As the Cosmos Copa tournament looms, the Irish Copa team are training and preparing harder than ever for this year. Irish team captain Declan (Decky) Reilly talks to IrishCentral Community News about the games.
From a 'bhoy' who has been captaining teams since he was a youngster, he tells of his love and hopes for soccer.
Name: Declan Reilly
Irish Club team: Castlebar Celtic
Club team: Lansdowne Bhoys
Occupation: Construction supervisor
How long have you been playing soccer?
Since I could walk. Probably since I was about five or six. But I suppose in Ireland it is hard to get started out playing soccer. There was no U12 team so I was playing for the U14s when I was 10.
What got you into soccer?
My Dad, just kicking about the garden. I have 2 brothers and the three of us played on the same team together growing up.
How long have you been playing for the Lansdowne Bhoys?
Over six years. The first week of when I moved here I was up at soccer training! I scored on my debut as well for the Lansdowne Bhoys. Well proud.
How long have you been playing for the Irish Copa team?
Four years. I was captain the first year in 2009 and we lost the final to Albania. We were very unlucky that year, we had given a great performance in the semi final the night before against Greece, winning on penalties so that took a lot out of us. I didn't get to see the penalties, I was in hospital getting eight stitches above my eye from going in for a header in that game.
The following year, we lost the semi final to a Jamaican team, 1-0. We dominated that game but couldn't score and they got one chance and they scored. Last year, we lost the quarter final to Mexico. We really didn't perform at all in that game and didn't deserve to win.
What are your hopes for Ireland in Copa 2012?
Obviously to lift the cup at the end of it. Having gotten so close in 2009 and 2010 it would be nice to win it this year as I am not getting any younger! It would be nice as well for the six or seven core boys who have been there from the start and also the new boys who have joined us this year.
What does it mean to you to wear the 'Captain’s' armband?
I mean I've gotten great experience as a captain, I've captained my club and county throughout the years. It is a great honor, to first of all represent your country in a tournament like this, and then obviously to be captain is an added bonus. I was captain of the Lansdowne Bhoys this year, who narrowly missed out on the Championship a couple of weeks ago on penalties. It helps that the majority of the Copa team are Lansdowne Bhoys who know me and listen to me.
Do you and the rest of the Irish Copa team think you are in with a good chance?
You always have to be confident going into a tournament like this and we do have good experience having gotten so close before. We are in a very tough group but I think we have the players, management and committee behind us to get through the group and hopefully progress all the way to the final.
Do you anticipate much support behind the team this year?
We have gotten great support throughout the last three years of Copa and also this year, with the Lansdowne Bhoys, (how could I forget our team mascot, aka. The Big Bad Wolf!) so I would hope that everybody can come out and cheer us on this year also. It is a very well organized tournament and the fans make it all the more special.
The Ireland team will play Senegal on Saturday evening, July 14th at 7pm at Pier 40, Manhattan, in the first round of the group stages. The following day the boys play Ivory Coast at 10am at Randall's Island on Field 72, followed by the last game of their group stages against Greece at 12pm on Field 75 at Randall's Island. Please come out and show your support for our Bhoys in Green! COYBIG!