Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Ken Oman’

Captain Ken

Published in Hoops Scene 2/2012 (Shamrock Rovers v Monaghan United)

Damien Richardson once wrote in his verbose Shamrock Rovers programme notes that “it’s always the same sometimes”. After last year’s incredible season for the Hoops everyone at the club would be quite happy with more of the same results in 2012. There have been a number of changes at Rovers for this coming season. Most significantly, Stephen Kenny has been installed as the new manager. There is also a new goalkeeping team, new full backs and the Hoops even have a new title sponsor with SEAT coming on board. Another change is that the club has a new captain, with Ken Oman in possession of the captain’s armband this season.

“Stephen (Kenny) asked me how did I feel about being captain?” explained Oman. “I said it would be a privilege to be captain for the season. It is kind of new to me but I’ve come to the age when I’m one of the oldest in the squad. I’ve been around in the league at least 10 years so it is probably the time for me this year. It is obviously an honour and a privilege to captain any club but to be captain at Shamrock Rovers is even more of an honor.”

The 29 year old captained Rovers in their final pre-season game when The Hoops scored eight goals against Waterford United at Tallaght Stadium. Oman wasn’t getting overly excited about the scoreline though. “It was a good win but it was only a friendly. There is no point in going and beating a team 8-1 and then when it comes to the league games, not winning. I thought it was a good performance by the team. I don’t know whether it was us playing well and Waterford playing poorly on the night or a combination; it is hard to judge. I won’t be getting too carried away and I don’t think anyone else will be getting too carried away either. It was a nice way to finish off our pre-season but it will be a different kettle of fish with the league.”

Pre-season began for Rovers in mid-January a little over a month after the momentous 2011 season concluded with the final Europa League Group A game against Spurs. So did Oman think that four weeks off was sufficient a break? “It kind of worked out well,” said the man from Finglas. “The break is too long anyway in the league when it goes from the end of October to mid-January. We still nearly got a month off so it was grand. After about four weeks you think, right, I want to get back into it. Once Christmas is over, you find yourself twiddling your thumbs and thinking to yourself you wouldn’t mind being back training. Most of us felt like we wanted to get back rather than having 10 weeks off.”

In addition to the friendly matches played in Ireland during pre-season, Rovers took the opportunity to have a training camp in England for a week. As well as double training sessions per day, The Hoops played a couple of matches. The first was a 4-0 win over a Nike Academy team who are based in Loughborough University. There was also a game against a club who, like Rovers, played in the Europa League in 2011. Rovers lost 3-0 to a Birmingham City XI in a match played in Birmingham’s training ground. Rovers made the best use of their time in difficult weather situations as England was gripped by a big freeze during their trip.

As for the low temperatures, Oman joked that after the trip to Kazan, where he scored for Rovers, “we were well used to that!” before discussing how they made the most of the week in England. “Where we were staying it had everything there with gym, swimming pool and pitches. The pitches were snowed over and they couldn’t clear the pitch. We got out of it what we wanted but the weather killed it a bit but there is nothing you can do about that. We had to travel for the first game a fair bit away, a two and a half hour bus journey. We still got a good week out of it and that was the aim.”


“It has been a good pre-season; it has been a tough pre-season to be fair. I’d say it has been one of the toughest pre-season’s I’ve done but it has been enjoyable. But the real stuff starts now which is what the whole build up is for. It will be good to get going again into the new season.”

For Oman, he is particularly looking forward to the start of the season as he missed three months at a crucial time last year due to injury. As well as missing a large chunk of the league campaign, he missed the trips to Belgrade, Tottenham and Salonika. “The injury was disappointing as I played up until July when I was playing most games and I was enjoying it. But I got a bad injury in the match in Copenhagen when I did my medial ligaments in a tackle. It put a dampener on it for me. It was great what the lads achieved but it was hard when you are just sitting there watching it. Time seemed to go by so slow. It was great to come back at the end of the season and play a few games in the Europa League. I didn’t travel (for the initial group games) as I had to do rehab, doing treatment every day.”

When Oman did recover from injury in late October, he made an immediate impact on his return to his side. His goal, in the dramatic second half of the penultimate league game of the season, helped secure league title number 17 for Shamrock Rovers. Oman came off the bench in that game just after half time when Rovers went down to 10 men. He was on hand twenty minutes from time to get the opening goal with a powerful header sparking great celebrations. “It was great to contribute and score the goal,” recalled Oman. “It was hard to sit by and watch (during the injury). That goal celebration showed a lot of that frustration. It was a great feeling as it made me feel part of it all again after all the weeks not being a part of it. Just one goal and I was part of it again.”

UCD equalised minutes later and it looked like the game would end in a draw making the title race go down to the final game of the season. However, deep in injury time, Dean Kelly, who was also returning from a long injury lay off, popped up to get the winner. That goal prompted an enthusiastic pitch invasion involving the Rovers bench and it seemed most of the Rovers crowd in UCD Bowl that night. “It was a great way to win it,” said Oman. “You couldn’t have written it any better. If we had beaten UCD comfortably then the celebrations wouldn’t have been like that. But to score in the last minute, it was great. It was one of the best feelings. It was up there with the qualification for the Europa League. But the league means more. Europe is great, it is a great distraction but realistically we are not going to win the Europa League. You have to win the league to be involved in Europe. It was a great buzz for everyone involved.”

The challenge for Rovers this season will be to defend that league title once again. Stephen Kenny’s 2012 squad has the quality to do that and Oman knows how the new man in charge at Rovers will attempt to make it three in a row. “I’ve played twice under Stephen,” explained Oman of his time under Kenny at Derry City and Bohemians. “He is obviously going to put his twist on things. He wants us to play football. I know that for certain. He wants his teams to play the right way, play football and get the ball down and pass it. But in doing that you still want to be winning matches as well.”

“When a new manager and a lot of new players come in, everyone is starting on the same level. Everyone is starting afresh. Especially with pre-season, everyone wants to impress and everybody wants to be in the first eleven. Everyone is doing his best at the moment to be part of the squad. Everyone has to impress the manager and the new backroom staff. It keeps everybody on their toes.”

There are a lot of changes in the Rovers squad especially in the defensive area this season and Oman has been impressed by the new additions. “The new lads have come in and done well like Kerrea Gilbert, Graham Gartland, Colin Hawkins and Conor Powell. You also have young Ganno (Sean Gannon) who looks like he has come on another step again. Everyone looks to have settled in. With the lads who were here last year and the new players coming in, it is a good group of lads. Its important as obviously people will be disappointed when they won’t be playing every week but everyone needs to stick together for the season. It has been good and things have been freshened up so hopefully we will go on and have a good season. Looking at our squad it has strengthened again and there is a lot of depth in the squad. It is going to be tough and I think everyone will be battling for positions for their place on the team.”

And finally what are the expectations for the season especially after last year’s success in the Europa League? “Europe was a massive achievement but that is all last season. It is a whole new season coming up now. We’ve forgotten about it now. Maybe when you finished playing football you will look back and think it is a great achievement but nobody is talking about it now. All everyone is doing is concentrating now on this season and playing for your place in the team.”

“The European thing is not for a while. Everyone wants to do well in Europe. There is a financial gain for the club, which is great, but the bread and butter is the league. For us to retain the league is the main objective. But at the minute we are just looking for a good start in the league. It’s not about different competitions, winning the league or winning the cup. It’s about getting out and getting a good start to get us up there in the league. We are not talking about winning this or that, we are just concentrating on going out and winning the next game. We go out and approach every game the same and see where that leaves us. The most important thing is to get a good start in the league.”

Advertisements

The Place to Be – Interview with Ken Oman

Interview from Hoops Scene (Shamrock Rovers v Bohemians, 30 May 2011)

The difference between winning and losing, between success and failure and between exhilaration and despair can be very small. In terms of the Airtricity League last year, the margin between being champions and runners up was a mere two goals. After 36 league games, both Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers were on 67 points and only goal difference could be used to separate the two teams. In the title run in, both sides had chances to win the league but Rovers were the ones who emerged victorious. In the first Dublin derby of this season, the teams were again evenly matched with Bohs going ever so close to defeating the Hoops in Dalymount Park. A late injury time equaliser by Ronan Finn meant both teams emerged with a point from the game.

That first derby of the season was also the first derby for a number of players who had switched from green and white to red and black and vice versa for the 2011. Ken Oman the player who moved from Bohs to Rovers over the winter and he has quickly become a crowd favourite with the Hoops with a fine start to his Rovers career.
For Oman, the switch to Rovers was a fresh start for a player who had two spells at Bohemians either side of a two year stint with Derry City. “I’m loving it here,” said Oman. “Things are going well and training has been excellent. The club is run very well. Michael [O’Neill] and Trevor [Crolly] are very good at what they do with everything done thoroughly. Rovers are where I’m at and I’m delighted to be here. Even when I was winning things at Bohs, I always said to myself that in another few years that Shamrock Rovers is going to be the place to be. I have been lucky enough to be at places where things were going well like at Derry and I had good days at Bohs. Even though I was at Bohs and I won a few things there, I’m more than happy to be at Shamrock Rovers. I hope this year will be a good year for me. If I was released from Shamrock Rovers, where do I go after Shamrock Rovers? There is nowhere to go. Where do you get the amount of fans that you get here? You only get that at Shamrock Rovers.”

His time to date at Rovers couldn’t really have gone any better with the Hoops on top of the league and the first trophy of the season, the Setanta Sports Cup, already on display in Tallaght. “It is nice to have a trophy already but the main thing is the league, as that is our priority,” said the 28 year old who has slotted in nicely alongside captain Dan Murray in the Rovers defence. “I always said Dan was a good player but it is only when you get to play beside someone that you realise how good a player they are.” When asked to expand on the partnership with Murray, Oman was quick to say that “I hate to call it a partnership as that is being disrespectful to other players who can play there including Craig Sives and Pat Flynn. Craig has been out injured all season and he came back in against Drogheda where he did really well. He scored from a free kick the other day and it is important that us defenders can chip in. Against Drogheda, it took a centre half going up for a free kick to score and that got the ball rolling. We have a big enough squad and it can be rotated. There is quality in depth in the squad. I’ve played in a few big squads and it does keep you on your toes.”

At the none to full Aviva Stadium last week, there were a number of former League of Ireland players playing in the match between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. These included Seamus Coleman, Keith Fahey and a former Bohs players in Stephen Ward who got the opener for the home team. Now with Millwall, there was also a former team mate of Oman’s from Derry, David Forde, who made a second half appearance in goal for Ireland. At the other end, a poor defensive display was one of the reasons for the 5-0 defeat for the North, who could have done with the Rovers No.1 between the sticks for them. “I don’t understand how he is not involved in the Northern Ireland set up,” said Oman of Alan Mannus who has four international caps with the north. “He is a class act the way he goes about his business. I’ve played behind good keepers like David Forde and Barry Murphy at Bohs. Alan is even more commanding and is easily the best goalkeeper in the league. He mightn’t have much to do in a game but he will be called to make one big save and he will do it. When he is called upon to do it, he does it well. In other games, he has kept us in it. It builds confidence to have such a goalkeeper behind you. You know what he is about; he is commanding in the box. I’ve played with keepers and you’d be heading balls on the bleeding’ six yard line! But will with Al, you know when the ball comes into his area, he is onto it.”

When the teams lined out for the recent Setanta Sports Cup final, there were a few questions raised as to why Ken Oman had been dropped. He, of course, hadn’t been dropped but he was unrecognisable without his long flowing hair. There was some comment that, like Samson, cutting his hair might mean the loss of his super powers but a powerful performance against Dundalk in the final put pay to that talk. “To be fair, I had enough; I couldn’t keep wearing the silly hair band!” joked Oman. “I done it for a couple of months but the missus was on me back about getting me hair cut. It is all right wearing a hair band on the pitch but off the pitch you can’t wear a bloody hair band so it’s all in your face! People will think now me and Sives are brothers!”

That Setanta Sports Cup final win meant a new trophy for the Rovers collection and a new medal for Oman to go along with this two League of Ireland titles, two FAI Cups and three League Cup medals. “I was delighted to get the win. I think we play good football. We have the players to play, especially in midfield. We have changed the system around a few times but whatever system we play, we look good, be it 4-4-2 or 4-3-3. Michael [O’Neill] has been working on stuff like that on the training ground. Everyone is tipping us to win everything this year but it isn’t as easy as that. We aren’t going to go out and have teams just roll over. Everyone talks about the brand of football that Sligo play but they go quite direct especially with Blinkhorn up front. It isn’t really that attractive; in the games we played against them they tended to go very direct. I think Derry would play more football than Sligo.”

There has been much discussion at Rovers on last season’s seesaw title run in and that infamous Sporting Fingal game late in the season so it was interesting to hear Oman’s take from his position last season in the Bohemians dressing room. With just two games to go, the Gypsies had the upper hand after the Hoops let in two injury time goals to lose to Sporting Fingal. However in Bohs’ penultimate game of the season against Galway, they lost. This handed the momentum back to Rovers for the final night of the season when Bohs played Dundalk. So did Bohemians think they had won the league after Rovers’ late capitulation to Sporting Fingal? “No, to be fair we didn’t as we knew what could happen. I remember we had played Pats and won 1-0. I came straight home and watched the Fingal game. Fingal were terrible, Rovers could have been five or six up. There were a few one on ones and to be fair Quigley [Fingal’s goalkeeper] kept them in it. There was confusion in the box for the first goal and a deflection for the second goal. I couldn’t believe it was 2-1.”

“In the Galway game, we were going into that with only one point out of three games against them. We knew they were a so called bogey side and we never took anything for granted. We were pushing and pushing and we ended up getting beaten. After that Galway game, I kind of felt we had lost the league. We had thrown it away and that night down in Galway was horrible. We probably felt the way the Rovers felt after the Fingal game. That is the way we felt, the following week against Galway.”

Having had the experience of winning and losing league titles by small margins, does Oman think that you need to lose a league to eventually win a league? “It comes with experience. Maybe you do need to feel the hurt of losing to you spur on. That is probably what happened to Rovers last year. The hardest thing in the league is to stay on top. It is harder to lead than to follow. As soon as you go top, that is the hard part. We were chasing all the time at Bohs, all the pressure was on Rovers and then it was on us. We were there on top for a week and then we were gone. You can only really blame yourself if you lose the league at the end of the year, thinking about the points we could have picked up or where we dropped them, here or there.”

“At the end of the season, it doesn’t matter whether you win the league by 20 points or 20 goals or one goal, you won the league and that’s the way it is. I remember my first year at Bohs, we won the league by 20 points. But it doesn’t really make a difference how you win the league, as long as you are sitting on top of the league at the end of the year. Twice I’ve lost it on goal difference and it is a horrible feeling. For the first few days after it, all you keep saying to yourself is that you’ve lost on bloody goal difference! Bohs had the best defensive record last year but still lost it as there weren’t enough goals scored. If you are not scoring enough goals, you get punished. Twiggy, gets a couple of chances and he scores and if you have someone in the team that is scoring regularly, you will always have a chance when you are keeping a few clean sheets.”
“In the Galway game, we were going into that with only one point out of three games against them. We knew they were a so called bogey side and we never took anything for granted. We were pushing and pushing and we ended up getting beaten. After that Galway game, I kind of felt we had lost the league. We had thrown it away and that night down in Galway was horrible. We probably felt the way the Rovers felt after the Fingal game. That is the way we felt, the following week against Galway.”

Having had the experience of winning and losing league titles by small margins, does Oman think that you need to lose a league to eventually win a league? “It comes with experience. Maybe you do need to feel the hurt of losing to you spur on. That is probably what happened to Rovers last year. The hardest thing in the league is to stay on top. It is harder to lead than to follow. As soon as you go top, that is the hard part. We were chasing all the time at Bohs, all the pressure was on Rovers and then it was on us. We were there on top for a week and then we were gone. You can only really blame yourself if you lose the league at the end of the year, thinking about the points we could have picked up or where we dropped them, here or there.”

“At the end of the season, it doesn’t matter whether you win the league by 20 points or 20 goals or one goal, you won the league and that’s the way it is. I remember my first year at Bohs, we won the league by 20 points. But it doesn’t really make a difference how you win the league, as long as you are sitting on top of the league at the end of the year. Twice I’ve lost it on goal difference and it is a horrible feeling. For the first few days after it, all you keep saying to yourself is that you’ve lost on bloody goal difference! Bohs had the best defensive record last year but still lost it as there wasn’t enough goals scored. If you are not scoring enough goals, you get punished. Twiggy, gets a couple of chances and he scores and if you have someone in the team that is scoring regularly, you will always have a chance when you are keeping a few clean sheets.”