of 15 he was offered a contract with Manchester United but opted for Aston Villa instead. He played Kennedy Cup football for the Waterford Schoolboy League also before moving to Aston Villa.
He spent two seasons at Villa Park (2011-2013) and after making one first team appearance he moved to Bristol City and during his three seasons with them (2013-2016) he played 111 games, scoring four goals.
He now plays in the Championship with Blackburn Rovers and to date has played 121 games for them and has found the net on four occasions.
Lee O’Connor joined the local Villa club as a toddler and it was clear from the outset that he was a special talent. The late Frank O’Bryrne (Mr Villa) was well aware of the talent he possessed. Frank departed this world in May, 2008 but nevertheless he knew he had a little gem on his hands and eleven years after Frank said goodbye to Connors Park for the last time there is no doubt whatsoever he was looking down from above on Thursday last as Lee turned in a magnificent display. Frank was proud, very proud of his prodigy. Lee signed for Manchester United in 2016 and recently he moved up north to join Glasgow Celtic and is closing in on the first team at the present time.
Lee has also played Kennedy Cup football for Waterford. The 19-year-old defender is destined for greatness.
Seanie Maguire was born in Luton on May 1st, 1994 but the 25-year-old moved to Co Kilkenny at a very young age. He played schoolboy football with Deen Celtic and Evergreen before he was signed by Waterford United. He sparkled with the underage team and broke into the first team in 2011. He made his debut against Mervue in July of that year and he finished the 2012 season as the leading goalscorer in the First Division. In total he scored 14 goals in 32 games for the Blues. The Waterford United chairman John O’Sullivan at that time was quoted as saying “I am a great fan of Lionel Messi and when I look at Seanie he reminds me of the Barcelona genius”. Needless to say his exploits with Waterford United had the scouts flocking to the RSC and in 2013 he moved to West Ham United. Moves to Sligo Rovers (loan) Accrington Stanley (loan) Dundalk and Cork City followed. Currently he is shooting the lights out at Preston North End and that club are setting a hot pace at the top of the Championship.