Cobh Ramblers Football Club

INTERVIEW | Impressive McSweeney looking to the future

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At just 17 years of age, centre back James McSweeney has been one of Cobh Ramblers’ star performers so far this season. The teenager went straight from the club’s u17 setup to senior level and made his debut at the beginning of the 2017 campaign having impressed Stephen Henderson whilst with the u17’s.

Virtually ever-present in the back four, James was rewarded with a call-up to the national side for April’s u18 Slovakia Cup. He even scored once in the Irish jersey, helping them to a fourth place finish at the tournament. On the domestic front, James has been key in Ramblers’ promotion push and is very pleased with the year so far. He caught up with Thomas Stafford recently to talk about Ramblers, Ireland and what lies ahead for the promising centre back,

“The season really is going great at the moment. It’s always good to be up at the top end of the table and competing for promotion. Nobody really backed us at the start of the season but we are showing them wrong. We’ve had a small drop-off in form lately but we’ll but that behind us and move on from it. Personally, I am very happy with my own performances. I couldn’t be playing well without the hard work we do in training and the rest of the lads who are a big help to me.”

As said previously, James went straight from u17 to senior level, skipping the u19 side. Cobh are not afraid to put their faith in youth and in James it has certainly paid dividends. Since he began his career with local club Carrigaline United, it has always been evident that James was capable of big things in the game,
“I was nervous making the step up from u17s to senior. It was difficult but the players and coaching staff really made me feel welcome and made me feel part of the team. I have definitely enjoyed the opportunity to play senior and I’ve loved every minute of it.”

James has come up against some experiences veterans in the league, strikers over twice his age. The likes of Cabinteely’s Jason Byrne and Waterford’s Mark O’Sullivan proved no problem to McSweeney as he looked dominant against his elder counterparts,
“It’s been a great experience for me coming up against these League of Ireland veterans. I’m very pleased with my performances against players such as Marky and Jason. Marking players like that can only help me improve as a player and it’s something that I’ve really enjoyed.”

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Moving onto his time at international level, James loved his spell in the Irish camp as Ireland beat Turkey and drew with Russia to qualify from their group. Ultimately the hosts Slovakia proved too strong in the 3rd place play-off but finishing fourth was more than respectable for the Boys in Green,
“The experience really was fantastic. It was a proud moment for me to get the call-up and to represent my country at that stage. The players and coaching staff were great throughout and I thought we did well in the tournament overall. Hopefully there will be future call ups for me and I get the chance to represent my country again.”

The fifth year student in Carrigaline Community College has unsurprisingly attracted attention from many other clubs, including Premier League side Burnley. The thought of a move cross-channel doesn’t phase James and he would love the opportunity to come about,
“Playing professionally in England has always been a dream of mine and it’s something that I hope does happen. I have been dreaming of it since I just started playing as a child. Getting the opportunity to go over to clubs like Burnley has been brilliant so far and it’s been great testing myself against the standard over there. We’ll see how it works out but I just have to keep working hard at the moment.”

Since joining Ramblers in 2016 from Cork City’s u17 setup, McSweeney has settled in perfectly. He captained the club’s u17s to Mark Farren Memorial Shield success last year and is pleased with his time at St Colman’s Park,
“I really have enjoyed my time so far at Cobh. I didn’t see myself playing for the seniors this early in my career to be honest. I’m glad that I have gotten the opportunity to play senior and that Stephen Henderson trusts and believes in me. Playing here is really helping my career and helping me to improve as a player.”

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James’ family are rooted in Cobh football and have a proud history in the town’s sporting heritage. His uncle Peter McSweeney played with Ramblers in the early 80’s before joining James’ father Paul at Cobh Wanderers in 1986. They had a successful time there and it’s fitting that James is keeping the tradition going,
“On my dad’s side a lot of the family grew up in Cobh. He and all his brothers played with Springfield as children and my uncle Peter moved up to Ramblers. They lived on the island Haulbowline but went to school in Cobh and played football there. It’s nice how I’m playing here now and keeping it going.”

With the club continuously progressing on and off the pitch, it’s a good time to be playing with Cobh and James recognises this,
“The team is going well and there is a real buzz around training. We have a great fighting spirit in the team. People won’t give up on each other. The team has really gelled together properly and I think our results and performances are showing that.”

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The former Carrigaline United defender is clearly a player with a huge future ahead of him and whether that be in Ireland or abroad, James is well-capable of stepping up to the task,
“I’m enjoying the challenge playing against senior players every week. Being only 17, it is a bit of a challenge playing against older players but it is all helping me to develop as a player. I’m ready for the challenge and I hope that we can keep pushing on as the season progresses.”

By Thomas Stafford